A look at California’s November ballot propositions


California voters will decide the fate of 12 statewide propositions on Nov. 3, measures placed on the ballot either by politically powerful interest groups or lawmakers that cover a variety of topics including property taxes, criminal justice and workplace regulations.

The propositions, like all state ballot measures, require approval by a simple majority of voters for passage. Unless otherwise specified, propositions approved by voters will take effect once the election results are certified in December.

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Here’s a look at the key issues behind each proposition:
Proposition 14: More borrowing for stem cell research
Proposition 15: The battle over commercial property taxes
Proposition 16: A return to affirmative action
Proposition 17: Would allow parolees to vote
Proposition 18: Would allow some 17-year-olds to vote
Proposition 19: Adding and subtracting property tax breaks
Proposition 20: Tougher on parole, property crimes
Proposition 21: Rent control redux
Proposition 22: Special workplace rules for the gig economy
Proposition 23: Kidney dialysis clinic rules revisited
Proposition 24: New consumer privacy rules
Proposition 25: Yes or no on cash bail


Leer más sobre los propuestas de California


Proposition 14: More borrowing for stem cell research

If Proposition 14 passes, it would allow the state to borrow more money to continue stem cell research at the state government level. It would include some rules for how those funds are spent.

California voters approved borrowing $3 billion in 2004 to finance a state government stem cell research program. The research organization created by that ballot measure has funded a variety of studies and clinical trials, most through the University of California.

But the $3 billion has almost completely been spent. And the backers of the original effort want voters to authorize another round of borrowing by issuing $5.5 billion in government bonds to continue stem cell research. The total cost will be higher once interest payments are figured in.

There would be new rules for how research funds are spent, including a mandate to improve patient access to stem cell treatments. New grant awards would be prioritized by projects that would use matching funds from outside sources. And some of the governance structure of the research institute created by the 2004 ballot initiative would also be changed in ways that supporters believe will improve public oversight.


More Proposition 14 coverage

Proposition 14 asks voters to approve $5.5 billion in general obligation bonds for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, known as CIRM, for stem cell research.


Proposition 15: The battle over commercial property taxes

If Proposition 15 passes, it would increase property taxes for businesses and corporations in California, undoing some tax breaks introduced by Proposition 13 in 1978.

This is the political battle everyone has been expecting for decades, a long-debated effort to revise the property tax rules enacted by Proposition 13 in 1978.

The ballot measure would create new rules for business property taxes while leaving the existing rules for residential property taxes in place. Commercial and industrial property owners would see their taxes go up, and the resulting tax revenue would go to local government services and schools. The details, of course, are a little more complex.

Proposition 15 would allow market-rate values for many business properties to be used as the basis for assessing property taxes owed and would phase in that change. In general, business properties worth less than $3 million would be exempt from the new law.

The campaign will probably focus on whether the new tax revenue collected — perhaps as much as $12.5 billion a year under one nonpartisan analysis — would outweigh any potential economic impact from requiring some businesses to pay more to operate in California. A variety of Democratic-leaning advocacy groups, including organized labor, believe it would. Business groups disagree and are staunchly opposed.

Supporters say Proposition 15 would mostly raise property taxes on large corporations. Opponents think the impact would be much broader.

A plurality of the poll’s likely voters — 49% — said they favor Proposition 15, which would overhaul 1978’s landmark Proposition 13

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Proposition 16: A return to affirmative action

If Proposition 16 passes, it would bring back affirmative action, allowing race, ethnicity and gender to be considered in awarding government contracts and in deciding admission to the state’s colleges and universities.


It’s been 24 years since California voters considered whether race, ethnicity and gender should be considered in awarding government contracts and admission to the state’s colleges and universities. The politics and demographics of the state were far different in 1996 when such considerations were outlawed with Proposition 209, an amendment to the California Constitution.

This ballot measure is only nine words long. It would repeal Proposition 209, allowing affirmative action policies to again be used by state officials. It was added to the ballot by the Legislature, setting up a discussion about systemic racism and inequities at the same time as a national reckoning on these topics.

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Proposition 17: Allowing parolees to vote

If Proposition 17 passes, it would allow parolees – those released from prison but finishing a sentence – to vote.

There is a big difference between probation and parole in criminal justice and, at least in California, when it comes to having the right to vote. Probation is part of a sentence and often allows those convicted of a felony to avoid time behind bars; parole begins upon release from prison, in advance of when the sentence ends.

The California Constitution allows someone on probation to vote but suspends the voting rights of a parolee until parole has been completed. This proposal, placed on the ballot by the Legislature, would treat both groups of offenders the same and allow a person on parole to vote.

Rules barring parolees from voting vary by state, though the trend has been toward restoring those rights. A survey conducted by a pro-voting rights group last year estimated that California’s ban affects about 40,000 potential voters.


More Proposition 17 coverage

California voters are deciding in the November election whether to approve Proposition 17, which would allow people convicted of felonies who are on parole to vote in future elections in the state.

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Proposition 18: Allowing some 17-year-olds to vote

If Proposition 18 passes, it would allow 17-year-olds to vote in the March primary, as long as they turn 18 by the November election.

This constitutional amendment, placed on the ballot by the Legislature, would allow 17-year-olds to register and vote in primary elections if they turn 18 by the time of the general election in November.

At least 18 states have similar laws on the books, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Supporters argue that more of these new voters will get engaged with issues if they can participate in a full election cycle. As it stands now, an 18-year-old Californian whose birthday was after the March 3 presidential primary missed out on the chance to pick the candidates who made it to the Nov. 3 ballot.

More Proposition 19 coverage

If approved by California voters, Proposition 18 would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary and special elections if they turn 18 before the next general election.

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Proposition 19: Adding and subtracting property tax breaks

If Proposition 19 passes, it would give continued property tax breaks to Californians age 55 and older who want to move.

If approved by voters, this legislatively crafted proposal would allow all California homeowners who are 55 or older to purchase a new home and keep their property tax payment at the same level or a newly reduced rate — depending on the value of the new house. This expands a long-standing program that is currently available only in a few counties. Older Californians who might otherwise be reluctant to change homes because of high property taxes would receive a new break.


Proposition 19 also expands the property tax break to Californians who lose their home to a wildfire, an offer currently limited to other kinds of natural disasters.

The ballot measure also cracks down on the transfer of a home from a parent to an adult child in which the property tax payment doesn’t change. In 2018, a Times investigation found wealthy Californians — including the heirs of Hollywood celebrities — who charged monthly rents much higher than the annual tax payment. This ballot measure would narrow the tax break to homes being lived in by the owner and would place a new limit on how much of a home’s value remains unchanged when the property is inherited. Most of the resulting revenues collected by narrowing this tax break would go toward local firefighting efforts.

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Proposition 20: Tougher on parole, property crimes

If Proposition 20 passes, it would restrict the option of early parole for more crimes and increase penalties for certain theft-related crimes.

California voters have weighed in twice in recent years to reduce the punishment for crimes often considered less serious than violent felonies. In 2014, Proposition 47 was passed to reduce the penalties for some theft and drug crimes. In 2016, Proposition 57 offered a chance at parole to some serving prison sentences for crimes that aren’t on the state’s list of violent crimes.
Both laws have been the subject of intense debate over whether they are the right step toward reducing the prison population and promoting rehabilitation, or a wrong step that has led to more crime by repeat offenders.

This ballot measure would place new limits on the lighter sentences included in Proposition 47 and Proposition 57. It would allow some theft-related crimes to be charged as felonies and it would create two new crimes: serial theft (applicable only to a select list of crimes and to defendants who have prior convictions for certain crimes) and organized retail theft (two or more people involved in some theft crimes within a 180-day period). Both crimes could result in jail time.

Proposition 20 also would change the 2016 parole law championed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown by barring inmates convicted of crimes including human trafficking and solicitation from being considered for early release. It would change some of the rules that must be followed by the state Board of Parole Hearings and community probation programs. And it would expand DNA testing to require samples be taken from some people convicted of theft and domestic violence.

More Proposition 20 Coverage

California Gov. Jerry Brown is airing ads criticizing Proposition 20, calling it a “prison spending scam.” The California State Sheriffs’ Assn. has been a frequent opponent of Brown’s.


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Proposition 21: Rent control redux

If Proposition 21 passes, it would allow cities and counties in California to implement even stricter rent control policies.

Growing concerns over California’s lack of affordable housing have made rent control — a government-imposed cap on what landlords can charge their tenants — a hot topic. Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law restricting annual rent increases to no more than 5% plus inflation, one of the strictest statewide caps on rent hikes in the country.

That law was written after California voters rejected a 2018 statewide rent control measure championed by Los Angeles activist Michael Weinstein. This year, he’s trying again.

The 2018 ballot measure would have rescinded a state law that limits new local rent control ordinances. Proposition 21 is more modest, and would instead only narrow that law. If it passes, cities and counties could apply rent control to housing that is more than 15 years old, excluding some single-family homes. The ballot measure would allow local governments to impose limits on rent increases when a new renter moved in.

The measure would supersede any local rent control rules. In Los Angeles, for example, it could mean many more housing units would be eligible for limits on what a landlord could charge.

More Proposition 21 Coverage

As voters prepare to vote on a rent control ballot measure, supporters and opponents are both pointing to the coronavirus as a reason to pass or reject Prop. 21.

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Proposition 22: Special workplace rules for the gig economy

If Proposition 22 passes, it would allow companies like Uber and Lyft to continue to consider their workers as independent contractors, as opposed to full-time employees.


The bitter fight over designating a worker as an employee or an independent contractor dominated the final days of the legislative session in Sacramento last year. The resulting law, Assembly Bill 5, imposes new criteria to determine employment status for what has been estimated to be up to 1 million Californians.

But AB 5 wasn’t the end of the battle. Few industries were as unhappy with the law as app-based companies Uber and Lyft, which joined forces to immediately file a ballot measure creating another set of rules that would apply to their drivers.

In its simplest form, Proposition 22 would clearly designate those drivers as independent contractors — contrary to what Democratic legislators and labor unions that backed AB 5 intended. The ballot measure would offer those drivers several new benefits, but ones less generous than they would have as actual company employees.

An hourly wage would be guaranteed — slightly above California’s minimum wage — for time spent driving; a monthly health insurance stipend for some drivers, based on the hours they work per week; new medical and disability benefits if a driver is injured while driving; and new rules pertaining to rest periods, sexual harassment and criminal background checks.

In doing so, the ballot measure would distinguish the rules for app-based contractors from those applying to other sectors of the California economy.

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Proposition 23: Kidney dialysis clinic rules revisited

If Proposition 23 passes, it would increase rules for kidney dialysis centers, such as requiring at least one physician to remain on-site during a dialysis center’s operating hours.

Like the do-over ballot measure on rent control, this is the second straight November election in which California voters will be asked to approve a new law governing kidney dialysis clinics in the state.


About 600 dialysis clinics in California serve about 80,000 patients per month, according to a state legislative analysis. To address the patients’ needs, clinics often operate longer hours each day and are open for six days a week.

The ballot measure would require every clinic to have at least one physician present during all operating hours. The clinics would have to offer the same level of care to all patients, regardless of whether the treatment is paid for by private insurance or a government-funded program such as Medi-Cal or Medicare. Clinic administrators would have to report more information about infections among their dialysis patients, and the state Department of Public Health would have a new role in agreeing to changes at a clinic or its closure.

The initiative was placed on the ballot by a union representing healthcare workers and is opposed by some prominent dialysis companies. These were largely the same forces that fought it out over Proposition 8 in 2018, which also would have imposed new rules on dialysis clinics and was rejected by voters.

More Proposition 23 coverage

Proposition 23 would require dialysis clinics to employ at least one doctor who is on-site whenever patients are receiving treatment.

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Proposition 24: New consumer privacy rules

If Proposition 24 passes, it would make changes to California’s new consumer privacy law, allowing consumers new rights to limit the sharing of their personal information.

California’s sweeping new consumer privacy law went into effect in January and strict state enforcement began on July 1. It gives people more control over data collected by a variety of businesses. Consumers must be told if data are being collected or sold, they can ask that their information be deleted, and businesses are prohibited from charging more to customers who ask for more privacy.

The measure on November’s ballot, championed by a San Francisco real estate developer who pushed lawmakers to enact the 2018 law, goes further. It creates a new definition in state law of data “sharing” in an attempt to make more businesses subject to privacy rules. Consumers would also have new rights to limit the sharing of their personal information and to correct inaccurate information.

Penalties for companies that break the law would go up under Proposition 24, with even higher fines for sharing information related to children. And a new consumer protection agency would be established in state government.

More proposition 24 coverage

The ballot measure is intended to strengthen California’s landmark data privacy law — so why are privacy groups against it?


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Proposition 25: Ending cash bail

If Proposition 25 passes, it would eliminate cash bail, which requires suspects to pay a cash bond to be released from jail while waiting for their trial.

This measure is a referendum, a special kind of ballot measure asking voters to approve or reject a law passed by the Legislature. In this case, it’s the fate of a 2018 law abolishing cash bail in California.

Companies representing the bail industry quickly gathered signatures on a referendum after the law was signed. As a result, it’s been on hold and is awaiting a final decision by voters this fall.

That the bail companies sought a second opinion isn’t surprising. The historic law would eliminate the industry’s practice of offering cash to those who can’t afford to pay for early release. Instead, the law gives judges wide discretion to decide who can be released prior to trial. Defendants deemed to be a danger to the community could be held under a policy known as “preventive detention.”

A wide array of state officials, including California’s chief justice, supports the law. Civil rights groups, in particular, say the cash bail system too often has led to decisions based less on public safety and more on the ability to pay.

Voters who say “yes” on this measure will be giving their approval of the law to end cash bail. Voters who say “no” will be rejecting the law and affirming the system as it has existed for decades.

More Coverage

The referendum vote comes more than two years after a bitter legislative fight that pitted the multibillion-dollar bail industry, criminal defense attorneys and some civil liberties advocates against Democratic leaders.

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