CA Ballot Initiatives to Watch in 2014

By Adam O’Neal

It’s no secret Republicans have seen their influence wane throughout California. Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature with supermajorities. Every statewide office is held by a Democrat. And fewer and fewer Californians identify as Republicans each year.

One of the last — and perhaps most effective — ways for conservatives and Republicans to influence state politics is through the ballot initiative system. Currently, four ballot initiatives have already earned their place on the November 2014 general election ballot:

California Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Fund Act: Put on the ballot by the Legislature, if passed the initiative would force the Legislature to put 3 percent of revenue into the rainy day fund.

There’s one major exception: If revenues fall — i.e., if taxes fall or the economy takes a hit — then the state doesn’t have to save money for the rainy day fund. It’s difficult to say definitively whether or not the bill will work, because it’s hard to predict future revenues. However, the bill limits spending by requiring unexpected revenue to be put in the rainy day fund.

Without a clear mandate, typically the Legislature keeps little or nothing in reserve. This year, lawmakers set aside $1.1 billion for a rainy day fund as part of a deal with Gov. Jerry Brown, who urged the Democratic Legislature to show some level of fiscal restraint. If this initiative had been in effect, the Legislature would have had to set aside about three times that amount.

California Water Bond: This is another proposition referred by the state Legislature. It was supposed to appear on the June 2012 ballot, but it was postponed by the Legislature to the November 2014 ballot. It allows the state government to borrow more than $11 billion to refurbish the state’s water system. While not a “hot-button” issue like pot legalization, the bill will have a huge impact on the state’s finances, as the state already has a total bond debt of almost $90 billion.

California Insurance Companies Required to Justify Their Rates to the Public Initiative: In short, the proposition would let the state regulate health insurance companies as it already does car and homeowner insurance companies. The state insurance commissioner would have to approve rate changes, among other new regulations of insurance companies.

California Referendum to Overturn Indian Gaming Compacts: The initiative concerns Assembly Bill 277, a compact between California and the Wiyot Tribe and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians. The compact allows for Native Americans to build a large new casino off Highway 99. A yes vote allows them to; a no vote overturns the compact and prevents the new casino complex from being built.

Circulating

While only four initiatives have been approved for the ballot, 19 have been approved for circulation (to seek the signatures they’ll need for approval). Among those, several touch on hot-button issues, such as:

Public assistance benefits reform: The law creates several new requirements for people seeking public assistance — from presenting identification to requiring certain people to seek employment for three months before accessing assistance. The Legislative Analyst estimated that the initiative could save the state a net hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

Parental notification for abortion: It would require a medical professional who is performing an abortion to notify a minor’s parents at least 48 hours before the procedure (in writing). Three similar initiatives appeared on the ballot in the past and failed. The last measure, in 2008, failed by 52-48.

Additionally, two other initiatives would roll back laws passed by the Legislature that expanded the availability of abortion by allowing less qualified medical professionals to perform abortions and changing the standards for abortion providers.

Drug tests of doctors: The proposition would require doctors in California to undergo drug tests (and have the results of those tests forwarded to the California Medical Board). Doctors also would be required to inform authorities of other doctors whom they believe may be using drugs.

Legalizing marijuana: The perennial effort to decriminalize marijuana use is back. And this time, it may actually have a shot at passing, as both Washington state and Colorado have legalized the drug since California’s Proposition 19 failed 54-46 in 2010. Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996, when voters approved Proposition 215.

It’s too early to tell which propositions will pass — or how much money supporters of each will be able to raise. But for voters who feel underrepresented statewide, it’s a good place to try feeling heard.

(Adam O’Neal is a contributor to CalWatchdog. Originally published on CalWatchdog.)

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