PD Editorial: A bumper crop of ballot measures

Sonoma County election officials have only just finished processing ballots from the June primary, but it's not too early to start studying for the November election.

You might even consider a little physical conditioning to hoist the voter pamphlet. OK, that's hyperbole. But have some sympathy for the postal carriers who have to deliver them.

You see, there will be at least 17 state ballot measures on the Nov. 8 ballot — Propositions 51 through 67. It's the most since March 2000, when there were 20. And the state Legislature could add some more after its summer recess.

As regular readers of this page know, several local measures also are anticipated on subjects ranging from GMOs to sales taxes.

And, as is so often the case, there won't be a lot of simple choices. This isn't soup or salad, French fries or baked potato, box seat or bleachers.

Proposition 61, for example, would cap the amount the state pays for prescription drugs at no more than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays. Pharmaceutical companies are, predictably, opposed. But consumer and medical groups are sharply divided, debating whether there would be savings or unintended consequences. Neutral analysts say it could save consumers money, or push up the cost of medications.

Proposition 52, as described on the secretary of state's website, 'increases required vote to two-thirds for the Legislature to amend a certain existing law that imposes fees on hospitals (for purpose of obtaining federal Medi-Cal matching funds) and that directs those fees and federal matching funds to hospital-provided Medi-Cal health care services, to uncompensated care provided by hospitals to uninsured patients, and to children's health coverage.' What does all that gobbledygook mean? We're trying to figure it out.

Some of the propositions are easier to understand.

If you support capital punishment, there is Proposition 66, which promises to speed up executions by requiring more lawyers to handle death penalty appeals and imposing time limits for courts to rule on those appeals. If you're opposed, Proposition 62 would eliminate the death penalty.

Imagine the legal theatrics if voters approve both initiatives.

Then again, don't. Not if you value your sanity.

The Nov. 8 ballot also includes Proposition 51, a $9 billion school bond, which could trim development fees for new homes but, according to some, is structured in a way that puts smaller school districts at a disadvantage. Proposition 53 would require voter approval (yes, more ballot measures) on revenue bonds — bonds repaid from a dedicated source other than tax dollars — exceeding $2 billion. Proposition 60 would require adult film performers to wear condoms. This requires a statewide vote?

Proposition 65 would require grocers to turn over receipts from the sale of paper carryout bags to the state Wildlife Conservation Board. Prop. 65 is sponsored by the makers of plastic carryout bags, who also are sponsoring Proposition 67, a referendum that would overturn a state law banning (wait for it) plastic carryout bags. Local bans, such as the one in Sonoma County, wouldn't be affected.

There's more, including measures to legalize marijuana, regulate firearms, raise tobacco taxes, extend a temporary tax on high incomes and rewrite a bilingual education initiative approved by voters in 1998. We've already started studying and plan to make recommendations as the election gets closer. Let us know what you think.

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