Deciphering the legalese of propositions can be a daunting task come voting time. So, to help interpretation, New Times compiled a summary version of the five statewide initiatives in this year’s primary.
Proposition 13 is essentially an amendment to the property tax initiative of the same name that became law in the 1970s. According to the League of Women Voters website, smartvoter.org, it would prevent the seismic retrofitting of buildings from triggering reassessments of property tax values. If the initiative passes, property tax rates wouldn’t increase until after the retrofitted building is sold. If it fails, safety improvements would continue to be excluded from property taxes, but for no more than 15 years. The California Constitution currently includes an exemption for earthquake safety upgrades required by local ordinances.
This amendment would nullify all existing provisions and replace them with a single exemption for all earthquake safety upgrades. As a result, exclusions wouldn’t have time limits, but would instead last until the properties are sold.
Proposition 14 would change the primary election process for congressional, statewide, and legislative races. Under the new law, voters would be able to choose any candidate regardless of the candidate’s or voter’s political affiliation. The two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes for each office would then appear on the general election ballot. Opponents of the proposition contend it would in most races limit the candidates listed on ballots in the general election to only those of the two major parties, to the detriment of third-party candidates.
Proposition 15 would lift the ban on public funding of political campaigns and establish a temporary program to test public funding only for candidates for Secretary of State in the 2014 and 2018 elections. Proponents say it would help reduce the influence of private donors on candidates. Opponents contend it would open the door for using public money to fund campaigns for other offices.
Proposition 16 would prohibit local governments from establishing or expanding public electric service unless two thirds of residents vote in favor. Most Californians currently get electric service from such commercial utilities as PG&E. Opponents of the proposition contend a simple majority of residents should be enough to approve a public service, and point out that PG&E is virtually the only source financing the proposition, which if passed would impede competition from community-based utilities.
Proposition 17 would allow auto insurance companies to consider whether someone has had gaps in coverage as a factor in determining rates that individual would pay. If it passes, insurance companies could offer discounts to people who did not let their coverage lapse for more than 90 days in the past five years, but they would also be free to charge penalties to people who did. Insurance companies cannot now consider lapses one way or the other.