The results for the 11 propositions on Tuesday's ballot reinforced one thing: California voters remain unpredictable. They softened the Three Strikes law, but kept the death penalty intact; our supposedly health-conscious denizens don't care to know if their food is genetically modified; and they voted for a tax hike, even as the state economy continues to struggle. Go figure.
Prop 30 — Temporary taxes to fund education: The Governor’s initiative rebounded after a precipitous drop late in the polls (54%-46%). The threat of $6 billion in cuts to public schools and universities was the motivation for a majority of voters. (For more, click here.)
Prop 31 —Establishes two-year state budget cycle: This cornucopia of government reforms fell flat with voters, who rejected it by a wide margin (60%-40%). While Californians consistently give state lawmakers low approval ratings, they were not convinced the proposed changes would make much of a difference. Some politicos think the measure was too confusing for voters.
Prop 32 — Prohibits unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes: A majority of voters disapproved of doing away with the ability of unions to raise money for political contributions (56%-44%). While many Californians agree that unions hold too much sway over Sacramento, they disliked the idea of giving unions less sway than corporations.
Prop 33 — Auto insurance prices based on driver history: Voters resoundingly rejected the measure funded solely by the Chairman of Mercury General Insurance (55%-45%). The proposal would have allowed insurance companies to offer discount to new customers who've maintained coverage. But Consumer Watchdog countered that insurance companies would offset the savings to those drivers by merely increasing rates other drivers pay.
Prop 34 — Repeals death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole: Californians aren’t ready to give up the death penalty (53%-47%). Opponents of the measure argued that the state should maintain capital punishment for the most heinous criminals. That message resonated with voters despite a slow appeals process and legal challenges to the state’s methods that have delayed the execution of 3,100 inmates sentenced to death. California’s has executed just 13 inmates since it reinstated capital punishment.
Prop 35 — Increases criminal penalties for human trafficking: The measure gained an early lead and maintained it through the night (81%-19%). The coalition of victims groups, prosecutors and politicians in support faced no formal opposition.
Prop 36 — Revises three strikes law: Californians overwhelmingly supported easing the Three Strikes law, which is the toughest in the nation (69%-31%). Until now, anyone convicted of two serious or violent felonies could be sentenced to 25 years to life if they committed a third crime — even if that last crime was relatively minor. Now the third conviction would have to be violent or serious in nature. The change allows 2,800 three-strikers to apply for a reduction of their sentences.
Prop 37 — Genetically engineered foods labeling: Voters sided with large agriculture companies who warned that forcing growers and food manufacturers to label all genetically modified foods would raise food prices (53%-47%). Opponents spent $46 million to defeat the measure. Supporters raised just $9 million, relying heavily on social media to reach voters.
Prop 38 — Tax for education. early childhood programs: The revenues from this sliding scale tax increase would have infused public schools with billions of dollars over more than a decade, but it proved less popular with voters than Prop 30 which raises income tax on just the wealthiest Californians (73%-27%). The measure's main proponent and funder, civil rights attorney Molly Munger, conceded defeat early in the night.
Prop 39 — Business tax for energy funding: Voters overwhelmingly favored getting rid of a law that allows multi-state companies to choose the most favorable sales tax method (60%-40%). Removing that option will generate an extra $1 billion annually for California. That turned out to be a no-brainer for voters. It also helped that no corporation chose to oppose the change.
Prop 40 — Redistricting, State Senate: Two years ago, voters approved new districts established through a bi-partisan citizen commission. State Republican lawmakers had challenged the new political maps in court. But after the California Supreme Court rejected the legal effort, Republicans withdrew their support for Prop 40, which ended up losing by a wide margin (72%-28%).