Thursday, October 9, 2014

Yes on 48, Indian Casino

We recommend a Yes vote on Proposition 48, which is needed to go forward with a compact between the State of California and two local Native American tribes. It will allow a casino to be built in the Fresno area.

We think casino gambling, and the state lottery, are not good things. But given that stupid people will gamble, it is better that the money go to the California government or the Indian tribes, rather than to organized criminals or the government of Nevada.

Yes on 48.

Text and Arguments, California Proposition 48

Yes on 47, Misdemeanor Penalties, California Proposition on Criminal Sentences

Vote Yes on Proposition 47, "Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties."

California Proposition 47 changes several crimes that are now felonies to misdemeanors. In cases of theft, shoplifting, and forged or bad checks it simply clearly sets any crimes involving under $950 in the misdemeanor category.

Felonies are serious crimes, typically punishable by imprisonment for a year or more (or in uncivilized nations that still retain the death penalty, by death). Typically felons are sent to state prison, though they may be but in local jails or even just probation.

Misdemeanors are crimes which are less serious and typically involve smaller fines and imprisonment for less than one year. Criminals sentenced for misdemeanors serve their time, if any, in local prisons.

Many people who regularly commit crimes assess the risks versus rewards of a particular crime. Reducing a felony crime to a misdemeanor may encourage criminals to commit more crimes.

So why reduce sentences? Keeping prisoners for long periods of time in state prisons is expensive. When such prisoners are not already career criminals or gang members, they often "graduate" to that status, with state prisons acting as schools.

For many people who are not hell bent on a career of crime, a short jail stay is about as effective as a long one in deterring future criminal activity. They are less likely to join gangs in local jails.

There are a number of crimes covered under Proposition 47, but probably the most important one is drug possession. Apparently in a typical year 40,000 people in the state of California are given felony convictions just for possessing small quantities of illegal drugs. Most are probably not drug dealers. They are just users. They are astray, but may otherwise be law-abiding, productive citizens. Sending them to state prison is a waste of prison space and taxpayer dollars.

Effects of 47 will be mixed, but on the whole they are fairer and will allow state resources to be freed up for better uses. Including stopping serious crimes.

Yes on 47, no felony charges for drug possession for personal use.

California Proposition 47 official text and arguments

No on 46, Drug and Alcohol Testing for Doctors, California Proposition

Doctors do need to be better regulated or policed. Normally we would support a proposition that headed us in the right direction even if it was not exactly what we wanted. But Proposition 46 ignores real issues while focusing on insubstantial ones.

Do some doctors abuse drugs? Yes! A small percentage of doctors either take painkillers and other mood-changing drugs themselves or prescribe them for patients based on getting paid for it, not based on medical need.

But all doctors should not be required to take drug and alcohol tests. That is a Big Brother solution to a human failure problem. Plus doctors are smart: if ordinary cons can beat drug tests, you know doctor-addicts will find a way to beat them.

What really needs policing in the world of Doctors today?

In addition to having the existing, doctor-dominated Medical Board of California tighten up on incompetence, we need a separate board to examine complaints about physicians overcharging patients (or insurers). "Drive by" charges, when a friend who is out-of-network peaks at a patient, or even performs a real service, and then charges far more than insurers normally allow, should be stopped cold by heavy fines for such practices.

Doctors who refuse to take insurance, or refuse Medi-Cal or Medicare patients, or try to cheat the system in any way should lose their licenses and suffer heavy fines.

There does seem to be a doctor shortage in California. This results from the American Medical Association's longstanding policy of refusing to license new medical schools. In addition, current medical schools should be enrolling and graduating more patients. The shortage of doctors drives the price of medical care up more than any other single factor.

We do believe the cap on pain and suffering damages is too low. But Proposition 46 is not the way to address that issue.

No on 46. We need genuine reform of the profession, not Big Brother tactics on a narrow issue.

California Proposition 46 text and arguments

Yes on 45, California Proposition Regulating Health Insurance Rate Changes

Individual Californians are required to buy healthcare insurance.

But we have little power to negotiate rates with the big healthcare insurance companies. Currently they set rates, and we just have to pay them.

We the people of the State of California need a way to fairly negotiate rates with the insurers.

While it is not perfect, the only reasonable way to do that is to empower the State of California government to reject rate hikes that are unfair to us.

That is what Proposition 45 establishes. Rate hikes (with the exception of those negotiated by large corporate employers) would have to be approved by the office of the Insurance Commissioner.

It is not ideal. But the Insurance Commissioner is elected, so at least we can change Commissioners if we don't like the results.

Yes on 45, Healthcare Insurance Rate Oversite.

Text and official arguments for California Propositon 45    

Yes on California Rainy Day Fund, Proposition 2

Californians have suffered from fundamental budget problems that will be at least alleviated, if not fixed, by Proposition 2.

Currently the state budget amplifies the pain of recessions while adding to the joys of boom times. Amplifying swings in the economy does long-term damage to the economy. Since we are at a point of upswing in the economy, now is a good time to fix this junky-mentality.

In good times the government is flooded with tax revenue. Everybody wants to spend it. It is hard for legislators to say No to teachers and other state employees, welfare recipients, rich friends, pork projects or raises for themselves when the economy is booming. Despite the long series of booms and busts in the economy, they can't plan for the inevitable slowdown, which sometimes becomes a bust.

In bad times, when lots of newly unemployed people need help, suddenly there is not enough money to cover even the old crowd sucking on the tit of government. Teachers won't give back raises, so their youngest, most vulnerable members are laid off. New road construction grinds to a halt. All along the line there are cutbacks even as the state runs an illegal deficit (California is supposed to balance its budget each year, but it does not, especially during recessions).

As a result California has among the highest taxes in the nation, but it no longer has the best schools or roads. Too much money goes to paying interest on debt.

You can argue with the details of Proposition 2, but it represents a fix that is urgently needed. When the state has a surplus it will be used partly to pay off debt and create a Rainy Day Fund that can be used in times of recession.

My main argument with Proposition 2 is that it does not go far enough, but we are not likely to be offered a chance to vote on a better version of this idea.

So please vote Yes on 2 in the November 4, 2014 election. Help California steady its budget, so that government can do the job it is supposed to do both in boom and bust economies.

Summary and Text of California Proposition 2 (at California Secretary of State site)

No on Water Bond, California Proposition 1

California is in a drought, so what better time for the state legislature to put a big boondoggle water bond bill on the ballot?

The bill will waste over $7.5 billion dollars, not including interest. It is a hodgepodge, partly to service big business, with a few bandages for the environment in hopes of picking up the environmentalist vote.

California needs to conserve water. If we need more water for Los Angeles lawns in dry years it needs to come from outside of California. It needs to come all the way from Oregon, Washington State, or even Canada.

We need to reduce the population of California (and the U.S., and the world). California should adopt a one-child per family policy. Then in a couple of generations we would not have a perpetual water shortage.

What we don't need is a Proposition that allocates money without telling us what projects it is actually going to fund. The reality is water is likely to be pumped from northern California, where it is scarce, to southern California, where it is precious. Look at a aerial photo of Los Angeles area backyard swimming pools, and you will see what the project is really for. That and giant corporate farms in the Central Valley, which farmers have turned into a desert by using unsustainable practices.

We don't need more dams on the Klamath, Russian, Sacramento and Trinity rivers to divert water to be wasted in southern California.

Proposition 1 does not allow for spending money on water storage in the northern and central coastal regions. All the storage money is limited to being deployed in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and in southern California.

Proposition 1 says it will safeguard the quality of water supplies for both humans and the environment, but throws just enough money at those ideas to assure us that the money will fund endless environmental litigation and "planning" of projects that in the end will be mostly left unfunded.

Instead of a giant boondoggle, show us a plan for each project, and fund each project that is truly worthwhile out of increases in water rates by the people who will actually use the water.

Vote NO on California Proposition 1

Text of California Proposition 1

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

No on California Proposition 41 Bond Act

California Proposition 41, which is up before the voters for the June 3, 2014 primary election, is the sort of thing every voter has seen before. Despite the state being overburdened by debt, special interests will devise a plan to borrow more while hiding their true agenda.

Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Bond Act of 2014 might help veterans including homeless veterans a bit, but its real victors would be the investment banks that sell the bonds; construction moguls; and land speculators.

If the people of California want to help the homeless or veterans, through the State of California, the money should come out of an annual budget, not further borrowing.

Where will this alleged housing be built? Will your city, town, or county benefit? Probably not. It will go where the most corrupt politicians and bureaucrats want it to go, where it most profits their patrons.

Where is all the housing from prior, similar bond acts? Not much of anywhere, because the interest on the bonds, and the bankers' commissions for selling the bonds, and the bureaucratic pay for planning housing, and rezoning, and fighting with the neighborhoods that usually don't want the housing anyway, will eat up most of the taxes paid.

Except that all the taxes paid, despite the astonishingly high tax rates in California, are already being eaten up, not just with ordinary state expenses, but with interest and principle payments on prior bonds. [We supported the recent tax hikes to get us out of a mess, not to reinvigorate the mess]

The tragic inability of the State of California to help people during the late Great Recession was a direct result of overspending before 2008, including endless bond measures, each titled to try to appeal to enough voters to get them passed. During the recession California cut aid to the homeless, including the newly homeless who had long histories of paying taxes.

California needs to pay down its debts and deal with the underfunding of the pensions for public workers. When that is done we can fund things like alleged housing for the poor out of budget surpluses, if necessary by stopping funding items that are less important to us.

While it can be found everywhere, homelessness should be addressed at a detailed level. Some homeless people just need a job; some need medical or psychiatric help; individuals have individual issues. These issues can best be addressed at the local level.

The only homeless persons these bonds might help are veterans. While the vast majority of homeless people in California are not veterans, they would be left out in the cold by this program.

Don't be fooled by the title. Vote NO on Proposition 41 in the June 3, 2014 primary.

See also: California Official Voter Guide Proposition 41

Yes on California Proposition 42

California has open public meetings and records laws. Proposition 42 makes clear that local governments and agencies must follow these laws. They are good laws. Every state should enact them, and there should be federal similar federal laws.

These laws due impose some burdens and costs on agencies and governments. However, these costs a tiny compared to the benefits of openess.

Proposition 42 fixes a flaw in the current situation. In some cases the State picked up the costs of compliance. In some cases Agencies and localities used lack of funding to refuse to comply with the law.

California Proposition 42 makes the Brown Act and California Public Records Act work the way most laws work. The law is the law. The costs of complying with the law are to be paid by the local units of government. There is no need for a bureaucratic system for the State to reimburse local government for doing what local governments should do anyway.

Local governments and agencies should not see the open meetings and records laws as a burden. Members of the public want to help insure there is good government. To get an accurate picture of a situation, and to base good judgment on it, they need access to meetings and public records. The more citizens keep an eye on local boards, the less room the boards have for corruption and just plain poor decision making.

Vote Yes on California Proposition 42 in the June 3, 2014 primary

See also: California Official Voter Guide Proposition 42