Editorial: State Propositions Warrant Much Skepticism

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California voters have every right to view all state propositions with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Propositions rarely do exactly what the authors say they will do. They are drawn up with loopholes big enough to drive a bullet train through, or with little favors built in to curry votes with certain groups, or with last-minute add-ons that should make voters uneasy.

Voters have been burned before. Many feel they didn't get exactly what they thought they were voting for with respect to medical marijuana, Indian gaming, the bullet train and numerous big-money bonds.

That's why we urge all voters to read carefully, and when in doubt, vote no. That's the safe approach.

On Sunday we wrote about our recommendation of a "no" vote on the water bond, Proposition 1, which promised "water storage" with no specifics whatsoever.

Here's a look at the other state propositions, each of which has one or more elements that make us uneasy.

PROPOSITION 2 >> This state constitutional amendment would require that the state establish a budgetary "rainy day fund," meaning that when there are reserves, a certain amount would be set aside to pay debts.

A rainy day fund is necessary, and a constitutional mandate is probably the only way to get one. Otherwise, as we've seen in the past, legislators will spend every penny.

There's one thing we dislike in the proposition, which was put on the ballot by a vote of the Legislature. In a last-minute addendum, local school districts were handcuffed with a requirement that they could have reserves of no more than 6 percent. So the state is mandated to save, but school districts can't.

It was a gift to education unions, who fear that districts would hoard money and not award raises. North state Sen. Jim Nielsen said he is "absolutely dedicated to getting that repealed." Even if he can't, we still think it's important to pass Proposition 2, so that state government doesn't return to the days of multibillion-dollar debts. Vote yes.

PROPOSITION 45 >> We always cringe when the state says it wants to regulate something, in this case health insurance. But it has worked well for auto insurance under the state insurance commissioner.

This proposition requires that health insurance companies justify proposed rate increases with the state insurance commissioner before enacting them.

Health insurance companies used lobbying (and of course hefty campaign donations to the bought-and-sold Legislature) to ward off legislative action. They are expected to spend more than $50 million in an attempt to defeat Proposition 45, which was put on the ballot by petition signatures after the Legislature failed. Voters should look out for their interests and vote yes.

PROPOSITION 46 >> This proposition, also placed on the ballot by signature gatherers, can fairly be characterized as lawyers vs. doctors.

Lawyers want to increase the cap on malpractice awards from $250,000 to about $1.1 million. Since the cap hasn't been raised since 1975, you could make a good argument for that.

But the provision that requires random drug testing of all doctors with hospital privileges sounds like not only an overreach, but also potentially illegal. Vote no on this flawed measure.

PROPOSITION 47 >> This proposition would let more "nonviolent" criminals out of jail and use the savings from the smaller prison population for a variety of programs, including mental health and drug rehabilitation.

We've seen how well that worked under AB 109, the prison realignment program.

There's a reason most law enforcement officials and victim's advocacy groups oppose this proposition. We're with them. Vote no.

PROPOSITION 48 >> This proposition asks a simple question: Should Indian tribes be able to build casinos off tribal land? It's called "reservation shopping."

A tribe near Fresno decided Highway 99 would be a good spot for a casino, so purchased land there. That's bad enough. What's worse is that one of their partners is the Wiyot tribe in Humboldt County, hundreds of miles away.

This proposition would open the door for more casinos off tribal land. Vote no.

Tomorrow: State Assembly.

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