Water Bond, Drug Testing for Doctors on Ballot

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With the November general election a week away, some of the biggest election debates aren’t between candidates running for office but rather between people for or against ballot measures.

They include a measure for a $7.5 billion California water bond hammered out from intense negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Sacramento, another that would force California to set aside money to protect against future budget shortfalls and one that would set new rules to raise insurance rates and charges.

Here’s a a look at the measures:

Proposition 1

Some say this is the most important measure on the ballot because California has gone through the worst three-year period of drought in its history, and weather forecasters generally predict that the state is headed into a fourth drought year.

The measure authorizes the state to issue $7.2 billion in general obligation bonds to pay for water infrastructure projects, including those to improve surface water and groundwater storage, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, drinking water protection, water supply management, water recycling and advanced water treatment technology.

California’s legislative analyst estimates that bond repayment will cost the state an average $360 million over each of the next 40 years.

Supporters say: California has an aging water infrastructure that needs substantial fixes and renovations in order to capture and hold more water, which prompted Republicans and Democrats to develop this measure.

Opponents say: Proposition 1 focuses on building more dams, at a cost of $2.7 billion, plus interest. But the added dams will increase California’s water supply by only 1 percent, and they’re decades away from being built.

As such, the state should focus on making better use of its existing water supply and creating immediate, long-term jobs.

Proposition 2

Requires that 1.5 percent from California’s General Fund and some capital gains tax revenues be transferred each year into a “state budget stabilization account,” half of which could be used to repay state debts and unfunded liabilities.

Limited use of the fund would be allowed in the event of state emergencies and to help the state get through budget deficits.

The amount in the account is capped at 10 percent of General Fund revenues.

The measure also creates a “Public School System Stabilization Account” paid for through by a transfer of capital gains-related tax revenues.

Supporters say: By forcing the state to save money when times are good, debts can be paid down more quickly, and if bad economic times occur again, adding money to the state’s rainy-day fund can be used to protect schools, public safety and other vital services.

Opponents say: The measure includes a requirement for school districts to reduce their local reserves whenever anything is paid into the Public School System Stabilization Account. For most school districts, this would equal just 6 percent of their annual operating expenses, or three weeks of spending.

Proposition 45

Requires that any changes in health insurance rates or charges associated with health insurance would first have to be approved by California’s insurance commissioner.

The measure also requires public disclosures of rate changes.

Prohibits health, auto and home insurers from determining policy eligibility or rates based on a people’s credit history or on whether they have been insured in the past.

Supporters say: Health insurance rates have risen at five times the rate of inflation, and Proposition 45 eliminates insurance price gouging by forcing insurance companies to open their books to justify rate hikes.

Opponents say: California launched an independent commission this year to control health insurance rates and expand coverage. Proposition 45 puts power in the hands of a politician who can take campaign contributions from trial lawyers, insurers and other special interests.

Proposition 46

Requires drug and alcohol testing of doctors. Those who test positive will be reported to the California Medical Board, which would suspend and take disciplinary action against those doctors.

Doctors would be required to report other doctors they suspect of drug or alcohol impairment on the job or medical negligence.

Increases the $250,000 cap on pain-and-suffering damages in lawsuits claiming medical negligence.

The measure also requires doctors to review a database that monitors drugs prescribed to patients before they can prescribe painkillers and some other controlled substances.

Supporters say: Medical negligence is the third-leading killer in this country, and this legislation would reduce such incidents related to substance abuse by doctors. It also would hold doctors accountable for negligent activity, which includes working while impaired.

Opponents say: Proposition 46 was put on the ballot to make it easier for trial lawyers to sue doctors and profit. Increasing the cap for damages also makes medial lawsuits more profitable for lawyers.

Proposition 47

Requires misdemeanor sentences instead of felony sentences for certain drug possession offenses and for the following crimes when the amount involved are $950 or less: petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging or writing bad checks.

Allows felony sentences for these offenses if the suspect has a previous conviction for some major crimes, including rape, murder and child molestation or if the person is a registered sex offender.

Supporters say: The changes helps reduce prison jail populations, as less space would be used for petty offenders. It also frees up hundreds of millions of dollars that would have gone to housing these inmates.

Opponents say: Some 10,000 inmates would be eligible for early release, as the law would require new sentencing hearings for people already convicted for these offenses. The measure doesn’t factor in past convictions for other serious crimes, including assault, robbery and home burglary.

Proposition 48

If voters approve the Indian Gaming Compacts Referendum, it would ratify the tribal gaming compacts negotiated by Gov. Brown with the North Fork Indian Tribe near Yosemite and the Wiyot Indian Tribe near Humboldt Bay. This would allow the tribes to acquire land in Madera County that is off their reservations to build a casino and hotel there.

If approved, the North Fork tribe would make one-time payments totaling $16 million to $35 million to Madera County and the city of Madera.

Madera, Madera County and the Madera Irrigation District also would receive about $5 million in annual payments from the time the casino opens through the end of the compact. Other local governments in the county could receive $3.5 million annually.

Supporters say: The casino and hotel complex would generate more than 4,000 jobs, promote economic growth and generate income for state and local governments without taxpayers incurring any costs.

Opponents say: Tribal-run casinos currently are allowed only on reservations in California, and allowing a Vegas-style casino and hotel to be built off a reservation so it can be close to a freeway breaks the rules and could start a wave of off-reservation casino development.

The complex will siphon customers from existing businesses in the area.

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