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Which California Ballot Measures Will Voters Get to Consider in November?

Which California Ballot Measures Will Voters Get to Consider in November?

A woman calls for rent cancellation at a May Day march in Los Angeles on May 1, 2021. One possible ballot measure would empower local governments to limit rent increases. (David McNew/AFP via Getty Images)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

5/16/2024

Updated: 5/28/2024

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With fewer than six months to go before the presidential election in November, questions remain as to which voter initiatives will ultimately qualify for the ballot.
Four measures have already officially qualified after being introduced and approved by the Legislature, seven initiatives are listed by the secretary of state as eligible, and four more are currently under review after submitting signatures gathered by proponents.

Qualified for the Ballot

Senate Constitutional Amendment 2 would reduce the voting age in California from 18 to 17.
Assembly Constitutional Amendment 1 would create exemptions to property tax limits enacted by the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978.
While the state constitution states that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5 would state that marriage equality is a fundamental right.
Assembly Constitutional Amendment 13 would change voter requirements to match the percentage called for by an initiative instead of just a simple majority, thus any measure that would require a two-thirds vote for matters if passed would also need to receive a two-thirds majority vote to be approved.

Eligible for the Ballot

Measures eligible for the ballot will be listed as qualified on or before June 27, as per state law, which requires such be done 131 days before the election.
One such initiative, known as the Living Wage Act, would raise the state’s minimum wage to $18 per hour by 2025 and would allow for adjustments each year to match cost of living increases.
The California Pandemic Early Detection and Prevention Act would increase income taxes by 0.75 percent on earnings greater than $5 million. The revenues collected—which are estimated between $500 million and $1.5 billion annually—would go to establishing and funding the California Institute of Pandemic Prevention, awarding public health grants, and improving schools to limit disease transmission.
The Fair Play and Employer Accountability Act would repeal the Private Attorney General Act, better known as PAGA, passed by the Legislature in 2003 which allows employees to file suit on behalf of themselves or other employees for wage theft and other workplace-related violations.
A measure known as the Justice for Renters Act seeks to expand local governments’ authority to limit rent increases for residential properties.
Education curriculums would be adapted by the California Personal Finance Education Act, which would include a financial literacy course requirement for public high school students, with the course to be added by the 2026–27 school year.
One referendum is challenging a 2022 law that takes effect Jan. 1, 2025, which prohibits oil well development near schools, homes, and hospitals. If approved by voters, the law would be repealed.
One initiative—the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act, which would define taxes to include any fees or charges imposed by the state and would require a two-thirds vote by lawmakers for approval—is hotly contested by some lawmakers.
Its fate currently rests in the hands of California Supreme Court justices after California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature filed a lawsuit seeking to keep it out of the election.
Justices listened to oral arguments on May 8, as Margaret Prinzing, the attorney representing the governor and Legislature, told the court that the measure should be tossed because it represents a revision to the state Constitution as opposed to an amendment.
“The initiative measure before this court is unlike any that has come before it,” Ms. Prinzing said. “This measure would fundamentally restructure the power of government to raise revenue as set forth in the California Constitution.”
She argued that the Legislature has held the power to impose taxes since the state was founded but would lose that right if the measure was approved by voters.
“This measure would revoke that power for the first time in California and instead put it in the hands of the voters,” Ms. Prinzing said. “It’s a revision that would occur in ways that would endanger the government’s ability to provide essential government services.”
Proponents argue that the Legislature’s power is balanced by the will of the people.
“Voter approval has been a component of California’s history since its inception and ... the extension of that to other matters is perfectly within the realm of reason,” Thomas Hiltachk, the attorney representing the measure and its supporters, told the court. “What we have, essentially, is a two-way street where the legislative power is shared amongst these two groups: the people on the one hand and the Legislature on the other, but the people have the last word.”
He said such rights are given to the electorate by the state’s Constitution.
“Our constitution, since its inception, has stated that all political power is inherent in the people,” Mr. Hiltachk said. “It has stated that the people have the power to reform and alter their government whenever they decide it needs reform.”
The attorneys also fought over the timing of the lawsuit, as historical precedence has shown that the court prefers to let the voters decide before weighing in on initiatives, but the governor and some in the Legislature are seeking to derail the proposal before it hits the ballot.
A decision from the court is expected in the coming weeks.
Supporters highlighted the more than 1.4 million Californians who signed the petition and said the legal maneuver was a calculated attempt to prevent the voters from providing input and adjusting how the state government operates.
“It’s a very unusual procedure that the governor and Legislature have attempted here ... and one of the reasons they brought the legal action is because they know it is bound to pass,” Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, told The Epoch Times. “It is a very good measure, it has lots of extremely popular provisions, and I think that is what has the progressives in California so nervous.”
Experts point to the efforts underway by both sides as suggesting that supporters and critics believe the measure has a relatively good chance of passing if ultimately on the ballot.
“It’s telling you that both sides feel that there is a constituency for this measure and a possibility that if it were on the ballot, it might pass and make significant changes,” Mark Baldassare, survey director for the Public Policy Institute of California, told The Epoch Times.
He noted recent public surveys that show a split in the electorate when asked if they would rather pay more taxes and have better services or pay less taxes and receive fewer benefits as a sign that the vote could be tight if the electorate gets to decide.
“This could be very close,” Mr. Baldassare said. “Going forward, I expect there will be a very important but also very active campaign on both the yes and no side.”

Signature Verification Underway

After submitting the nearly 600,000 signatures required to be eligible for the ballot, some initiatives are currently being reviewed by the secretary of state’s office.
A measure known as the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act aims to repeal aspects of Proposition 47—passed by voters in 2014 that changed some drug and theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors—by allowing felony charges for repeat offenders of certain drug and theft crimes.
The Protect Patient Now Act would require certain health care providers to spend 98 percent of the money collected from federal discount prescription drug programs on direct patient care.
An initiative known as the Protect Access to Healthcare Act would make permanent a tax on managed health care insurance plans that is set to expire in 2026 and would require that the revenues be used to fund certain MediCal services.
Another measure seeks to expand the California Children’s Services Program by requiring the state to provide financial assistance to low- and middle-income families with children younger than the age of 21 in need of certain medical services. It would also order the state to provide grants to health care providers offering program services and assure that physicians receive at least the minimum rates set by the federal Medicare program.

Initiative in Limbo

According to supporters, one proposed ballot measure was potentially upended by California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s decision to change the title of the initiative from the Protect Kids of California Act to Restricts Rights of Transgender Youth.
“He’s very biased, and it’s very clear that the language he used is prejudicial, so we believe that violates the law,” Jonathan Zachreson, a proponent of the act and Roseville School Board trustee, told The Epoch Times. “This is probably one of the most egregious examples.”
Donors became wary of giving more money to what they perceived as a tainted effort after the name was changed, as many voters only read the summary and title to understand what they’re voting on without researching the measures, he said.
“The biggest impact was definitely on the donor side,” Mr. Zachreson said. “The donors were very concerned with the title and summary.”
Supporters are still collecting signatures, with a deadline of May 28 to file the collected petitions.
The group in support filed a lawsuit, although a California judge ruled against attempts to change the title back from the attorney general’s decision—with an appeal expected soon, according to Mr. Zachreson.
The measure seeks to make students use the restroom designated for their birth gender, prohibit those born as male from participating in female sports, require schools to notify parents of name or pronoun changes used by students, and ban transgender surgeries and hormones for minors.
With some initiatives already approved and others under review, all ballot measures could still be negotiated away if parties come to agreements and decide to pull the proposals before the June 27 deadline.
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

Author

Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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