With 4 days to go before Election Day, it's time to take a look at my sample ballot - for Los Angeles County, California. We'll see the choices / considerations that need to be made - and I'll offer my recommendations on not only the candidates - but also the numerous ballot measures that have become so commonplace in California elections.
As regular readers know, I see California as being in a major fiscal crisis - brought on primarily by years (decades?) of progressive political leadership, agendas, and policies. We have some of the highest state income taxes in country - at both the personal and corporate levels. The state government is bloated, inefficient, and filled with waste. It is also in the pocket of special interests ranging from environmentalists to public and private sector unions. If California would be a country, we would be in the top 10 in the world in terms of GDP - but we would also be very similar to Greece or Spain in terms of our debt, excessive government spending, and challenges.
Today, every single holder of an elected State-wide office is a Democrat - a progressive Democrat at that. Only a few Republican legislators and a two-thirds majority requirement on tax increases that is part of our State Constitution protects us from annual tax increases to try to bring revenues up to the level of our excessive spending. In a year where we have between a $16 billion and $20 billion budget deficit - our Governor wants to drive full speed ahead to spend between $66 billion and $120 billion on a high speed rail boondoggle that has no viable business plan or any private investors.
With that, let's look at the state wide ballot initiatives.
Proposition 30 - 'Temporary Taxes to Fund Education, Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding, Initiative Constitutional Amendment'
This is Governor Brown's $8 billion tax increase - levied primarily on the 'wealthy' (except for an across the board .25 point state sales tax increase) that is to address a $16 billion (today) budget deficit - ensuring adequate funding for education and first responders across the state. If it doesn't pass, the Governor has promised an additional $5.5 billion cut in education funds, closure of state parks, and layoff's of first responders / prison guards in order to 'balance' the budget.
The Governor's approach is simply base extortion. It does nothing to repair the fundamental brokenness of the state or address our fiscal crisis. It just tries to kick the can down the road a few more years. It reflects the contempt the left / progressives / Democrats have to the voters and residents of California.
VOTE NO on PROP 30
Proposition 31 - 'State Budget, State and Local Government Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute'
This is an amendment to the State Constitution that establishes a 2 year state budget, sets rules for offsetting expenditures - and where the Governor needs to cut the budget during fiscal emergencies. Returns to local governments $200 million that the State appropriates for its budget challenges.
This places more and stricter controls on the state budget process and attempts to limit some of the games being played by the Governor and Legislation to address the fiscal crisis - including dipping their hands into the pockets of local governments. We need something to change - and this is as good of a first step as we can do at this time. Far more is needed, but that would mean voting out the progressives that run this State.
VOTE YES on Prop 31
Proposition 32 - 'Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction, Contributions to Candidates Initiative Statute'
This prohibits unions and corporations from using payroll deducted funds, including union dues, for political purposes. This is designed to end companies and unions from forcing payroll deductions from workers paychecks to fund political advocacy by the entity (company or union).
This is one of the most contentious propositions we face - and one that the unions, in particular the public sector unions, are spending over $60 million in adverts to prevent its passage. It will hit right at the power of the unions to buy the government - and protect workers / union members from having to fund political causes and candidates that they do not wish to support.
VOTE YES on Prop 32
Proposition 33 - 'Auto Insurance Companies - Prices based on Driver's History of Insurance Coverage Initiative Statute'
This amends a current law in California to allow auto insurance companies to set premium pricing based on whether the insured previously was insured with any other auto insurance carrier. It also allows drivers with previous coverage to receive a discount for having that coverage.
This is based on the calculation that those with auto insurance and maintain auto insurance coverage as required by state law - are more responsible drivers than those who do not have insurance or maintain continuous coverage. The left hates this because it ranks new drivers and immigrant drivers as higher risks and need to pay higher premiums.
VOTE YES on Prop 33
Proposition 34 - 'Death Penalty Initiative Statute'
This proposition repeals the death penalty in California and commutes the death sentences of over 700 who are on California's death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The proposition is being promoted by those who are anti-capital punishment. They cite the risk of false convictions as an added concern. They are also using a fiscal argument - saying that it will be less expensive to keep these convicts in general population than on the segregated death row.
Another factor to consider is that California, while having a large death row population, does not execute its death row population. The State Supreme Court is very progressive and anti-capital punishment. With the appeals and legal processes, it can easily be 20-30 years before a convict has run out of options and is cleared to stand for their execution.
We have far better technology and information to take all reasonable precautions to ensure we only convict the guilty. Once convicted, there are numerous appeals, new hearings, and new trials that take place before a convict would be executed. So the odds of an innocent person being convicted and executed for a crime they didn't commit is pretty remote. Furthermore some crimes are so heinous that committing them means that the person who did so has eliminated their right to remain alive.
VOTE NO on Prop 34
Proposition 35 - 'Human Trafficking Penalties Initiative Statute'
This proposition increases prison sentences and fines for those convicted of engaging in human trafficking. In addition, those convicted have to register as sex offenders - and live under the limits and requirements of being registered sex offenders.
This should be a no-brainer to support.
VOTE YES on Prop 35
Proposition 36 - 'Three Strikes Law, Repeat Felony Offenders Penalties Initiative Statute'
This revises the current 'three strikes' law that imposes a life sentence on persons receiving the third felony conviction to only impose the life sentence when the third felony conviction is deemed serious or violent. Permits judges to re-sentence those convicted of a three strikes violation when the third felony was not serious or violent.
Today, DA's and Judges already have considerable leeway in not imposing a third strike life sentence if the felony committed was not serious or violent. Imposing it into law via the proposition will create more challenges and more limitations on this leeway. Evidence shows that those who commit repeated felonies will continue to do so - and the only real way to stop those repeat crimes is to incarcerate them for life. Keep the law as it is today.
VOTE NO on Prop 36
Proposition 37 - 'Genetically Engineered Foods Labeling Initiative Statute'
This requires California establish a totally unique and California food labeling process that increases government control and regulation, increases costs on food producers, and offers little or now additional safety or viable information to protect the consumer. California already has regulated itself into a nightmare for companies to do business in the state - and this is just another major step deeper into that nightmare. Our gas is already among the most expensive in the 48 continental states - and this would go a long way to make our food among the most expensive in the 48 continental states.
VOTE NO on Prop 37
Proposition 38 - 'Tax to Fund Education and Early Childhood Programs Initiative Statute'
This is the alternative to Proposition 30 - with 2 main differences. First, the tax increases are spread across the board as opposed to being focused on just the 'wealthy'. Second it mandates all revenues from this tax increase is dedicated to K-12 education - and for the first four years - also for paying down the state deficit (actually slowing the growth in debt slightly - very slightly). Tax increase to be in effect for 12 years.
As with Prop 30 it is fundamentally flawed because of how its structured and the 'out' to be used to 'pay down' the state debt - which in other words is being fired into the maw of the State's general fund. It does nothing to address the fundamental problems with the state when it comes to both fiscal structure and the broken education system which rewards only unions / administrators and not teachers, and clearly not students.
VOTE NO on Prop 38
Proposition 39 - ' Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding Initiative Statute'
The 'justification' of this - to permit California to collect corporate taxes from companies based on the sales that they do in California even if they do not have a physical presence in California - and then allocate the revenues from these taxes strictly to clean energy / environmental projects over the next 5 years.
This is a blatant reach outside the state to collect taxes and punish businesses for doing business in California. It will increase costs for California's consumers and discourage business being conducted in California. Then the revenues raised will be tossed into the 'Clean Energy' and / or 'Environmental' project black hole boondoggles. Pushing 'clean energy' has contributed to California having some of the nation's highest energy costs and the excessive focus on environmentalism is leaving us energy poor and has devastated the state's agriculture industry.
VOTE NO on Prop 39
Proposition 40 - 'Redistricting State Senate Districts Referendum'
In November 2008, voters of California passed 'The Voters First Act', Prop 11, which took away the responsibility of redistricting state districts from the legislature and put it into the arms of a 14 member commission comprising of 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 from neither major party. In 2010, the scope of the commission was expanded to also include US Congressional Districts in the state.
While on paper, this is supposed to be as fair / unbiased process as possible, for many, it appears as if this has been about as unbiased as redistricting being done by a Legislature that is 60% Democrat. During the public hearing process, organized efforts by the CA Democrat Party and their key allies, including the public sector unions, to manipulate the redistricting process.
This vote is to accept (Yes) the latest redistricting map or to reject (No) the map. If the map is rejected, the districts will be reviewed and adjusted by officials supervised by the CA Supreme Court.
While not as bad as a legislative redistricting, the process continued to gerrymander district boundaries for political purposes. I believe the voters need to send a message to the commission that this was intended for significant reform - and in delivering that, they failed.
VOTE NO on Prop 40
LA County Measure - A
This is an advisory vote asking voters if we should change the California Constitution and the Los Angeles County Charter to make the position of the Los Angeles County Assessor an appointed position instead of an elected position. Today, this is an elected position - and the current incumbent is currently being held in prison, unable to make bail, charged with corruption - taking bribes to reduce the tax liabilities of individuals and companies.
An appointed County Assessor would be directly accountable to the LA County Board of Supervisors - and able to be dismissed for inability to execute the job or malfeasance.
VOTE YES on Measure A
LA County Measure - B
This proposes a new County ordinance targeting the adult film industry which is very active in LA County. The ordinance will require producers to obtain a County Health Permit, performers to use condoms, and expand the testing / education of performers on STD's - including regular reporting of results of regular health tests.
The adult film industry is already regulated - with performers undergoing regular monthly testing to ensure they do not have STD's or AID's. The proposal takes the regulations to another level in an effort to protect the performers. Yet, there is not a major problem with the existing regulations and processes. With that, do we really need to expand the existing regulations, oversight, and enforcement? Is that really the proper role of government?
It is only on this expansion of government, apparently above and beyond regulations and oversight that currently work, that I come down on opposing this measure. If the current regulations and oversight were not working - if there were major reported health issues within this industry and with the performers that risked those outside the industry - then I could support this.
VOTE NO on Measure B
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority - Accelerating Traffic Relief and Job Creation - Measure J
This is a measure offered by the state chartered regional planning agency and public transportation operating agency for the County of Los Angeles which calls for a extension of the expiring .5% sales tax increase for an additional 30 years to fund transportation initiatives in the County. Among the key transportation initiatives targeted, the $3-5B initiative to expand the LA Subway system 'to the sea' - from Downtown LA to the Santa Monica beach area as well as continuing to subsidize and keep fares for the LA Metro / Metrolink from increasing.
Little of the new initiatives will generate the promised benefits - and they are very LA centric as opposed to addressing transportation needs throughout Los Angeles County. The current Metro system does not have a direct connection to Los Angeles International Airport - but building a subway 'to the sea' is the primary focus. It takes over an hour on a commuter train to travel 35 miles into LA - but we aren't investing in better trackage or signals to improve the speed / usefulness while maintaining fares?
This agency has limited accountability to the people / taxpayer and is focusing on the wrong priorities. We should not extend this tax increase until they become more accountable and refocus their attention on real improvements as opposed to progressive 'make work' efforts.
VOTE NO on Measure J
In terms of the individual races - here are my endorsements.
President and Vice President
The current Administration has a record of failure, incompetence, and fecklessness that has been unseen in this country since the Carter Administration. The policies and agenda of the Obama Administration are preventing the economy from entering a robust recovery. They have also increased the divides within this country - pitting 'us vs. them' in far too many areas. It's beyond irresponsible to spend at levels that generate >$1T annual deficits and add over $6 trillion to the national debt. The foreign and national security policy of the current Administration have weakened the US and emboldened our enemies.
VOTE for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan
United States Senator
Democrat Diane Feinstein is seeking her fourth full term as the State's senior Senator. In the Senate, she is a reliable progressive / liberal vote - and is one of the most liberal members in the Senate. Her primary role in the Senate is to be a reliable progressive soldier. She is arrogant and feckless. Throughout the current race, she has refused to engage her opponent in a single debate - probably knowing that in that format, she would be exposed for what she is. California needs a Senator who will work for all of the people of the state, not just the special interests including the unions and illegal immigrants.
VOTE for Elizabeth Emken
United States Representative
I'm in the 25th Congressional District, where we are represented by Rep. Howard 'Buck' McKeon, who is currently the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee. While Buck has faced some additional challenges in the past several years over some minor local issues, he remains a strong conservative and advocate for the district as well as the members of the Armed Forces. He understands what we need to do - where we need to go - and shares the conservative vision to obtain those goals. He deserves another term in office.
VOTE for Howard 'Buck' McKeon
I'm in the 27th State Senatorial District - one that has changed because of redistricting. Todd Zink, the Republican candidate, is a decorated Marine Corps officer and Deputy District Attorney. He is a conservative and has conservative vision for California based around fiscal responsibility, smaller government, and restoring the Golden State from the damage caused by decades of progressive leadership.
The state needs a real change - and voting for conservative Republicans is how we start that change process. Plus, we need to prevent the Democrats from passing a two-thirds majority in the Legislature. If we fail, then tax and spend will expand / continue.
VOTE for Todd Zink
Member of the State Assembly
This is a 38th District open seat - vacated by Cameron Smyth (R) who was term-limited out of office. The choices are similar to the other individual races - a choice between a conservative Republican and a progressive Democrat with completely different visions for the future direction of California. In this race, the lesser know Democrat has embraced a highly negative campaign - targeting the GOP candidate who has formerly worked for Buck McKeon and ran his own political consulting company. Scott Wilk, the GOP candidate, defeated 2 other Republican challengers in a very contentious race - but has the skills and vision to represent the 38th District in Sacramento and try to promote change in California.
VOTE for Scott Wilk
Los Angeles County District Attorney
This is the sole County race for unincorporated LA County. The Democrat candidate is the current Chief Deputy DA, Jackie Lacey. The other is Alan Jackson, a gang homicide prosecutor, the Republican candidate. Lacey, would, if elected, become the first woman and first African-American to hold the office of LA County DA. Both are more similar in their approach than different - for example, both support capital punishment. While Lacey is a senior member in the DA's office, Jackson has a track record of successful high-profile prosecutions.
I think that with her experience and some of the intangibles around Jackie Lacy, she would be the better District Attorney - and she edges out Alan Jackson in my mind...but it's really close - because she does support several propositions that I do oppose (like softening three strikes). The current DA, Steve Cooley, has endorsed her.
VOTE for Jackie Lacey
That is my look at the ballot that I am facing on Tuesday. I see both the Country and the State moving in the wrong direction - and I am strongly advocating for changes in that direction. I am also seeking to reduce the size and influence of government - and voting accordingly.
Please get out and vote on Tuesday, November 6.