on the November 2008 Ballot Measures


***Prop. 1A: Railroad to Nowhere***

Despite my love of trains, I am convinced that airline travel will continue to be cheaper and faster than any high-speed train.  Car travel is cheaper still, and much more convenient especially for families.  We could double the capacity of Interstate 5 between Sacramento and Los Angeles for less than the cost of this rail bond. I urge you to vote NO on this expensive boondoggle.

Prop. 1A’s proponents brag that 30 years from now 117 million people will travel the LA-Sacramento route each year.  I broke that down to 320,500 people per day.  Let’s say it’s 400 people on a train, just like a local commuter railcar.  That is 800 trains a day out of only 26 stations. 

To compare, consider that Southwest Airlines now flies 104 million people per year from 64 cities using 500 planes nationwide and flying 3,400 times per day! Yet, the proponents say that this rail system will move more people than Southwest Airlines flies now with less equipment and fewer stations.  And I thought only politicians exaggerated during campaign season!  If the proponents are wrong, you will still get the bill. 

No thanks to Prop. 1A.


***Prop. 2: Housing Mandates for Chickens***

Current state law makes it a crime to be cruel to animals.  This proposition would reverse that and make it a mandate that certain animals be comfortable.  I do not think they asked the pregnant pigs, the veal calves, or egg-laying hens their opinions on comfort so humans just made up the mandates.  The new mandates in Prop. 2 would apply only in California and only to these three animal types.  That means farmers in other states that compete with California will face no such restrictions.  Since all sides agree that Prop. 2 will increase costs for California, it is inevitable that more and more of the food in our supermarkets will come from other states and nations.  This could have a disastrous economic impact on California agriculture, farm workers, meat producers, wholesalers, grocers, and consumers.

They also exempt from these mandates these same animals while in the hands of transporters, rodeos, fairs, 4-H programs, lawful slaughter, research or veterinary purposes. I cannot decide if this is an attempt to make their radical mandate look moderate or if they know that the political clout of 4-H clubs would kill such a silly measure.  Either way, it shows a hypocrisy to say it is cruel to cage these animals unless the cages are owned by kids or scientists.

I urge a NO vote on Prop. 2.


***Prop. 3: Money Already Available***

It really does not matter what you think about the need for more children’s hospitals in California because this bond is not the solution.  According to the Legislative Analyst, Proposition 61, which voters approved at the November 2004 statewide general election, authorized the sale of $750 million in general obligation bonds to provide funding for children’s hospitals. The eligibility criteria for hospitals to receive funds under Prop. 61 is the same under this measure. As of June 1, 2008, about $403 million of the funds from Prop. 61 had been awarded to eligible hospitals.

Over half of a four-year-old bond measure remains to be spent!  At this rate there will not be any new needs for this money for years to come.  Why add to California’s debt for something that is already funded?

Hospitals are now big businesses and it is poor public policy to offer them free money when so many other needs are not covered.  These are grants not loans, which means that this bond is more generous to hospitals than we are to local schools, housing finance, or any business that helps children.

I hope you will join me in voting NO on Proposition 3.


***Prop. 4 : Sarah’s Law***

Proposition 4 would require an abortionist to notify-- as opposed to gain the consent of-- a parent before performing an abortion on their minor child.  This initiative constitutional amendment is a compromise that was designed to address concerns about bad parents that were raised in commercials against similar Prop. 85 two years ago.  In cases where the child is a victim of parental abuse, Prop. 4 would allow the doctor to notify another adult family member, or utilize a judicial bypass procedure that is used in three dozen other states.  Health care professionals are already required by law to report cases of suspected child abuse so this is yet another safety net for children in crisis.  Prop. 4 is named Sarah’s Law in honor of a teenager who died from complications of a legal abortion because her parents were unaware of what had been done to her.  This is a reasonable measure designed to protect the health of young women and I encourage your YES vote.


***Prop. 5: Another Budget-Buster***

Proposition 5 is being called “Nora,” a catchy nickname that stands for “Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act.”  The nickname almost makes it sound like one of the recent initiatives to protect victims, such as Megan’s Law, Jessica’s Law, or Sarah’s Law.  By contrast, “Nora” seems more likely to create new victims.

The spending mandates in Prop. 5 have not received much attention so far, despite our record-breaking budget crisis.  Perhaps this is because the opposition campaign is led by law enforcement officials and victims rights groups who are concerned about letting criminals out early.  While I share their concerns about public safety, I think voters also need to ask how we are going to pay for billions in new spending required by this initiative.  Which programs will we cut?  Whose taxes will we raise?

For example, Prop. 5 allocates $460,000,000 annually for drug treatment programs and similar programs.  This amount would increase every year with inflation, even if tax revenues decline.  These funds would not be subject to the budget process and the money would be spent by bureaucrats with little or no accountability to the legislature or the public.

Altogether, this initiative is expected to cost taxpayers more than one billion per year.  We already have a gigantic spending problem with budget deficits projected as far as we can see into the future.  Unlike the federal government, California cannot print money to pay off debt; we can only raise taxes or cut spending.  This initiative will make our financial problems much worse, even while it releases dangerous criminals back into our neighborhoods.

I urge to vote NO on Proposition 5.


***Prop. 6: Unaffordable, Despite a Good Goal***

Proposition 6 is the Safe Neighborhoods Act, an initiative designed by law enforcement groups to crack down on gang-related crimes and increase state funding for local law enforcement.  Most of the technical reforms are easy to support and they might improve public safety if they are implemented properly.

The problem is that Prop. 6 requires state government to spend nearly ONE BILLION DOLLARS every year, with annual increases based on inflation, even when state revenues decline.  The initiative says nothing about how the state will pay for this expensive new mandate.  Prop. 6 is a constitutional amendment so it can only be waived or suspended by the Legislature with a politically-impossible three-quarters vote in each house just to reduce the annual spending increase, even during statewide emergencies and disasters.

I believe budget reform needs to start right now and it needs to begin with us.  We voters must oppose unfunded state mandates that will require unspecified tax increases or spending cuts.  With a state deficit in excess of $15 billion this year, it is irresponsible to make any new commitments that we cannot afford, even worthy ones.  It should come as no surprise that public employee unions paid to place this measure on the ballot, since this measure guarantees permanent spending increases for government workers.  While I appreciate and respect the work they do, I think it is wrong to amend the Constitution to guarantee funding for any group of public employees.

I urge to vote NO on Proposition 6.


***Prop. 7: More Energy Restructuring Gone Bad***

Remember the 1996 legislation to restructure the electrical industry with the goal of increasing consumer choices?  Remember that it did not work as intended?  Well, they’re back.  That legislation had mandates inserted into it that took away choices and forced utilities to use more renewable energy even if was more expensive by far and even if it was not reliable when consumers needed it.  Proposition 7 is a repeat of those mandates and it even expands the mandate to cover all local government utilities. There is no effective cap on the cost of electricity as the cap is now defined as 10% above the price of power from oil.

As consumers of electricity, you and I will have no choice in this matter.  Since we cannot tell if our electrons come from natural gas turbines or wind generators, we will never be sure how much renewable power we are using.

Perhaps the worst feature is the sponsors of Prop. 7 and the bureaucrats at the California Energy Commission get to define what type of energy plant qualifies.  Burning municipal garbage to make electricity is not qualified.  Using wood chips or other wood products is not qualified.  Nuclear energy is not qualified, even though it has the least impact on global warming, the intended target of this measure.

It will not work.  It puts too much power in the hands of state commissioners to pick and choose favorites in the power industry.  And it will cost you and me more money for electricity.

Vote NO on Proposition 7.


***Prop. 8: Marriage is One Man and One Woman***

Send the California Supreme Court a message that it is wrong, illegal, and unconstitutional for the court to overturn the explicit wishes of the people.  For those who believe that marriage can be re-defined to include other categories of relationships, the initiative process is available to you, as it is available to the supporters of traditional marriage.  For the Court to write its own law is the worst example of the end justifying any means, no matter how outrageous.  The will of the people declaring that marriage is a special relationship between a man and woman must be recognized and honored.

I have already used more words than are proposed in the entire proposition.  Vote YES on Proposition 8.


***Prop. 9: Marsy’s Law***

I have a confession to make.  The jury service that I did last year involved a crime of violence where the victim and the eyewitnesses all changed their stories from the original police reports to their testimony in court.  The accused, even while held in jail, got to them.  It makes a tragic crime of violence even more troubling when the victims and witnesses would rather lie to a judge and jury than tell the truth in front of the accused.  This proposition is needed to help tilt the balance toward fairness between both those accused of crimes and those who are victims of crimes.

In addition to the requirements in this measure that the victim or their family be notified of every action taken regarding the accused, the proposed law would also limit parole hearings for murderers.  Imagine how tough it is to go a public courtroom to testify or witness a criminal proceeding of someone who hurt you or your family.  Now imagine traveling to a state prison where virtually all parole hearings are held.  It is a terrible burden for the family of the murder victim to relive the horror of the death and then the trial over and over at each parole hearing.  Limiting murderers sentenced to life terms to fewer parole hearings is a modest way to lessen that pain on the family.  Here is the link to the Board of Prison Term hearing agenda.  Note the number of felons involved and the location of the hearings.

Vote YES on Proposition 9.


***Prop. 10:  General Fund Subsidy for Booming Green Businesses***

This $5 billion General Fund bond is beyond preposterous.  It would provide direct subsidies to consumers and others to purchase green vehicles, as well as money for research into alternative fuels and vehicles. Judging by the availability of hybrid cars from Toyota, Honda, Ford, GM, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Mercedes, Mazda, Saturn and others, it is pretty obvious that consumers are more than willing to subsidize the green vehicle movement on their own.  From the standpoint of the manufacturers, $100-plus oil and $3.50 gas provides plenty of incentive for industry to do the research that will make consumers favor their fuel efficient vehicles over their competitors’ for the simple reason that consumers demand it.  As far as alternative fuels go, there is already a lot of research going on because of the potential stratospheric payoff for success.  The General Fund is not the appropriate tank to siphon money off for such dubiousness, especially when that tank is bone dry.  Just as it makes little sense for government to go into the mortgage business by printing money, there is no good reason for California to go into the green energy business by selling bonds.  American ingenuity is the ingenuity of our private sector.  Let it meet this demand and reap the rewards. 

Vote NO on Proposition 10.



***Prop. 11:  Restoring Competitive Elections***

The way politics is supposed to work is the electorate holds politicians responsible for their performance through competitive elections.  Every 10 years, the Legislature takes the new Census data and reworks the boundaries of the various districts.  The result of this has been the majority party carves as many safe seats as possible for its members, and the minority party supports the effort to the extent the majority party helps make the remaining districts safe for the minority.  The result is few competitive elections and, thus, little accountability to an electorate that is not enamored of the performance of the political class.  I agree the current system is not serving the people and a new paradigm is needed.

Proposition 11 would take this power away from the Legislature in favor of an independent commission drawing districts for all state offices.

It’s time to end this undeniable conflict of interest.  This reform would be a great improvement over the current system.  Vote YES on Prop. 11.


***Prop. 12: A Bond to Help Our Vets***

Most of the bonds on the state ballot this year are just guides to use general fund dollars to build something that supposedly will last a long time.  The bonds in Proposition 12 are different. They are revenue bonds so the bonds themselves and the bond costs are actually paid by the military veteran homebuyers who take advantage of the program.  Basically, the state is using its credit rating to obtain mortgage financing at lower rates than the veteran could do alone.  I figure this is the least we can do for those who have served our country.  In these times of tight credit even these bonds may be hard to market, but that is the problem of the State Treasurer who has authority to determine the most favorable terms and timing for the bond sale.  On the other hand, in these times of tight credit, our veterans could use the help, and I am willing to give it.

I urge a YES vote on Prop. 12.





Bill Leonard

Member, State Board of Equalization

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