Yesterday, California proved itself (again) to be a very odd duck. The L.A. Times reports that voters have passed Prop. 30, Jerry Brown’s small, sensible tax increase to keep the schools from going bankrupt. (An alternative funding plan, Prop. 38, was defeated.) Voters also declined “budget reform,” “campaign finance reform,” and “auto insurance reform” initiatives (Props. 31, 32, and 33) offered by special interests — and properly so, as those initiatives likely would have made their respective problems worse rather than better. Finally, voters passed an initiative to close a tax loophole for multi-state businesses (Prop. 39) and one to approve a redistricting plan passed by the Citizens’ Redistricting Commission (Prop. 40). All of that strikes me as indicative of our collective good sense.
On the other hand, Californians appear to be rather split on the question of whether our criminal law should be more or less punitive. Californians voted by a wide margin to reform our “three strikes” law so that the third strike must be for a violent crime — i.e., people wouldn’t be sent to jail for life for a nonviolent crime. (Prop. 36.) On the other hand, we declined to repeal the death penalty (Prop. 34), even though administering the death penalty in California is widely regarded a disastrously inefficient process that wastes billions of dollars and provides little in the way of closure for victims. And we also overwhelmingly voted for Prop. 35, which expands the definition of, and increases penalties for, human trafficking. But critics of the measure say that it’s counterproductive, focusing too much on sex trafficking to the exclusion of, e.g., labor trafficking, and actually making it harder for victims to get restitution from their victimizers. “‘At the core of their campaign is emotion and not fact, and not a true understanding of what’s going on,’ said John Vanek, a retired lieutenant from the San Jose Police Department who works as a consultant on trafficking and has sat on state and federal committees on the issue.”
Finally, the oddball on the ballot, Prop. 37, would have required companies to label food products containing GMOs. That one went down. The Times called it “sloppily drafted” and said that much of the burden would have fallen on retailers rather than producers, so perhaps it was the wrong measure to address the problem. On the other hand, those opposing the measure outspent those supporting it by about 5 to 1, so that may have had something to do with the outcome, too.