California's Ballot Propositions Take Center Stage


September 22, 2022

California Policy Center

California ballots will be appearing in mailboxes soon and voters will once again be faced with a number of ballot propositions to consider — seven this time around. At CPC, we’ll give you our two cents on what each of these proposals is really about. It may not come as a big surprise, but the major players battling it out over these propositions are many of California’s usual suspects — unions, high-powered political consultants and left-wing legislators.

But what may shock some observers is that California voters are often extremely pragmatic when it comes to voting on propositions. How these ballot measures will fare is still anyone’s guess.

Prop 1: Constitutional Amendment to create unrestricted access to abortion

California lawmakers have the authority granted to them to put anything on the ballot that they want, so what do they do this year? In response to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, state legislators put Proposition 1 on the ballot to ensconce the most extreme abortion policy in the country in the California’s Constitution.

But while polling consistently shows the majority of Californians support Roe, Prop 1 would allow abortion right up to the moment of birth. As California’s Flash Report editor Jon Fleischman explained in his op-ed in the Orange County Register:

“Right now, a woman can have an abortion in California up to the point where the baby can survive outside the womb or is “viable.” Viability has been the standard for decades.

…Based on polling, it is likely most Californians are comfortable with that viability standard. But legislative Democrats are testing how far voters are willing to go to allow legal abortions up to a baby’s due date. That’s what will be on the ballot this November in California with Proposition 1.”

Of course, the messaging in support of Prop 1 will be backed by hundreds of millions of dollars, but the campaign is about a lot more than access to abortion. As Gov. Newsom focuses on a White House run, he’s desperate to deflect attention from California’s myriad problems: rampant homelessness and crime, a failing electricity grid, high gas and housing prices, and the fact that more people are leaving the state than ever before because the cost of living has skyrocketed while the quality of life has nose-dived on his watch.

Prop 26 & 27: The high-stakes battle over legalizing sports betting

California’s Indian tribes are in a heated battle over bringing sports betting to the Golden State. The two sides have already spent $370 million on their campaigns for and against competing ballot measures, Propositions 26 and 27.

California does not allow sports betting, but online gambling industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel are pushing Prop 27 to make it legal across the state. You’d hardly know Prop 27 is about gambling from the marketing. They’re pushing the measure as a matter of fairness for smaller tribes who don’t have massive casinos — and as a panacea to help California’s homeless!

On the other side is Prop 26, the tribes’ measure that would allow Californians to bet on sports so long as they place their bets in-person at tribal casinos or California’s horse tracks. There’s also a third coalition, led by the politically-savvy San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which has raised millions to fight against Prop 27, but isn’t contributing to Prop 26 either. This group has submitted signatures for their own ballot initiative to legalize sports betting both online and in-person — but they’re aiming for the 2024 election.

With all the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in this fight, there’s one sure bet: the biggest winners are the political consultants who are paid obscene amounts of money to run these campaigns.

Prop 28: Funding for Arts Education in public schools taps California’s general fund

Proposition 28 purports to fund “Arts Education” in California’s schools by earmarking more of the state’s general fund for that purpose. But California’s government-run schools already control the lion’s share of the general fund as a result of Prop 98, which passed in 1998 and requires at least 40% of the state’s general fund go toward public schools and community colleges. If passed, Prop 28 would mandate an additional 1% of the general fund budget go toward arts education.

Contrary to the claims of the state’s teachers’ unions, California already spends generously on students. This fiscal year, the San Jose Mercury News reports education funding will hit “a record $95.5 billion for public schools under the Prop 98 funding formula. It works out to about $17,000 per student...And that doesn’t count one-time money from the federal government.”

Teachers’ unions will of course claim that California teachers are always underpaid, but you can go to Transparent California to see that is patently untrue. As CPC senior fellow Edward Ring explains in his article this week, teachers in LAUSD — the state’s largest school district — make an average of $115,946 in salary, health insurance and pension benefits for about 185 days of work.

To be sure, Prop 28’s backers have a lot of nerve. As California’s students have fallen desperately behind on education basics as a result of extended school closures during the pandemic, you’d think their focus would be on catching kids up on reading and math.

Why should voters approve more arts education funding when California’s government-run schools are some of the worst performing in the nation — and California is facing so many serious challenges? The San Jose Mercury News called out Prop 28 this way:

It’s fiscally reckless to keep earmarking unpredictable state general fund money when we don’t know what the future needs of California will be as it confronts, for example, a housing shortage, climate change, inadequate water supplies and wildfires.

...The answer is not to lock in a bigger share of the state general fund pie for schools. The answer is for schools to better spend the money they have.”

Prop 29: SEIU’s thuggery against kidney dialysis clinics is back on the ballot — again

Prop 29 is backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which picks a fight every two years against kidney dialysis clinics. SEIU wants you to believe that there is somehow an urgent need to have more SEIU employees in the approximately 650 dialysis centers operating in California. Voters rejected SEIU’s Prop 8 in 2018 (59.9%-40.1%) and Prop. 23 went down in flames in 2020 (63.4%-36.6%).

This year, SEIU wants to mandate that a doctor, nurse practitioner or a physician assistant with a minimum 6 months experience be on site 24 hours a day at California’s dialysis clinics, which would increase costs at these centers and could force some to close. Patients could be forced to travel farther for this lifesaving service that they receive three times a week.

The California Medical Association opposes the measure because, let’s face it, it’s not really about protecting patients. Instead, SEIU is trying to strong-arm the kidney dialysis centers to unionize. The unions have more than enough money to put these propositions on the ballot every election cycle and they hope the kidney dialysis industry will tire of spending tens of millions of dollars to defend itself and ultimately capitulate.

Again, the San Jose Mercury News pulls no punches in exposing Prop 29 for what it is:

“Proposition 29 is the worst kind of abuse of California’s election system…The Service Employees International Union realizes by now that it has little chance of winning voter approval. But that’s not the game. Rather, they’re using the initiative system as a form of political blackmail designed to force the leading kidney dialysis firms to eventually cave to demands to unionize clinic workers.”

If you’re ever in doubt about how cynical California's powerful unions are, consider that this dialysis treatment is a matter of life and death for 80,000 Californians whose risk of dying increases by nearly a third if they miss a treatment.

Yet another example of how California’s corrupt unions could care less about the lives of Californians, literally.

Prop 30: Lyft’s wealth tax to fund electric cars opposed by teachers’ union?

Gov. Newsom has mandated that ride share companies magically transform the fleets of cars owned by their independent contractor drivers to electric vehicles by 2030, but he didn’t explain how the average Uber or Lyft driver is supposed to pay for their own high-priced electric car. Rideshare leader Lyft responded by backing Prop 30, a wealth tax on Californians earning more than $2 million a year that would fund subsidies and rebates to meet Newsom’s mandate.

Taxing the wealthy to fund his green dreams might sound like something Newsom would eagerly support, so why has he come out swinging against Prop 30? He’s joined the California Teachers Association in an aggressive campaign against Proposition 30 unveiled earlier this week.

If you’re scratching your head about why the teachers’ union would weigh in on electric vehicles, you only need to read the press release from Newsom and the CTA to understand what’s going on.

Prop. 30’s narrowly focused tax increase puts a special interest lock box on income taxes that traditionally would fund transitional kindergarten, public schools, community colleges, healthcare, public safety, and other priorities,” CTA President E. Toby Boyd said.

In other words, if anyone is going to fleece the richest Californians, it’s going to be teachers' unions! The CTA doesn’t want all that cash going to any cause the unions don’t control.

Will Californians pass Prop 30? If they do, California's marginal income tax rate — already the highest in the nation at 13.3 — would increase another 1.75%. At that rate, you can expect a mass exodus of those wealthy Californians that Prop 30’s proponents are counting on.

Prop 31: Referendum on flavored tobacco ban for kids…and adults

Proposition 31 is a referendum on Senate Bill 793 (Hill, 2020), the California legislature’s ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products. SB 793, the “Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act,” was signed into law by Gov. Newsom in 2020.

What’s wrong with banning flavored tobacco and vaping products to kids? Nothing, except of course it was already against the law to sell them to anyone under the age of 21 prior to the passage of SB 793. But SB 793’s title is intentionally misleading. It bans the sale of flavored tobacco products to all customers regardless of age.

Here’s the Orange County Register’s take:

“California has a lot of problems and not all of them are directly taxpayer related. But...they all interconnect in one important way: Control. Our state’s government and its boosters think they know better than you. They know better how to spend your money. They know better how to use your land. They know what’s best for you. And, if you disagree, the nanny state will just make it illegal.”


Ballots are scheduled to drop on October 10th, so grab your popcorn. California voters are going to face a deluge of advertising in the coming weeks and the mega-millions that will be spent on these battles will surely be something to behold.

The California Policy Center (CPC) is an educational non-profit working for the prosperity of all Californians by eliminating public-sector barriers to freedom.


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