Monday’s Mtg: Part II – Propositions 32 and 40

The eleven propositions on the November, 2012, California ballot fall into four categories, as I read them.

  • 31, 32 and 40 would change the state’s political system itself ( and thus the outcomes of future elections), making them the most important ones.
  • 30, 38, and 39 would alter tax and spending levels.
  • 34, 35, and 36 are about crime and punishment; and
  • 33 and 37, kind of miscellaneous, but still important; they are about food labeling and insurance regulation, respectively. 

I plan on us discussing them in that order on Monday to make the debate more thematically organized.  This post dives into the controversial prop. 32 and, to a much lesser extent, the unopposed prop. 40.



Always beware any proposition that tries to change the rules of politics itself.  It could be  real reform, but it probably wouldn’t be on the ballot if it didn’t benefit one party over the other.  Otherwise, why would the parties and all of their interest group allies (that are behind almost every CA proposition) pour resources into them?

What is Prop. 32?  What would it do?

I hate to start out my posts by slamming a proposition so one-sidedly.  But, honestly, Prop. 32 is very deceptive, a partisan wolf in good-government sheep’s clothing.  The proposition gets trumpeted as a kind of campaign finance reform.  The measure would ban organizations from using funds on political activities that have been raised via member payroll deductions (withholdings from paychecks, like union dues).  Organization could not use funds contributed by its members through payroll deductions to fund candidates; but, they could still contribute to independent political groups.

Peachy.  Everybody’s hungry to rein in big money in politics.  Except, prop.32 mainly does that for one side in our political wars: The Democrats.  Even though, under proposition 32, both unions and corporations would be subject to the ban on using members’ dues for political activities, only unions actually fund their activities this way – not corporations!  Companies make their political donations from profits/revenues, not from employee contributions.  Prop.32 would limit some political giving by companies, but they could easily get around most of the restrictions.

So, prop.32 would affect only labor unions in practice.  This is the point: To defund one party, one that one-half of the people or more regularly votes for.  Moreover, “independent” non-candidate shadow groups, like Super PACS, 501(c)4’s  and other political business interest vehicles would not be affected by Prop. 32.  They could spend unlimited amounts, as they are starting to do in other elections, while the Democrats’ main source of money in California politics would be crippled.  Proposition 32 is an attempt to rig the rules of elections to help only one side win.

Pros and Cons

Obviously, I’m not a fan of 32.  However, I suppose one could argue that at least banning union money in politics would be a start towards real campaign finance reform.  But, why start by disarming only unions?  Once we gut one side’s power, do you really think the other side (the Republican Party and their corporate backers) would ever give up that vast advantage in the name of good government?  Sorry, but the only reasons to support proposition 32 are if:

  1. You think labor unions (mainly teachers, police, and fire fighters unions) are so harmful to our politics that they need to be singled out for emasculation; or
  2. You just want Republicans to win more elections in California because you like them better.


Prop. 40 has no organized opposition anymore.  The California Republican Party, which organized the effort to put the measure on the ballot, now officially supports it.  So, it should pass easily.

Prop. 40 asks voters to veto (overturn) the redrawing of state legislative districts that was done by a non-partisan, 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission.  The Commission was created for that purpose by a previous initiative passed a few years ago.  Republicans had complained that the redrawing favored Democrats more than it should have done, giving the party more safe (majority Democratic) state legislative seats than it  is fairly entitled to based on recent population growth.  However, a judge ruled that the districts are valid, so the GOP dropped it.

I did not follow the criticisms of the commission, so I can’t comment on whether they are legitimate or sour grapes.  Still, just knowing that their results could be challenged by initiative could help to keep the committee members honest in the future.

Vote “yes” to confirm the commission’s redistricting; vote “no” to veto it.


For more information and different perspectives on propositions 32 and 40, go to:

Next Post:  The crime and punishment-oriented propositions: Props. 34, 35, and 36.  I promise this post will be more balanced.   


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