Voter Cheat Sheet — Prop. 53 Asks Voters for Bond Approval; Prop. 54 Mandates Video of Legislature

Gov. Jerry Brown says no to Proposition 53, but that doesn't mean you have to agree.
Gov. Jerry Brown says no to Proposition 53, but that doesn't mean you have to agree.

Before Angelenos head to the polls on Nov. 8, we are breaking down the ballot into some quick reads to get you up to speed on what's up for a vote. Read more about the other propositions here.

Proposition 53: Voter Approval for Big Borrowing

For decades the people of California have used the issuance of bonds (basically borrowing money at a relatively low interest rate for long terms) as a way to get schools, roads and infrastructure built when cash just wasn't in the budget.

An initiative backed by a Stockton-area farmer would limit the Legislature's ability to do this, at least when it comes to bonds totaling $2 billion or more. Only a few projects on the horizon would qualify for that kind of outlay. Those include the state's already underway, $64 billion high-speed rail project, which enjoys seed bonds approved by voters in 2008, and a $17 billion proposal to build tunnels under the San Joaquin Delta that would help bring more water to Southern California.

Dean Cortopassi has put up the initiative's total war chest, $4.8 million. But Cortopassi, whose home farm would be bypassed by the twin tunnels, says it's not about the water; he claims he gets most of his H20 from south of the delta anyway. The former Republican (now a libertarian Democrat) says this is about government overspending, an issue near and dear to the hearts of conservatives statewide. Opponents, including the California Democratic Party and labor groups,  have contributed nearly $12 million in their effort to defeat 53.

The state Legislative Analyst's Office says a yes vote could actually cost Californians more tax money as legislators look for more expensive forms of financing. On the other hand, the LAO says, it could save us money by forcing lawmakers to find cheaper ways of financing — even by going to voters for "general obligation bonds" that have lower costs.

Proposition 54: Airing the Legislature

If, like millions of Californians, you have trouble falling asleep, this initiative might be for you. It would require that all public meetings of the Legislature be videotaped and posted on the internet within 24 hours. Just imagine the instant zzz's. It would also require that any bills, and any changes to bills, be published 72 hours before they could be passed. The idea is to quash last-minute, back-room deals while keeping the public's eye on its well-paid servants.

The measure, backed by less than $11 million in contributions, is endorsed by the California Republican Party, open-government organizations and some newspaper editorial boards. Legislators themselves aren't too enthusiastic, of course. Still, opponents, mainly represented by a group called Californians for an Effective Legislature, have raised only $27,279.

The California Legislative Analyst's Office says that when it comes to video, much of what the measure calls for is already happening. "Live videos of most, but not all, of these meetings are available on the internet," it states. "The Legislature keeps an archive of many of these videos for several years. The Legislature does not charge fees for the use of these videos."

A yes vote would cost the people of California as much as $2 million to set up new video equipment or update what's there, as well as an additional $1 million a year or so for online video storage, the LAO states.

We're surprised sleep-aid pharmaceutical companies aren't pumping huge amounts of money into the no campaign.


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