In addition to selecting a candidate for president of the United States, state Assembly and state Senate, along with local elected offices, California voters will also decide the fate of a dozen ballot measures this upcoming election. By now, Californians have seen the political ads pop up, asking for the public’s “Yes” or “No” vote to support a specific proposition. 

Still, without balanced information on both sides, it may be difficult to gain a clear picture of what a vote in either direction will impact. 

With ballot measure topics ranging from reinstating the voting rights of convicted felons to repealing affirmative action laws from 1996, there is plenty for voters to understand prior to casting their votes. 

Now, with less than two weeks until Election Day, this Proposition Guide offers an explanation on each of California’s 2020 ballot measures, in order to help voters better understand what those “Yes” or “No” votes will actually mean in the real world. 


Proposition 14: Stem Cell Research Institute Bond Initiative (2020)

Prop. 14 would distribute $5.5 billion to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), California’s primary stem cell research agency. Of the $5.5 billion CIRM would borrow from taxpayers, $1.5 billion would be allocated for research for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease and stroke, along with other degenerative diseases.

The CIRM was established in 2004, when California voters passed Prop. 71, in response to a federal funding ban on research using embryonic cells — a critical component of stem cell research. In doing so, the state allocated $3 billion, along with the constitutional right to conduct stem cell research in California. 

However, the CIRM is now running low on funding — with approximately $132 million at hand — and has paused all projects and research, as of July 2019.

If passed, the funds will be paid through California’s General Obligation Bonds — non-collateral bonds issued by a creditor to municipalities based on creditworthiness — with the belief that funds can be regenerated through taxation. The initiative’s fiscal impact is estimated to cost California taxpayers $260 million per-year for 30 years.

Supporters of Prop. 14, such as the California Democratic Party, including Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Eric Garcetti, say CIRM research has led to medical breakthroughs, along with thousands of jobs in the biotech industry.  

Those who oppose the proposition, such as the California Pro-Life council, say that while research is useful, it has yet to produce ground-breaking cures for degenerative diseases. And now that federal funding for embryonic research is no longer banned, California should look into federal funding options.  

While more than $13 million were contributed to the “yes” campaign for Prop 14, $250 were contributed for opposed, all coming from the California Pro-Life Council.

Yes: Allocates $5.5 billion through general obligation bonds for the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine.

No: Opposes allocating $5.5 billion through general obligation bonds for the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine.


Proposition 15: Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative

Prop. 15 looks to raise property taxes on commercial properties in order to create more funding for schools and local government. Currently, commercial and industrial properties in California pay property taxes based on the purchase price. Each year after that, the property’s taxable value is adjusted for inflation by up to 2 percent. However, Prop. 15 would amend the California Constitution and require commercial and industrial properties to be taxed on their current market value. 

This is an attempt to institute a “Split Roll Tax,” defined by the process in which the state assesses taxes on commercial and industrial properties at market value, while the taxes on residential property taxes are assessed by purchase price. 

The state would make exemptions for farm land and for small businesses with less than $3 million in holdings in California. If passed, Prop. 15 would also define small business by independently owned companies on state property, with 50 employees or less. 

Supporters include current Vice Presidential Candidate Joe Biden, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and the California Teachers Association. A “Yes” vote would increase property taxes on commercial businesses, a move that could potentially generate between $6.5 billion to $11 billion in new tax revenue annually. 

The Prop. 15 opposition, which includes the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Association of Retailers, feel the economy must strengthen prior to adding massive taxes on commercial properties amid the financial hardships and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Yes: Supports a Constitutional amendment to require commercial and industrial properties — with an exception for properties that are commercially-zoned for agriculture — to be taxed based on market value, rather than purchase price.

No: Opposes the constitutional amendment. Commercial and industrial properties would continue to be taxed based on purchase price. 


Proposition 16: Repeal Proposition 209 Affirmative Action Amendment

Affirmative Action was known as a set of social policies and resources aimed at helping advance the employment and opportunities of minority groups. 

In 1996 California voters passed Prop. 209, which stated that California “shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting,” which essentially eradicated Affirmative Action practices. 

Considering the heightened climate due to social injustice across the nation, Prop. 16 has received more than $16 million in support from organizations like the California Teachers Association, and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, as supporters want to see Affirmative Action policies reintegrated into the workforce and public education. 

The opposition had significantly less in contributions ($1.2 million), notably from the Students for Fair Admissions organization and San Diego-based attorney Gail Heriot.

The Prop. 16 opposition looks to keep the policies the same, and claims that the meaning of true equality is based on the non-preferential treatment of all individuals.  

Yes: Repeals Prop. 209 (1996), which states that, “the government and public institutions cannot discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to persons on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, public education, and public contracting.” Repealing Prop. 209 would allow government and public entities to use affirmative action to grant preferential treatment based on race, sex, and ethnicity when it comes to public education, employment and public contracting.

No: Keeps Prop. 209, prohibiting the state from granting any individuals preferential treatment based on race, sex or ethnicity. 


Proposition 17: Voting Rights Restoration for Persons on Parole Amendment

By state law, those who are convicted of a felony in the state of California need to complete prison and parole sentences, prior to regaining the right to vote. Prop. 17 would change the rules by allowing people on parole to vote — and run for office, as long as the crime committed did not result in a perjury or bribery conviction. 

Supporters say Prop.17 will lead to more civic engagement from convicted felons, which could have a positive result on rehabilitation. 

However, the opposition for Prop. 17 emphasizes that voting is a right that’s earned and the right will still be available to individuals once rehabilitated.

Prop. 17 has received nearly $1 million in funding from supporters. There are no major donors in opposition of Prop. 17, but the Republican Party of California is part of the opposition.  

Yes: Supports a constitutional amendment to allow individuals convicted of a felony or who are  on parole the right to vote.

No: People on state parole would continue to be unable to vote in California. 

Proposition 18: Primary Voting for 17-Year-Olds

A “Yes” vote on Prop. 18 would allow 17-year-olds, who will turn 18 by the following general election to vote in primaries and special elections. 

Currently, more than a dozen states and Washington D.C. allow 17-year-olds to vote in the primary election, as long as they will be 18 by the next general election. 

California voters will now have the opportunity to lower the voting age in their state. However, there are mixed emotions behind lowering the voting age. Supporters argue that individuals are already paying taxes prior to the age of 18, so giving them a right to vote should be an incentive for those in the workforce and already contributing to society.  

Those that oppose say that 17 years old is too young to be tasked with civic responsibility. Additionally, many teens are impressionable and lack the resources needed to make informed decisions about the real world — without parental supervision. 

Yes: Allows 17-year-olds, who will turn 18 by the following general election, to vote in primaries and special elections.

No: No one younger than 18 years of age may vote in any election. 

Proposition 19: Property Tax Transfers, Exemptions, and Revenue for Wildfire Agencies and Counties Amendment

For homeowners over the age of 55, homeowners suffering from severe disabilities, and victims of natural disasters, a “Yes” vote on Prop. 19 would make them eligible for a tax assessment transfer, in the event they buy a new home. 

Considering the unforgiving nature of California Wildfires and the potential for other natural disasters like landslides and earthquakes, this proposition would allow homeowners to seek new property anywhere in the state, even to a more expensive home. 

Prop. 19 would also limit the tax benefits for certain transfers of property between family members, including inherited property.  

There is major support for Prop. 19 from the real estate industry, including the California Association of Realtors, the California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization PAC and the National Association of Realtors. 

In terms of funding, Prop. 19 have received more than $37 million from supporters. On the opposition side, donors are scarce, as less than $25,000 has been raised for a “No” vote on Prop. 19. 

Yes: Allows all homeowners 55 and older, along with the severely disabled or those affected by natural disaster, to buy a newer home anywhere in California with an incentive for lower property taxes, even on a more expensive home. Only inherited properties used as primary homes or farms would be eligible for property tax savings.

No: Some homeowners who are over 55 (or who meet other qualifications) would continue to be eligible for property tax savings when they move. All inherited properties would continue to be eligible for property tax savings.


Proposition 20: Restricts Parole for Non-Violent Offenders. Authorizes Felony Sentences for Certain Offenses Currently Treated Only as Misdemeanors.

Over the last decade, there have been two props (47 and 57) and one bill (AB 109) that passed with the intention to reduce California’s inmate population. The initiatives took several non-violent, non-serious and non-sexual crimes, and made them misdemeanors. 

Prop. 20 seeks to repeal the classifications in those initiatives, and return the option to charge some of those crimes, such as car theft and shoplifting, as felonies. It would also restrict early parole for those inmates. Additionally, the proposition would lead to DNA collecting for certain misdemeanor property crimes.

The increase in jail population would have an estimated fiscal impact in the tens of millions of dollars a year, both at the state and local levels. There would also be an increase in court-related costs in the millions, annually, as well as millions in costs for collecting DNA samples.

The measure is supported by Assemblyman Jim Cooper and several law enforcement agencies in California and is openly opposed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, as well as organizations such as the ACLU and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. 

Yes: Categorizes additional crimes as felonies and restricts early parole, similar to pre-2011.

No: Keeps the current system as is.


Proposition 21: Expands Local Governments’ Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property.

Prop. 21 seeks to decrease the landlord’s power over rent and allow local governments to enact rent control. The initiative would replace the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995, which exempted certain residential units from rent control ordinances, giving landlords the power to set the rental rates. 

A similar rent control proposition (Prop. 10) was rejected in 2018, that would have given full rent control to local governments. Prop. 20 would only enact rent control on properties over 15 years old and exempts people who own more than two homes.

Passing the proposition could lead to a reduction in state and local revenue by tens of millions of dollars per year over time.

The campaign is sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and supported by the Democratic Party, although Gov. Gavin Newsom is opposed to the proposition, as is the Republican Party.

Yes: Allows local government to enact rent control for properties over 15 years old.

No: Landlords keep their current abilities to name rental rates.


Proposition 22: Exempts App-Based Transportation and Delivery Companies from Providing Employee Benefits to Certain Drivers.

Prop. 22 seeks to keep application-based drivers classified as “independent contractors” instead of “employees.” 

In 2019, California passed Assembly Bill 5, which created three factors in deciding whether third party drivers should be classified as independent contractors or not. The bill led companies such as Uber and Lyft to a legal battle where they were deemed to be misclassifying employees. The 2019 bill would require the app companies to treat its drivers as employees, measuring their hours, providing health benefits and providing occupational insurance. 

The proposition is being funded by Lyft, Uber and DoorDash, each putting $30 million into the initiative. The Democratic Party opposes it, including Senator Kamala Harris and presidential candidate Joe Biden. 

Yes: Would keep the status quo for app delivery drivers, where they get paid as independent contractors and manage their own work rate.

No: Would make the app companies comply with AB 5 and classify their drivers as employees.


Proposition 23: Establishes State Requirements for Kidney Dialysis Clinics. Requires On-Site Medical Professional.

Prop. 23 would require at least one licensed physician on-site during treatment at outpatient kidney dialysis clinics. It would also require clinics to report dialysis-related infection data to state and federal governments, prohibit clinics from closing or reducing services without state approval and would prohibit clinics from refusing to treat patients based on the source of payment for care.

The measure is supported by the Democratic Party and opposed by the Republican Party, as well as the two leading dialysis companies, DaVita Inc. and Fresenius Medical Care. The dialysis companies argue that the proposition would lead to the closure of centers and services, although in the language of the initiative, it is written that a center cannot close without state approval.

The fiscal impact on state and local governments is estimated to be tens of millions of dollars annually. 

Yes: Requires dialysis centers to have a licensed physician on site, report infection data and prohibits reduced services, or closure of clinics without state approval.

No: Opposes the above requirements on dialysis centers.


Proposition 24: Amends Consumer Privacy Laws.

Prop. 24 seeks to expand and/or amend the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 and not allow businesses to correct violations before being fined. As with 2018’s CCPA, businesses would not be allowed to share a consumer’s personal information and must provide consumers with an opt-out option for having their sensitive personal information used or disclosed for advertising or marketing. 

The proposition is supported by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, the California NAACP and the Consumer Watchdog organization. It is opposed by the Green, Libertarian and Republican parties, as well as notable organizations such as ACLU of California, the California Small Business Association, Black Lives Matter and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, believing that the proposition would still allow social media platforms and big tech companies to misuse personal information.

An estimated increase in state costs of at least $10 million annually are expected for the state to oversee and enforce consumer privacy laws.

Yes: Keeps businesses from sharing personal consumer data and allows businesses to be penalized for the violating privacy laws.

No: Allows businesses to amend privacy violations before being penalized and continue to share consumer demographic data.


Proposition 25: Referendum on Law that Replaced Money Bail with System Based on Public Safety and Flight Risk

Prop. 25 seeks to uphold Gov. Brown’s 2018 Senate Bill 10, which was meant to eliminate cash bail in California before trial, with “risk assessment.” The risk assessment for SB 10 would require superior courts to determine if a suspect is a “low risk, medium risk or high risk” to fail to appear in court, or be a risk to the public. 

The proposition is supported by the California Democratic Party, and is opposed by both the Republican Party of California and the Orange County Board of Supervisors. It is also opposed by BLM-LA, saying, “If passed, it will end cash bail and subject defendants to racial profiling by replacing it with racist/classist ‘risk assessments’ algorithms to imprison defendant before trial.”

Passing the proposition would have an annual state and local fiscal impact of hundreds of millions to release people before trial.

Yes: Approves AB 10’s bail elimination and creates a risk assessment process.

No: Rejects AB 10.


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