If you're looking for silver linings, there are more than a few in California. (See above photo.) Compassion and progress prevailed at the polls when it came to initiatives that will house the homeless, expand public transit and, yes, legalize recreational marijuana. Lord knows we'll need all of these things to get through the next four years.
Below, the results of the statewide and local measures — a few of which might help restore your faith in humanity.
U.S. Senate: Kamala Harris (WINNER) vs. Loretta Sanchez
In a race that pitted Democrat against Democrat, woman against woman, minority against minority, the choice was less clear than usual.
But U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris, the state's attorney general, easily toppled Loretta Sanchez, a congresswoman from urban Orange County.
Harris' experience has been as a prosecutor, both in San Francisco and Sacramento as the state's top cop. She has targeted banks, car companies (she helped negotiate a settlement with Volkswagen over its emissions cheating), alleged pimps, suspected gangsters and identity thieves.
Perhaps the race came down to the nuance of personality and “likability.” Those are subjective metrics, but if you ask us, Harris had the upper hand there. —Dennis Romero
Proposition 51: Build More Schools — PASSED
Proposition 51 will authorize $7 billion for school-construction spending statewide at the K-through-12 level, and $2 billion for community colleges, for a total of $9 billion. California voters had not approved a state school-construction bond since 2006; the fund is depleted, and Proposition 51 will replenish it. Gov. Jerry Brown has said Proposition 51 does not do enough to aid lower-income school districts. But isn't an imperfect bond measure better than no state action at all? Read more. —Jason McGahan
Proposition 52: Give Hospitals Control Over Medi-Cal Dollars — PASSED
The state Legislature devised a temporary way to game the system and boost the amount Washington reimburses for Medicaid, at no cost to the taxpayer. It has been nothing short of a bonanza to hospitals and the state’s tax base: Last year, the hospitals reaped a windfall of $3.5 billion. The problem is, the state keeps increasing the amount of that windfall that it diverts to the General Fund, and the hospitals are powerless because they depend on the Legislature to periodically renew the program.
Proposition 52 moves the Medi-Cal fund out of the Legislature's reach, setting a strict limit on how much of the hospital-tax revenue the state can divert to its General Fund and requiring a two-thirds majority for Sacramento to make any changes to the program. Proposition 52 also removes the Legislature's authority to extend the program, making it permanent, with voter approval in a statewide election the only way to rescind it. Read more. —Jason McGahan
Proposition 53: Require Voter Approval for California's Big Borrowing — TOO CLOSE/NARROWLY FAILING
For decades California has borrowed money for schools, roads and infrastructure by using low-interest, long-term bonds. Proposition 53, backed by a Stockton-area farmer, would limit the Legislature's ability to do this, at least for bonds totaling $2 billion or more. At that level, lawmakers would have to ask for voters’ approval. 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 under the San Joaquin Delta tunnels that would help bring more water to Southern California. Read more. —Dennis Romero
Proposition 54: Videotape the Legislature — PASSED
If, like millions of Californians, you have trouble falling asleep, this initiative might be for you. It requires that all public meetings of the Legislature be videotaped and posted on the internet within 24 hours. Just imagine the instant zzz's. It also requires that any bills, and any changes to bills, be published 72 hours before they can be passed. The idea is to quash last-minute, back-room deals while keeping the public's eye on its well-paid servants. Read more. —Dennis Romero
Proposition 55: Tax the Rich to Fund the Schools — PASSED
In 2012, Gov. Brown convinced voters to approve Proposition 30, a tax hike on the wealthiest Californians. Brown had urged a yes vote in order to prevent $6 billion in cuts to the state budget for schools and social programs. For the past four years, the wealthiest 1.5 percent of Californians have had to pay an income-tax increase of 1 to 3 percent. The measure has raised about $6 billion a year since it was approved, with about half of that revenue funding education, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. Proposition 55 will extend the income tax on the wealthy for an additional 12 years, through 2030. Read more. —Jason McGahan
Proposition 56: Tax Cigarettes and Tobacco to Fund Health Care — PASSED
Surprisingly, for as liberal a reputation as California has for taxing things, the state’s levy on cigarettes and other tobacco products is 36th in the nation. And at 87 cents on a pack of smokes, it is around half the tax charged by states such as Texas ($1.41), New Mexico ($1.66), Arizona ($2), Nevada ($1.80) and Utah ($1.70).
Proposition 56 will increase the tax on cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco by $2. The new tax revenue will go mostly to pay for health care services for low-income individuals and families covered by the Medi-Cal program. Read more. —Jason McGahan
Proposition 57: Allow Earlier Parole for Some Prison Inmates — PASSED
With the state’s prison system still reeling from the 2011 U.S. Supreme Court order to reduce the prison population, Proposition 57 picks up where prior prison-population reforms left off by giving inmates who are serving time for “nonviolent” crimes the opportunity for early release.
Proposition 57 also tries to shrink the prison population by amending the state's Constitution to allow a point system promoting rehabilitation, in which inmates can earn credits for good behavior and for participating in rehabilitative programs. It gives judges the authority to decide where to hear juvenile cases, a decision that's typically left to prosecutors. Read more. —Matt Fleming
Proposition 58: Allow Schools to Provide Multilingual Instruction — PASSED
Once upon a time, in 1998, California voters settled a bitter controversy over how English was taught to non-native speakers in public schools. The passage of Proposition 227 eliminated “bilingual education” in schools, made English-only teaching mandatory and set the present course for how English is taught in public schools today. This year’s Proposition 58 eliminates the waiver requirement for the parents of English learners and restores local control to local school districts to decide on methods to improve academic performance. Read more. —Jason McGahan
Proposition 59: Send a Message About Big Money in Politics — PASSED
Proposition 59 advises Congress to propose (and California's Legislature to ratify) a constitutional amendment overturning the deeply unpopular Supreme Court ruling known as “Citizens United,” which found that corporations and labor unions have the First Amendment right to spend unlimited sums for or against political causes. Supporters say approving the (nonbinding) Proposition 59 will send a strong message against a bad ruling. Read more. —Matt Fleming
Proposition 60: Require Porn Actors to Use Condoms — FAILED
While the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, aka Cal/OSHA, already requires condoms in adult video, enforcement has been inconsistent. This initiative, sponsored by L.A.’s AIDS Healthcare Foundation, would have codified state and federal protections for adult performers on set and would have made “distributors and agents”… “potentially liable for violations of some adult-film workplace rules,” according to the California Legislative Analyst's Office. Read more. —Dennis Romero
Proposition 61: Cap Prescription Drug Prices (for Some) — FAILED
Proposition 61 would have prohibited state agencies in California from paying more for their employees’ medications than the VA does for veterans'. The measure would have immediately lowered drug prices for about 12 percent of Californians — about 4.4 million people — including employees of state agencies, low-income patients enrolled in Medi-Cal’s fee-for-service program and inmates of state prisons. Exempt were public school employees, the privately insured and the 10.4 million people enrolled in Medi-Cal’s managed-care program. Read more. —Jason McGahan
Proposition 62: Repeal the Death Penalty — FAILED
Proposition 62 would have repealed the death penalty and made life without parole the maximum sentence for murder. Supporters of repeal argued the judicial system is not foolproof, meaning innocent people may be put to death. In fact, 156 people on death row have been exonerated nationwide since 1973, including three in California, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Read more. —Matt Fleming
Proposition 63: Require Background Checks for Ammunition Sales and Tighten Gun Restrictions — PASSED
Under Proposition 63, ammunition sales were supposed to be regulated by requiring buyers to get a four-year, $50 permit, which would need to be shown at the time of purchase. But lawmakers passed a sweeping package of gun-control legislation this summer that preemptively amends this proposition. So Proposition 63's permitting provisions will be almost immediately replaced with an entirely different background-check system. The amended system will require that dealers instead check with the DOJ at the time of purchase to verify the buyer is not prohibited, for which the DOJ could charge $1 per purchase, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.
Also under the measure, courts will be required to tell anyone who was just convicted of a crime that bars gun possession to surrender his or her firearm to law enforcement or sell it to (or store it with) a licensed dealer. Read more. —Matt Fleming
Proposition 64: Legalize Recreational Marijuana — PASSED
Proposition 64, which is backed by Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, legalizes holding up to an ounce of pot for those 21 and older. It will tax retail weed at 15 percent and continue to outlaw toking in public. It will place California in the company of Colorado, Washington and Oregon (and, as of yesterday, Nevada and Massachusetts) — and in the process make recreational weed legal to more than three times as many Americans.
In addition, it will bring billions of dollars in revenue to California. The state Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that taxes generated by legalization will amount to $1 billion a year. Most of it will go to youth programs, cleaning up environmental damage caused by cultivation and programs designed to reduce stoned driving. Read more. —Dennis Romero
Proposition 65: Tax Plastic Bags for Environmental Causes — FAILED
This tricky guy was put on the ballot by the plastic bag industry, just to mess with our heads. Proposition 65 would have given the 10-cent fee for plastic bags (the result of Proposition 67; see below) to some special environmental fund, instead of letting grocery stores keep the money.
The Mercury News called Proposition 65 “one of the most disingenuous ballot measures in state history — and that's saying something.” According to recent analysis by Capitol Weekly, 68 percent of voters who supported Proposition 65 characterized their vote as against the plastic bag industry — despite the fact that the initiative was written by and is being funded by … the plastic bag industry. And guess who's against Proposition 65? Environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Heal the Bay, Surfrider and the Nature Conservancy. Read more. —Hillel Aron
Proposition 66: Speed Up the Death Penalty Appeals Process — TOO CLOSE/NARROWLY PASSING
Proposition 66 would speed up a capital murder appeals process that currently takes decades. Due to legal complications related to lethal injection procedures, the state has not executed anyone since 2006. Since 1978, only 15 inmates have been executed, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Meanwhile, more than 100 inmates died before execution. Proposition 66 would set a five-year time limit for appeals from death row inmates. To help meet the five-year cap, the measure will increase the pool of eligible appellate attorneys qualified to represent condemned inmates. Read more. —Matt Fleming
Proposition 67: Ban Lightweight Plastic Bags — PASSED
This is a referendum on SB 270, signed by Gov. Brown back in 2014, which banned grocery stores from giving away free, lightweight plastic bags, which aren’t biodegradable (they break down into tiny granules that might stick around forever). The ban already exists in about half the cities in California, including Los Angeles — and now, thanks to Proposition 67, it's statewide. Read more. —Hillel Aron
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Districts 4 (WINNER: JANICE HAHN) and 5 (WINNER: KATHRYN BARGER)
It's a heady time for the Board of Supervisors. Just three years ago, the five-member body, which controls a $28 billion budget, was a fiscally conservative, pragmatic entity, made up of two Republicans and three Democrats. Now, with the full force of term limits setting in and the longest-serving supervisors being flushed out, the Board will have just one Republican — and will be 80 percent female.
In District 4, covering the southwest portion of the county, the winner is Democrat Congresswoman Janice Hahn (sister of former mayor Jim Hahn, daughter of longtime supervisor Kenneth Hahn). She prevailed against Republican Steve Napolitano, a staffer to Don Knabe, who holds the seat now and is retiring due to term limits.
All the way on the opposite end of the county, in the northwest, we have District 5, currently held by conservative cat-lover Michael Antonovich. His former chief of staff, Kathryn Barger, a Republican, will replace him, beating out Darrell Park, a Democrat and former White House budget staffer. Read more.
County Measure A: Increase Property Taxes for Parks — PASSED
This will raise property taxes a teensy amount – 1.5 cents per square foot – to pay for building and maintaining parks and other open spaces. It is intended to replace a couple of other taxes, one of which expired last year, the other of which expires in two years. —Hillel Aron
County Measure M: Add a Half-Cent Sales Tax for Public Transit — PASSED
This was the big-ticket item of this year’s ballot, which needed a two-thirds vote to pass — and ended up getting 70 percent. Measure M will add a half-cent sales tax (and make permanent a previous half-cent sales tax that was set to expire in 2039) in order to build out L.A. County’s nascent rail network.
We’re talking about a subway beneath Wilshire Boulevard; a subway from Simi Valley to LAX, via the Sepulveda Pass; and a light-rail line from Hollywood and Highland that will snake through West Hollywood and cut down La Cienega. And we’re talking about more bus rapid transit (one of them down Vermont), more bus lanes, more bike lanes (including a continuous path along the L.A. River) and even some money to fix roads and freeways.
It’s the only way more trains are ever gonna get built. Read more. —Hillel Aron
L.A. City Measure HHH: Increase Property Taxes for Homeless Housing — PASSED
Under HHH, the city will borrow $1.2 billion and use most of it to build 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing for the homeless — housing complexes that include on-site social workers and mental health counselors (the services, at least, in theory, will be paid for by the county, though they're still working out the details). Some of the money will go to temporary homeless shelters, storage facilities, showers and other services for people still living on the street. Some of the money will fund affordable housing.
The bond will be paid for with a roughly .01 percent increase in property taxes. That means if you own a home with an assessed value of $585,100 (the median home value in L.A.), you'll pay an extra $58 a year, give or take. Read more. —Hillel Aron
City Measure JJJ: Require Standard Wages for Construction Workers and Require Affordable Housing — PASSED
Measure JJJ is a long and complicated initiative, sponsored by labor unions and affordable-housing developers. It will force developers seeking a General Plan amendment or zone change to pay construction workers an “area wage standard.” Those projects also will have to reserve 11 to 25 percent of their units for affordable housing. —Hillel Aron
City Measure RRR: Reform the Department of Water and Power — FAILED
Measure RRR, aka Measure Arrrrrrrrr, aka the pirate measure, was being sold by elected officials as Department of Water & Power reform. It would have professionalized the DWP’s governing body, giving its members a salary and staggered four-year terms, and would have required them to have certain experience. It would have taken away the City Council’s responsibility to approve DWP contracts. And it would have allowed the DWP’s union to remove itself from the city’s civil service system. Read more.
City Measure SSS: Extend Pensions to Airport Police Officers — PASSED
This will put new airport police officers into the same pension system as police and firefighters. It also will allow current airport police officers to enroll in the police and firefighter pension fund. An independent analysis by the city administrative officer found that the “city’s annual cost of providing future retirement benefits for current and new officers joining [the police and firefighters pension fund] will be 14 to 19 percent higher.” —Hillel Aron
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Proposition 58 failed (it passed), and that Propositions 53 and 66 had been decided (they're too close to call).