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Palo Alto Voters Will Decide on Seven Statewide Props, Two Local Measures

League of Women Voters Palo Alto analyzes the arguments for and against.

PUBLISHED OCT 26, 2022 12:00 A.M.
At an Oct. 11 discussion (available on YouTube), the LWV dissects issues on the ballot in Palo Alto.

At an Oct. 11 discussion (available on YouTube), the LWV dissects issues on the ballot in Palo Alto.   Sundry Photography, Shutterstock

At a meeting in Palo Alto on Oct. 11, the local chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV) did what members of the organization have done for nearly a century. They presented arguments for and against issues facing voters on the November ballot in a clear, informative and nonpartisan manner. 

The LWV is an organization that encourages participation in government by providing tools and resources to voters. Members organize presentations and meetings, sometimes with prominent guest speakers or lawmakers, to promote information on major policy issues and political influences. The league operates on a local and national level, with more than 750 chapters across the country.

They reported on seven statewide propositions and two local measures. All require a simple majority (51%) to pass.

Proposition 1: Right to Reproductive Freedom

Proposition 1 proposes a constitutional amendment responding to the June US Supreme Court ruling that access to abortion is not a federally protected right.

Prop. 1, California’s Reproductive Privacy Act, prohibits the state from denying or interfering in a person’s decision to choose an abortion by amending the state constitution to expressly include existing rights to reproductive freedom. LWV Member Chris Witzel pointed out that the language of the proposition is specifically crafted to enshrine the protections granted by Roe.

“One thing to notice is that the text of this proposition is very short,” Witzel said, “but it ends with ‘nothing herein narrows or limits the right to privacy or equal protection,’ those are the reasons why [Roe v. Wade] had been considered law, and the Supreme Court said it no longer applies.”

Supporters have raised $9.2 million in contributions for Prop 1. Opponents have raised  $100,000 as of Sept. 24.

Proposition 26: Legalize Sports Betting on American Indian Lands

Prop 26 would allow onsite sports ganbling at tribal gaming casinos and licensed racetracks, and would legalize roulette and dice games at American Indian casinos. Currently, 30 states and the District of Columbia allow sports betting.

This could lead to increased state revenue, potentially tens of millions of dollars. Supporters, who poured $122.8 million into Yes on Prop 26, highlight this fact. Opponents say it would massively expand gambling and related addictions in the state. Opponents, primarily non-tribal casinos, contributed $43.1 million.

LWV member Ellen Smith says that both propositions passing could lead to conflict in court.

“We have two propositions on the same subject,” Smith said. “It’s possible they both could pass. And when that has happened [in the past], generally the one that gets the most votes would prevail if there is any conflict, or it would lead to court cases to sort out.”

Smith added that Prop 26 has become “one of the most expensive ballot issues ever waged in California.”

Proposition 27: Legalize Sports Betting and Revenue for Homeless Prevention Fund

A Yes on Prop 27 would legalize online sports wagering for people 21 and older. It would impose a 10% tax and mandates that 85% of revenue would go to cities and counties to support homelessness intervention programs.

Witzler pointed out that supporters including commercial casinos and Major League Baseball  have contributed $168.2 million as of Sept. 24. Indian gaming tribes oppose this ballot proposition.

Early polls show that the prop is likely to lose, causing supporters to withdraw advertisements that push for its passage. Opponents raised $213.8 million in contributions.

“The first question you should ask yourself is, do you support the idea of sports betting in general,” Smith said. “If no, then you have your answer to both measures. The biggest difference is Prop 26 would legalize onsite betting; Prop 27 would legalize mobile betting.”

Proposition 28: Art and Music K-12 Funding

This prop would require public K-12 schools to spend at least 1% of Prop 98 funds on arts programming. Prop 98, passed in 1988, guarantees a minimum level of funding for public schools.

There is no official opposition to this measure, and no ballot statement signed in opposition to it.

Proposition 29: Dialysis Clinic Requirements Initiative 

If this one seems familiar, Witzel said, it’s because there have been two similar propositions on the ballot before, in 2018 and 2020.

Prop 29 would require the 650 clinics that treat the state’s 80,000 dialysis patients to retain a physician or nurse practitioner onsite.

Supporters say requiring a physician to be in attendance during a dialysis procedure is a matter of safety. Opponents say the regulation would vastly increase the cost of doing business, thus shuttering clinics, putting patients at risk, and worsening overcrowding in emergency rooms.

Supporters raised a measly $7.9 million compared to the opponents’ $86.3 million in contributions—with 75 percent of the opposing campaign’s funds coming from Davita and Fresenius, the companies that operate the majority of clinics in the state.

Proposition 30: Tax on Income Above $2 million for EV Vehicles and Wildfire Prevention

This prop seeks to increase tax on incomes above $2 million by 1.75 percent, and would expire in 20 years or when the state meets 80 percent of 1990-level emissions. As the title suggests, the money would be spent on subsidies and rebates on zero-emission cars and on wildfire management. Individuals earning more than $2 million are currently taxed at a rate of 13 percent.

“California ranks high on total tax burden,” Smith said, adding that “some states don’t even have an income tax.”

Supporters say zero-emissions vehicles are expensive and there aren’t enough charging stations—and these funds could help. The money would come from those “most able to afford it,” Smith said. The bulk of contributions for Yes on Prop 30 come from rideshare apps, particularly Lyft. Opponents say California is spending enough on climate change action programs, and that Prop 30 is a special interest carve-out.

Proposition 31: Flavored Tobacco Products Ban Referendum 

This referendum concerns a law that has already passed, Witzel explained. A “yes” vote would uphold Senate Bill 793, prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco, and a “no” vote would repeal it. Menthol-flavored tobacco and flavored e-cigarettes are included.

“It’s being put to the voters—should this law be put into practice, or repealed?” Witzel explained. “If we look among the smoking population in the country, 85 perecent of teens are using flavored tobacco products.”

Supporters, who raised $5.9 million, say “Big Tobacco” is trying to hook youth on its products with candy-like flavors. Opponents say it’s already illegal for those under 21 to use tobacco anyway, and have raised $20.7 million to fight the ballot initiative.

Measure K: Local Business Tax

Passage of Measure K would authorize the city of Palo Alto to levy a tax on certain businesses up to a maximum of $500,000 a year. It would require business owners to pay 7.5 cents per square foot, with the first 10,000 square feet exempt. Grocery stores and non-profit organizations are excluded. Funds raised would go to the city’s general fund, and could be used for homelessness prevention, affordable housing, public safety, and more.

Opponents say it’s bad timing, as businesses are reeling from COVID closures, spiking inflation, and supply-chain issues.

Smith said the measure would put Palo Alto in sync with its neighboring municipalities.

“Most cities in the Bay Area do have business taxes of some form,” she said, “but Palo Alto does not. Business properties are rarely reassessed, and the proportion of commercial property against residential property as a source of [general fund] income is declining.”

Measure L: Natural Gas Revenue Transfer

Passage of Measure L would amend the Palo Alto Municipal Code to affirm the annual transfer of up to 18 perecent of the city’s gas utility revenue to the city’s general fund. Palo Alto already transfers up to 18 percent of gas utility to support city services each year, but in 2021 resident Miriam Green sued the city, claiming that it was an illegal tax, and won her case. The Santa Clara County Superior Court said that this annual tax requires voter approval. If the measure fails, there could be a $7 million hit to the general fund.

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