An early look at the 2020 state ballot measures

Signal file photo. Voters cast their ballots at the Bouquet Canyon Church in Saugus on in the June 2016 election. KATHARINE LOTZE/Signal.
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From the largest school construction bond to efforts to amend Proposition 13, Santa Clarita and the rest of California has, so far, four statewide ballot propositions to vote on in the 2020 election. 

The list of statewide initiatives with a higher chance of qualifying on next year’s ballot is small when compared to previous years. In fact, the smallest number of California ballot propositions in the state’s history has occurred between 2010 and 2019, according to ballotpedia.org. 

There are currently 21 measures that are at some stage of a four-step process for initiatives to make it on the ballot, four of which have cleared all the requirements.

Here’s an early look at the four already on the ballot: 

Giving schools and colleges a facelift – all votes yes, Stern coauthored

Slated for the March 2020 primary ballot, voters will have a chance to say whether to modernize public schools and colleges with a $15 billion bond measure that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Monday. 

Assembly Bill 48, introduced by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, and co-authored by several other legislators including State Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, dedicates $9 billion to preschool and K-12 schools and $2 billion for facilities under the University of California, California State University and community college system. 

All state legislators representing the Santa Clarita Valley voted in support of the bill, including Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita. 

“Our local voters have come through time and again to support our schools and ensure facilities and technology are up-to-date and well-maintained and that increased security infrastructure has been added,” said Smith. “I’m hopeful that the facilities bond will pass to allow our districts to complete these important projects.”

Challenging Proposition 13

The famous 1978 tax reform amendment, Prop. 13, is being challenged with a “split roll” initiative that would require commercial and industrial properties, except those zoned as commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on market value rather than purchase price. Revenue from the change would be allocated to local governments and school districts. 

Currently, Prop. 13  requires the taxable value of residential, commercial, and industrial properties to be based on 1% of the property’s purchase price. The initiative would provide tax exceptions for the first $500,000 for industrial and commercial properties.

Supporters say the measure will raise $12 billion in new annual revenues, while opponents believe that commercial property owners will lose financial certainty. One iteration of this measure has qualified and a revised version by proponents is in the works. 

“(The measure claims) that all the money is going to go to education,” said State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, during a legislative forum on Oct. 4. “I just remember Prop. 30, when I was running in 2012, Gov. (Jerry) Brown said it’s all going to education and what went to education? The bare minimum.”

Estimates by the Legislative Analyst’s Office show that 60% of the revenue would go toward local governments and special districts and 40% to schools and colleges.

He believes a version of the measure will qualify and “they’ll (supporters) go to big business and they’re going to negotiate a compromise and they’re going to slam it through the Legislature.” 

Replacing cash bails

A measure that aims to replace cash bail with risk assessments for those accused of crimes to determine whether a detained suspect should be granted pretrial release, has also qualified. This initiative comes after Senate Bill 10 failed to become law in August. 

Risk assessments would categorize suspects as low, medium or high risk. Suspects deemed “low-risk” to public safety or of failing to appear in court would be released from jail as opposed to those considered “high risk,” who would have to remain in jail. 

Proponents say it would help reduce racial and economic discrimination, while those against believe it will do the exact opposite. 

Rethinking prisoner parole:

This ballot measure aims to undo provisions of Prop. 57, which voters approved in 2016. A group of law enforcement and crime victim advocates behind the initiative say several prisoners were wrongly labeled as “nonviolent,” therefore increasing the threat to public safety. 

The 2020 measure looks to add crimes to the list of violent felonies for which early parole is restricted. The initiative also aims to recategorize some theft and fraud crimes as wobblers, which can be punished as either a felony or misdemeanor, and require DNA collection for certain misdemeanors. 

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