Andrew Naylor was working at a digital advertising firm in Silicon Valley when the “a-ha” moment struck.
It was 2008, and money—more than $83 million—was gushing into the advertising world as Californians prepared to vote on Prop. 8, the measure to limit marriage to heterosexual couples (later ruled unconstitutional.)
“I saw what was happening with politics in California and everything was just huge. The amount of money both sides were spending, for and against, on online advertising and television ads was just incredible,” said Naylor, who lives in Menlo Park. And it opened his eyes to a potential ballot prop campaign bonanza: domain names.
Those names—essentially a website’s address—have long been a hot commodity, as speculators have bought up dot-com labels with commercial appeal and sold the hottest among them for millions. Naylor, a systems administrator with a business degree, had bought up thousands of web addresses, many wine-related, and sold one for a five-figure sum. After watching the Prop. 8 blitz, he started buying addresses with combinations of yes and no on propositions 1 to 100.
And that’s how Naylor became a virtual landlord of more than 1,000 campaign domain names—and a dominant player in California’s marketplace for political web addresses. Read More
This fall, California voters will decide whether to approve the biggest jump in cigarette taxes since the state began taxing tobacco in 1959.
Prop. 56, backed by a wide coalition of public health, healthcare and union groups, would impose an additional $2 per-pack excise tax on cigarettes—raising the current state levy from 87-cents per pack for the first time in nearly two decades. The initiative would also extend tobacco taxes to the growing e-cigarette market for the first time.
The tobacco industry has spent heavily against the measure, pouring more than twice as much money into the “no” campaign as the “yes” side has raised. Cigarette companies and anti-tax groups make a familiar argument. “If this initiative were to go into effect,” said Beth Miller of the No on 56 campaign, “California’s tobacco taxes would be the sixth highest in the country—mostly paid by California’s poor.”
In fact, Prop. 56 would make California’s tobacco taxes the ninth highest, a point the No on 56 campaign later acknowledged. But how true is the claim that the tax would mostly be paid by California’s poor?
Just like a sales tax, per-pack tobacco levies are regressive because low-income smokers will spend proportionately more of their resources on cigarette taxes than wealthier smokers. Tobacco products are also obviously highly addictive, meaning that poor smokers will have a tough time quitting even as tobacco takes a bigger and bigger bite of their budget. Read More
1oo percent of precincts reporting partial returns—will be updated when all results are certified. Background:
The U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United has become a political flashpoint for Americans turned off by the billions of dollars spent to sway elections. The 2010 ruling allowed unions and corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns. It paved the way for the prevalence of “super-PACs,” groups that spend huge sums on ads supporting or opposing candidates—and do so legally, so long as the politicians have no direct involvement in their efforts. What would it do?
Not much, in the short term at least. Prop. 59 is an advisory measure—it’s an opportunity for Californians to give their opinion but it doesn’t directly change any laws. The measure asks if voters want California’s elected officials to take steps to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn Citizens United. Amending the Constitution is a lengthy process that generally requires, among other things, support from at least 38 states nationwide. What would it cost state government?
Nothing. Why is it on the ballot?
The Legislature’s Democratic majority placed Prop. 59 on the ballot after lobbying by groups that oppose both Citizens United and the prevalence of money in politics. It was originally supposed to be on the ballot in 2014, but was delayed by a lawsuit challenging whether lawmakers can ask voters to weigh in on non-binding measures. The California Supreme Court ruled advisory questions are permissible. Read More
This is the rare ballot measure that requires you to think about sex. Because here in California—home to a $9 billion pornography industry—that most personal of acts is also a jobs issue and a public health concern. Four years ago, Los Angeles County voters approved a measure requiring adult film performers to use condoms. The longtime AIDS activist who pushed that measure has taken his fight statewide with Prop. 60. What would it do?
Prop. 60 would require porn actors to use condoms when filming intercourse. It would create a system for people to make complaints and file lawsuits if they see a sex scene that does not include a condom. It would require that adult film producers pay for performers’ vaccinations, testing and medical exams related to sexual health. What would it cost state government?
Additional regulations on adult film production would cost more than $1 million annually. In addition, state and local tax revenue would probably drop by several million dollars a year if productions move out of state or go underground to evade the condom mandate. Why is it on the ballot?
The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation put Prop. 60 on the ballot after failing to persuade the Legislature to pass a statewide condom requirement What supporters say:
State law already requires adult performers to use condoms on the job, but they are exposed to disease because the provision is rarely enforced. Prop. 60 strengthens existing law by adding new enforcement mechanisms that protect workers in the porn industry. Read More
Many Americans are angry about rising pharmaceutical prices and politicians have taken notice. Presidential candidates this year debated how to contain costs, and California lawmakers proposed fixes that never passed out of the statehouse. Drug prices are a big deal not only for consumers who are forced to pay more for prescriptions, but also for the state government, which spends billions on medication for public employees, retirees, prisoners and other people on public health plans. What would it do?
Prop. 61 would cap the amount the state pays for prescription drugs—generally prohibiting the state from paying any more for drugs than the lowest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which pays the lowest prices in the nation. What would it cost?
Prop. 61 could save the state some money, but it’s hard to say for certain. If drug makers responded to the measure by raising prices for the Department of Veterans Affairs, that would negate any potential savings to the state. Because the drug market reaction is unpredictable, the state’s legislative analysts concluded that the fiscal impact is unknown. Why is it on the ballot?
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles—which runs pharmacies and health clinics around the world—paid to put Prop. 61 on the ballot. Read More
Whether for or against the death penalty, both sides agree the criminal justice system isn’t working. Since the 1978 passage of the death penalty in California, 15 of the 930 individuals who received a death sentence have been executed. Another 103 have died prior to being executed, 64 have had sentences reduced by the courts while 748 remain in prison. The numbers illustrate the lengthy time inmates spend both waiting for court-appointed attorneys and for their cases to be heard, as well as an exhaustive appeals process intended to protect the innocent. Meanwhile, California has not carried out an execution since 2006 because of legal issues surrounding the state’s lethal injection procedures. What would they do?
The dueling campaigns of Propositions 62 and 66 seek to address California’s broken death penalty system—but in two very different ways. Prop. 62 would abolish the death penalty, and all current death row inmates would be resentenced to life in prison without parole. Prop. 66 attempts to reform capital punishment by shortening the time of legal challenges. It would also allow the state to house condemned men outside San Quentin, currently the only prison that has a death row for men. What would they cost the government?
Prop. 62 would save the state and counties around $150 million a year, with fewer costs related to prisons, murder trials and legal challenges to death sentences, according to the state legislative analyst. Under Prop. 66, the cost to state courts for processing legal challenges to death sentences is unknown. The measure could save tens of millions a year in prison costs. Why are they on the ballot?
Former “M*A*S*H” actor Mike Farrell authored Proposition 62, and he has amassed celebrity support to abolish what critics describe as a failed system that doesn’t protect the innocent. Former NFL player Kermit Alexander—whose mother, sister and two nephews were murdered by a man now on death row—filed Prop. 66, the competing measure to expedite the death penalty process, and gained the support of law enforcement. Alexander was among the key critics of a failed 2012 ballot initiative that sought to abolish the death penalty.
If both Propositions 62 and 66 pass, the one with the most votes will prevail. Read More
Even though California has some of the toughest gun restrictions in the country, political will intensified this year to pass even stiffer laws. Motivated in part by the December shooting in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead, Democrats in the Legislature advanced several gun control bills, many of which were signed into law. All the while, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was leading the effort to put Prop. 63 before voters. The newly-passed laws overlap with two of the six gun-control policies included in this measure. What would it do?
The two parts of Prop. 63 that are similar to newly-approved state laws are provisions that would require criminal background checks for people purchasing ammunition and prohibit possession of large-capacity magazines (those that hold more than 10 bullets).
Other pieces of Prop. 63 would make new requirements for reporting lost or stolen firearms and ammunition to authorities; prohibit people from possessing firearms if they’re convicted of stealing a firearm; establish new ways for authorities to remove guns from people who are prohibited from owning them; change theft of a gun worth $950 or less from a misdemeanor to a felony; strengthen the national criminal background check system by requiring the state to share information about people who are prohibited from owning firearms. What would it cost the government?
Tens of millions of dollars a year related to new processes for removing firearms from people who are not allowed to own them because they’ve been convicted of a crime. Millions of dollars annually to regulate ammunition sales and jail those facing stiffer penalties for certain gun crimes. Why is it on the ballot?
Newsom, who is running for governor in 2018, put forth Prop. 63 after consulting with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco. Read More
The push for marijuana legalization is on the ballot in at least nine states this November, with California’s Prop. 64 the most watched. Although four other states previously have legalized recreational pot, a vote by the nation’s most populous state is likely to put pressure on Congress and the federal government to revisit the federal ban on marijuana. What would it do?
Prop. 64would allow people 21 and older to grow up to six pot plants at home, possess up to an ounce of marijuana and use it for recreational purposes. It would allow the state, as well as cities and counties, to regulate and tax the growing and sale of non-medical marijuana. What would it cost the government?
It all depends on how state and local governments choose to regulate and tax marijuana, whether the federal government enforces federal marijuana laws, and the price and use of marijuana. The state’s legislative analyst concluded that taxes generated could eventually reach more than $1 billion a year. Local and state governments also could save tens of millions of dollars a year in jail costs because marijuana use would no longer be a state crime. Why is it on the ballot?
Legalization advocates are trying again after California voters shot down their last initiative to sanction marijuana in 2010. This time they’ve got an influx of cash from technology moguls and political heft from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. What supporters say:
It would bring the state’s booming and unregulated recreational marijuana market under the rule of law, protecting consumers and the environment. It is a recognition that decades of prohibition and aggressive enforcement of criminal laws hasn’t worked. Read More
How you carry your groceries home from the store may seem like a trivial subject, but it’s the focus of two rival measures on the California ballot that pit environmentalists against the plastic industry. More than 150 California communities have banned flimsy plastic shopping bags, blaming them for a host of problems—from choking wildlife to damaging municipal waste systems. But that’s led to varying shopping bag policies around the state, which causes problems for large retailers. State lawmakers in 2014 passed a bill to put the same rules in place across California: banning thin plastic grocery bags and charging shoppers a dime for paper or heavy-duty plastic. The goal is to encourage Californians to bring reusable bags when they shop. But the plastic industry is putting up a fight. What would they do?
Prop. 67 supports the 2014 ban signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, and authorizes retailers to charge shoppers 10 cents for other carryout bags—a fee the stores get to keep. Prop. 65 would redirect the bag fee money to an environmental fund administered by the state Wildlife Conservation Board.
If both measures pass, Prop. 65 would only be enacted if it receives more votes than Prop. 67. If voters reject Prop. 67, then Prop 65 does not apply. What would they cost the government?
A plastic bag ban wouldn’t mean much financially for state and local governments, the state legislative analyst found. If Prop. 65 passes, tens of millions of dollars a year could flow into environmental programs. Why are they on the ballot?
Both were placed on the ballot by plastic bag manufacturers. After Brown signed the plastic bag ban two years ago, the plastics industry exercised a provision in the state Constitution that allows a popular vote on a law before it takes effect—that became Prop. 67. The same companies also crafted Prop. 65 to take money generated by the bag fee away from retailers and move it instead into an environmental fund. Read More
School districts pay for building new schools and updating older ones with a mix of local and state money, generally financed through bonds. It’s been a decade since California voters approved a bond measure allowing the state to borrow money for school construction. Now the state’s existing stash of school construction money is almost gone, yet local school districts report a backlog of construction projects that will cost billions to complete. What would it do?
Prop. 51 authorizes $9 billion in bonds to build new schools and modernize existing ones. Most of the money would be for K-12 schools, with about $2 billion for community colleges. What would it cost?
Borrowing the $9 billion would cost the state an extra $8.6 billion in interest. The state would likely pay off the debt over 35 years, at a cost of about $500 million a year. Why is it on the ballot?
Usually school bonds land on the ballot because the Legislature puts them there. That hasn’t happened in recent years, so home builders, developers and school construction companies got together to put this measure on the ballot on their own. What supporters say:
California’s aging campuses need safety repairs and tech upgrades, while growing neighborhoods want to build new schools. The bonds will provide students a better learning environment, without directly raising taxes. Read More