Health, healthcare, and safety issues are perennial topics of political discourse, so it should come as no surprise that there are a handful of propositions on the statewide ballot dealing with these questions. However, many of these propositions are perfect examples of the challenges of taking the direct democracy route toward crafting legislation. While we are able to make a case for our strong opposition to Prop 60, all of the other initiatives in this group leave us with unanswered questions that prevent us from making official endorsements, despite our personal leanings on each item.
NO on 60: The Misleading and Dangerous Condom Initiative
It’s no secret that people[PLACES]spaces is not a fan of the political strategies of Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and Prop 60 is no different. On its surface Prop 60, which would require the use of condoms in adult film production and establishes enforcement mechanisms and fines for those who violate the requirements, seems like a noble effort to protect adult performers. Unfortunately, whatever outcomes the law may intend, it is unlikely to actually accomplish its stated goals. If Prop 60 passes, adult film production is likely to move out of state to places where similar rules do not exist, or are not enforced. We know this because after a similar law passed in Los Angeles County in 2012, applications for adult film permits dropped 95%. Instead, many production companies have already relocated to Las Vegas, where regulations are more lax. Prop 60 would accelerate this exodus from California, resulting in no increases in condom use in porn production, and putting performers at greater risk from reduced regulations. In addition, a lawsuit challenging L.A. County’s Measure B was inconclusive, with both sides claiming victory, leaving the question of the constitutionality of such laws largely unresolved, and opening the door to similar legal challenges for Prop 60.
While Prop 60 proponents claim that the law would only target producers, and not performers, the actual text of the measure makes anyone with a financial stake in the production liable, which could include performers who also act as producers, or performers who produce their own content. This measure would create an unfunded and unaccountable state bureaucracy tasked with policing porn production, and even allows for a state-funded position and salary for the author of the proposition, Michael Weinstein, to oversee the proposition’s enforcement. And if the state does not act on violations of the proposed law, any California resident is empowered to sue the producers directly, creating a flood of potential lawsuits. Opponents note that the proposition is so poorly written that it could even put couples who film in their own homes at risk of being sued.
The lack of safe sex practices in adult film production is worthy of concern, but Prop 60 is nowhere near the right solution. It will cost the state money in added bureaucracy and lost revenue, it puts performers at greater health and legal risk, and it won’t even increase condom use in porn. This proposition is so dangerous that organizations from across the political spectrum have lined up against it, including both the California Democratic and Republican parties. More importantly, a slew of AIDS healthcare organizations, civil rights organizations, and LGBT advocacy organizations are also opposed to this measure, including AIDS Project Los Angeles, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Courage Campaign, Equality California, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the Transgender Law Center, just to name a few. Even many of the performers whom this proposal purports to protect are opposed. We join all of these organizations in strongly urging a NO vote on Prop 60.
Prop 52: no recommendation
Prop 52 would extend indefinitely a hospital fee that was set to expire that helps fund Medi-Cal, and ensures that the state received matching federal Medicaid funds. While the matching funds are essential to provide the needed funding for Medi-Cal, it’s not clear that this voter initiative is the best solution, since the legislature still has the opportunity to extend the fee beyond its current expiration. The proposition is designed to ensure that hospital fees cannot be diverted to other general fund purposes, but the structure of the constitutional amendment also creates barriers that will make it difficult to make any necessary future changes to the hospital fee program. Opponents have also noted that the funding provided under the program is not strictly limited to medical treatments, and could be used to pay hospital executives and lobbyists. However, the measure does have broad support from both the California Republican and Democratic parties, as well as a wide range of civic and healthcare organizations.
Prop 56: no recommendation
While we are reluctant to provide cover for the tobacco companies flooding California media with misleading advertisements, we are are not convinced that a regressive tax is the best way to further reduce already declining smoking rates. Tobacco use is at all time lows, thanks to a wide variety of measures including increased taxes, restrictions on where people can smoke, and prevention and stop-smoking programs. Cigarette taxes in California are relatively low at 87 cents per pack, and evidence from other states suggest that higher taxes could help reduce smoking rates even further. But cigarettes, and other tobacco products, are designed to be addictive, and smokers can’t just quit based on a rational economic argument. An additional $2 per pack cigarette tax would be most harmful to low-income California smokers who may not have easy access to programs to help them quit. We need to do more to prevent smoking and reduce the toll it takes on our healthcare system, but further taxing the victims of an industry built on a deadly and addictive product may not be the best solution.
Prop 61: no recommendation
While we welcome any effort to make drug costs more equitable, we are concerned about the uncertainty inherent in the mechanism of this proposition. Prop 61 would prevent the state from paying for prescription drugs than what the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays. Rather than placing any sort of check on drug companies to match certain prices, Prop 61 places the full burden on the State of California to negotiate for better prices, and prevents the state from buying drugs if the drug companies do not agree to the matching prices. Healthcare programs like Medi-Cal are generally very successful at negotiating beneficial prices for prescription drugs, possibly paying even less than the VA in some cases. Still, the state legislative analyst was unable to determine the potential fiscal impact of the measure due to the uncertainties of the outcome. Although the possibilities seem unlikely, drug companies could choose to raise drug prices for the VA to match those paid by California, or they could simply refuse to match the prices, blocking access to certain drugs. While the proposition does have high profile support from the likes of Senator Bernie Sanders, concerns about the initiative design have led some patient advocacy groups and veterans organizations to oppose it.
Prop 63: no recommendation
While people[PLACES]spaces is supportive of gun control legislation and on balance we find this measure a step in the right direction for closing loopholes in our state’s gun control laws, we have concerns over the provision to elevate the theft of a firearm from a misdemeanor to a felony. California’s Prop 47 reduced many nonviolent felony convictions to misdemeanors—a measure we supported—but the theft provision of Prop 63 would be a step in the opposite direction. Mandatory felony charges disproportionately impact poor people and people of color. We have debated the merits of this proposition and overall feel that we cannot come to an agreement on whether to oppose or endorse this proposition. Passing this proposition would send a strong message to the gun lobby and other elected officials that Californians want gun control laws passed. However a no vote on this would not necessarily curtail future gun legislation, as Gov. Brown recently signed into law similar gun control measures that will take effect in 2019. Gun control is a problem that needs good solutions, however we are unable to determine if altering the state’s constitution with this proposition is the right solution.
Header image by flickr user emptyage via Creative Commons, CC BY-NC