Susan Shelley’s guide to state ballot measures

Election Day has arrived.

It’s now the law in California that a ballot will be mailed to every active registered voter, and the state’s 58 counties have already begun to mail them. Voting begins this week and continues through November 8. Verifying and counting all those ballots will take a month beyond that.

Many people ask me how they should cast their ballot — by mail, dropped off, in person, early or on Election Day. My advice is just to be sure to vote, however and whenever it’s convenient. If you have concerns about whether your ballot has been sent or received, sign up for the ballot tracking notification service on the Secretary of State’s website at

If you’re eligible but not registered to vote, your secret is safe with me, but really it would be better if you helped out. You’re an intelligent person reading a column about what’s on the ballot. Come off the sidelines and get in the game at, or register at any vote center or polling place right through Election Day.

Here are my recommendations on the statewide ballot propositions.

Proposition 1 — NO. The most important thing to understand about Proposition 1, which “enshrines” the right to abortion in the state constitution, is that it’s going to create a constitutional right to late-term abortion, no questions asked. It does this by overriding conflicting state laws, such as Health and Safety Code Section 123466, which says, “The state may not deny or interfere with a woman’s right to choose or obtain an abortion prior to viability of the fetus, or when the abortion is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.” Instead, Prop. 1 guarantees the “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion” without any limits on when or why. The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade did not change California law at all but Proposition 1 will, and not in a good way. It’s not needed to protect current law, and it will have unintended consequences. Vote NO on Proposition 1.

Proposition 26 — NO. This measure would legalize in-person sports wagering exclusively at tribal casinos and a handful of racetracks. It includes a particularly nasty provision aimed at harming the tribes’ competitors in the gambling space, card clubs. Prop. 26 authorizes private lawyers to file lawsuits against cardrooms for alleged violations of state gaming regulations. This sets up a potential shakedown, because it can cost more in attorney fees to fight these lawsuits than to settle them. There’s no good reason for this provision, which is designed to harass competitors. The whole initiative seems designed to eliminate all competition in a lucrative new business. Vote NO on Proposition 26.

Proposition 27 — NO. This measure would legalize online and mobile-device sports betting in California, but its provisions would allow only a few very large companies to offer it, freezing out potential competitors. Problems with this measure, in addition to the anti-competitiveness, include a creepy authorization to snoop on people’s gambling habits and report data to the attorney general of California. The proponents say some of the tax revenue from the measure will fund homelessness services. You may remember that the California Lottery was going to fund education. Vote NO on Proposition 27.

Proposition 28 — YES. This measure directs about $1 billion per year from the state’s General Fund to arts and music education in public schools. It is not a tax increase, and it does not diminish other funding for the schools. Instead, it orders the legislature to spend money on this particular priority. This will end the game of politicians crying that arts and music programs will be cut from the schools unless you agree to the next tax increase. Vote YES on Proposition 28.

Proposition 29 — NO. Rejected by voters twice before, this is once again a union’s pet project, placed on the ballot to harass the companies that operate (non-union) kidney dialysis clinics and make them spend money to defeat it. There’s no reason for this measure other than that. Vote NO on Proposition 29.

Proposition 30 — NO. This is a tax increase. It would raise the state’s top income tax rate from the highest-in-the-nation 13.3% to the even higher 15.05% on income of $2 million or more. The money would be spent on subsidies for the purchase of electric cars, on construction of charging infrastructure, and on enough wildfire fighting efforts to make it look appealing on the ballot. Here’s the problem: a small fraction of California residents pay most of the personal income tax revenue in the state’s General Fund. If enough of those people move to a lower-tax state (49 choices), there will be less tax revenue for schools, health care and other state priorities. Ride-share company Lyft is financing this campaign because state regulators ordered ride-share companies to have 90% of the miles they drive be zero-emission by 2030, and nobody wants to pay for the cars or the charging stations. We could slow down the mandates and then we don’t need the damaging tax increase. Vote NO on Proposition 30.

Proposition 31 — NO. This is a referendum on a law that banned the sale of flavored tobacco products in California. Vote yes if you want to keep the law, vote no if you want to dump it. In my view, this law would create a thriving black market that enriches criminals instead of bringing in tax revenue. Vote NO on Proposition 31.

Additionally, local ballot measures may propose tax increases, bond debt and subtle changes to the law that have big consequences later. Your voice matters. Don’t forget to vote!

Write and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley

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