ONCE AGAIN, California voters will be faced with a long list of state ballot measures, most of which will have major impacts on the state's future.
As more and more voters cast their ballots by mail well ahead of the Nov. 4 election, we are presenting a summary of the 12 propositions and recaps of our recommendations on which to support or reject.
PROPOSITION 1: Voters are asked to authorize the state to sell $9.95 billion in bonds to begin work on a high-speed passenger rail system from the Bay Area to Southern California. The final project is expected to cost more than $40 billion.
There is no well-thought-out business plan, no realistic estimate of ridership and little chance of success. In a time of huge state budget deficits and economic uncertainty, it would be highly irresponsible to begin what is likely to be a costly boondoggle. Recommendation: No.
PROPOSITION 2: Starting in 2015, this measure would ban the confinement on farms of pregnant pigs, calves raised for veal and egg-laying hens in a way that does not let them freely turn around, lie down or extend their limbs.
Not only is such confinement cruel to animals, it can be unhealthy for consumers. That is particularly true of egg-laying hens, which live in horrid and unsanitary condition on some large egg-producing operations. Recommendation: Yes.
PROPOSITION 3: This measure authorizes the state to sell $980 million in general obligation bonds to fund capital improvements at California children's hospitals. There is a great need to provide more beds, services and research facilities to help save the lives of children with life-threatening diseases.
Children's hospitals have large percentages of patients from low-income families who require intensive treatment and high ratios of staff per patient. These hospitals are costly but are highly successful in saving lives and treating the most severe illnesses. Recommendation: Yes.
PROPOSITION 4: This would amend the state constitution to require physicians to notify a parent or legal guardian of a pregnant minor at least 48 hours before performing an abortion. Waivers are possible but difficult and cumbersome to obtain.
It is easy to understand why many parents would support such a measure. However, most teens already confide with parents. Those who don't often are at risk of abuse and could decide to get a secret, perhaps dangerous abortion.
Social workers who deal with pregnant teenagers on a regular basis understand the problems they face and generally are very much opposed to mandatory parental notification. Recommendation: No.
PROPOSITION 5: This initiative statue would expand drug treatment diversion programs for criminals, shorten parole, cut sentences and reduce penalties for marijuana possession.
Many aspects of this measure make sense. But it is highly complex and could have the unintended consequence of letting criminals free to commit more crimes. It also duplicates drug program that are already working. Changes in drug offense sentencing and treatment require considerable study, which is the job of the Legislature, not voters. Recommendation: No.
PROPOSITION 6: This measure requires that the state spend at least $965 million for specified criminal justice programs, starting in 2009-10. This is an increase of $365 million, which is likely to grow to more than $500 million in few years.
This is a spending program that would continue to grow regardless of the results. It ties the hands of our lawmakers who should be the ones setting policy on how to spend limited funds, especially during a time of massive state deficits and economic troubles. Recommendation: No.
PROPOSITION 7: The goals of this measure — increasing the amount of renewable energy generation — are admirable. But it is both unrealistic and so poorly thought out that utility companies, solar panel manufacturers and environmentalists are all opposed, as are both the Republican and Democratic parties.
The state already is making progress on renewable energy. There is no need to rewrite the rules and add a new layer of bureaucracy, which this measure could do. Recommendation: No.
PROPOSITION 8: This is perhaps the most controversial measure on the ballot. It would amend the state Constitution to limit marriage to a man and woman only. It is designed to overrule the California Supreme Court ruling extending marriage rights to homosexuals.
The measure has no impact on traditional marriages, religious freedom or education of children, as opponents claim. We are strongly opposed to changing the state constitution to reduce basic rights. Recommendation: No.
PROPOSITION 9: This measure amends the state constitution and several laws to expand the rights of crime victims and the payment of restitution by criminals. It would restrict early release of inmates and change parole procedures.
Much of what Prop. 9 addresses is already law under Proposition 8, the 1982 Victims' Bill of Rights. This measure could be costly and is unnecessary. Recommendation: No.
PROPOSITION 10: This is the self-serving brainchild of Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens. It asks Californians to allow the state to sell $5 billion in bonds, more that two-thirds of which would go for rebates on vehicles with high mileage or that use alternative fuels.
The money would be spent long before the bill came due. It would be like taking out a 30-year mortgage on a car. You'd be paying long after the car was junked. Recommendation: No
PROPOSITION 11: Once again Californians are being asked to reform the way congressional and legislative district lines are drawn. This measure would take the job out of the hands of legislators and place it in a bipartisan commission.
Today, legislators often create sprawling districts with the primary purpose of protecting incumbents. The result is that few congressional or legislative districts change parties and representatives become less responsive to the public. Voters can make a positive change by passing this measure. Recommendation: Yes.
PROPOSITION 12: This is the latest Veterans' Bond Act, which would provide $900 million in home loans for veterans. Veterans pay for the principal, interest and administrative costs of the loans.
Over the past 86 years there have been 26 such bond authorizations. Not once, even during the Great Depression, have taxpayers been asked to cover any of the costs. Recommendation: Yes.