Friday, October 29, 2010

Won't Somebody Please Think of the Other Propositions

From time to time, I ruminate on propositions that appear on ballots.  In general, my default is to vote not unless there is something compelling about the proposition.  The reason is I think propositions have fundamentally constricted the state's ability to adjust to changing economic conditions.  Too much of the state's budget expenditure is fixed by propositions that allocate funds for specific purposes, that may or may not be warranted in a given year.  That said, here we go:

Prop 19:  Yes.  I can pretty much guarantee that I will never buy pot.  But even a dollar of the state's money spent on busting people for pot possession is a dollar wasted.  Any harms that can result from smoking pot already result from smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol.  So, we save money by not bothering with enforcement and we gain revenues from taxes.  Deal.

Prop 20:  Yes.  My idea on redistricting used to be, "Hey, when Texas adopts a non-partisan redistricting commission, then California should happily follow, 'til then, T.S."  But I'd rather that California officials concentrate on improving the state's fiscal crisis.  So, "I am a flip-floppin'."

Prop 21:  No.  See, dedicated funding for parks and wildlife.  I love parks and wildlife.  I really do.  But isn't flexibility important?  What if our schools face a critical shortfall next year?  On top of that, the source of the fee is an $18 vehicle registration fee, meaning it disproportionately burdens the poor.  I'm ok with a use tax if it is directly related to the benefit, e.g., park entrance fees, parking fees at state parks, etc., but a blanket car fee?  Makes no sense.  Why does the guy in the BMW pay the same to enjoy state parks as the guy with a clunker?  It's a classic benefit provided by the state to all of her citizens, not just car owners.  And it should be funded through general income taxes. 

Prop 22:  No.  It sucks when the state raids local funds.  But again, propositions are already stifling the slightest flexibility remaining in the budget process.  The solution isn't more restrictions that eliminate the few remaining's to open up more options. 

Prpo 23:  No.  The Berkeley Center for Law, Energy, and Environment has a great whtie paper on this proposition, co-authored by prolific writer Prof. Dan Farber.

Prop 24:  No?  OK, I confess.  I approach the propositions, unless they are REALLY interesting, the same way most voters do.  I read the very short paragraph in the pamphlet and form a quick opinion.  (Not unlike how women decide if you will get lucky that night, but I digress).  I don't understand why repealing taxes on business, particularly small businesses, is a good thing.  High tech and the entertainment industry are very fickle and can easily abandon California for greener pastures.  I'd rather keep them here.  Plus, again, I'd rather have the Legislature determine fiscal budgets rather than having voters pass their judgment piecemeal. 

Prop 25:  Yes.  Only majority needed to pass a budget, but retains the 2/3 requirement to pass taxes.  Not ideal, but a good move to bringing sanity to the budget process.  My fear is that Democrats in Sacramento, following this proposition, will not give any serious consideration to elimination of wasteful or unnecessary spending.  I hope that's not the case.

Prop 26:  No.  The anti-25.  Adds fees to the 2/3 voting requirement. 

Prop 27:  No.  The anti-20.  And it really irks me that two completely contradictory propositions can be on the same ballot.  What if both pass? 

Your thoughts?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes on 20. take your pick on 19. no on everything else.

in particular, we need the 2/3rd requirement when we're heading into yet another term of Democratic legislature and Democratic governor.

10/29/2010 12:11 PM  
Blogger MRP said...

If 20 and 27 pass, the one that passes by a higher margin wins.

10/29/2010 2:50 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Wait...really? "You can't triple stamp a double stamp."

10/29/2010 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't understand why repealing taxes on business, particularly small businesses, is a good thing."

Then do some research. Merely making a snarky comment into an echo chamber does not a convincing statement make.

10/29/2010 3:25 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

The last sentence is true as a general matter, but I have absolutely zero burden to convince anyone of anything. The proponents of a proposition have 3 lines to convince to vote for something. In this case it's to vote to override a law passed validly by the California Legislature. Even if the law had the opposite effect--decreasing taxes--I'd still vote no.

And I do appreciate your kind suggestion as to what I should do. FANTASTIC idea.

10/29/2010 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Armen, can you please remove yourself from the N&B community? You are so annoying.

10/29/2010 8:35 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

When Armen leaves, the N&B forum leaves as well. So, I vote we keep the old codger around. Call it "posterity."

10/29/2010 8:49 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

You're using your privilege of posting anonymously on my blog to ask ME to stop posting? I think there's an easier solution, and it involves you.

10/29/2010 11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're just lovely Armen :)

I bet you're one of the 85% of people in Biz Ass that's never seen a balance sheet and has no clue how a business works other than your father somehow receives income from the one he works for/owns and gives it to you as an allowance.

You're in for a rude awakening my friend. Those loose ends aren't nearly as neatly tied up in the Real Word as they are in Theory World. Good luck out there trying to convince people you have the financial wherewithal to manage a small checking account, much less represent them in a matter worth a lot of $$$; it's going to be a climb.

10/29/2010 11:54 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

OK. I'll take that bet. Terms?

10/30/2010 12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Armen is doing just fine. He graduated a few years ago and has a great job. I'd say more, but I don't want to invade his privacy.

But I like the way you make unwarranted assumptions about people. Let me try: You are an asshole who feels smugly superior to other people because you have had a few experiences that they haven't. Other people don't like you because you endlessly talk about your previous job and how awesome it was.

It really annoys you that you aren't as "good" at law school as you thought you would be (and you thought you would get straight HHs). But hey, you comfort yourself at night with the knowledge that you are one of the proud few that knows that Assets = Liabilities + Shareholders Equity.

Stay proud my friend! And keep smelling your own farts.

10/30/2010 12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your depiction could not be further from reality. Frankly, it's laughable, but as you said "unwarranted assumptions," right? And I never said Armen didn't have or wouldn't get a good job, just that he smugly shows his naivete as if not knowing how economics works in the real world is a badge of honor amongst his echo chamber of friends.

If that's his outlook, he won't be holding on to that job much longer. But nice try! You're a darn good friend and a real interesting person to be in at midnight on a Friday night defending your pal Armen from mean people on the Interwebs. I just wish we could be more than internet friends. You seem like a "neat" guy...

10/30/2010 9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am amazed at today's proposition electioneering. I'd like to take Proposition 25 as an example. Here is the text of the bill as it pertains to the "majority vote" requirement (setting aside the "suspension of pay for legislators" text):

(e)(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law or of this Constitution, the budget bill and other bills providing for appropriations related to the budget bill may be passed in each house by rollcall vote entered in the journal, a majority of the membership concurring, to take effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor or upon a date specified in the legislation. Nothing in this subdivision shall affect the vote requirement for appropriations for the public schools contained in subdivision (d) of this section and in subdivision (b) of Section 8 of this article.

(2) For purposes of this section, “other bills providing for appropriations related to the budget bill” shall consist only of bills identified as related to the budget in the budget bill passed by the Legislature.

The main post posits that this bill "retains the 2/3 requirement to pass taxes." But some people do not agree. In fact, many people don't; the official voter's guide says that the Proposition "allows politicians to circumvent our Constitution’s two-thirds vote requirement for passing new or increased taxes by allowing taxes to be enacted as part of the budget with a bare majority vote." [1]

Apparently this issue was already litigated and appealed, and the 3d Appellate District found that the 2/3 requirement remains unchanged [2].

The puzzle here -- which really, on second glance, seems less puzzling and more grotesque -- is: how do people keep on yapping that the Proposition will eliminate the 2/3 requirement [3]? How can it still be in the official voter's guide? Why aren't those things fact checked at all? I know people lie about candidates all the time, but the opacity of what we're doing seems much more pernicious when we're voting up or down amendments to our constitution.

What a debacle.




10/30/2010 10:07 AM  
Blogger Andrew Fong said...

@10:07, it's sneaky, but I'd actually prefer that taxes pass by a 50% vote. I mean, almost every other state does it that way.

Politics is about making hard choices -- do you want higher taxes or cuts to services? If you don't like how your taxes are going up, then vote the bastards out of office. 2/3 requirements result in stalemates that leave voters unsure who to blame.

@11:54 / 9:54
No, you made a factually incorrect statement. You said he was in Biz Ass, as opposed to "is like XYZ person in Biz Ass." This is the first year Biz Ass has been offered (it used to Corporations I and II), so since Armen graduated a few years ago, he could not have taken Biz Ass, much less be in it now.

That might not mean much substantively, but it does show you're talking out of your ass.

10/30/2010 1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:07 here.

I'm not arguing that a simple majority requirement would be worse. I'm just arguing that people are voting on putting something into the state's constitution when they do not even know what it means, and that this is especially troubling.

Even the Wall Street Journal has it wrong (if you trust the Third Appellate District): "Proposition 25 would allow the state legislature to pass budgets and tax increases with a simple majority vote, instead of the current mandated two-thirds supermajority." [1]

The point of all of this is that even if it turns out that the WSJ, the official voter's guide, and various conservative commentators were right, and that the Third Appellate District was wrong, we will have made a constitutional change, the text of which we didn't even understand. Maybe I shouldn't be stumbling over this, because courts interpret acts of Congress contrary to some members' understandings all the time. But it strikes me as worse when the body does not meet frequently and can't easily fix its mistakes (as is the case in the initiative process).


10/30/2010 2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(I should hedge what I wrote by adding that the WSJ article was in the Opinions section.)

10/30/2010 2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"I BET you're one of the 85% of people in Biz Ass that's never seen a balance sheet and has no clue how a business works[...]." (Emphasis added).

I never said he was in Biz Ass, Andrew. Also, it was far from my main point, I was merely illustrating the general ignorance among law students and lawyers with regard to rudimentary business knowledge--something Armen was kind enough to corroborate for me in his post. You're good people, and there's no need to get in the crossfire for a three-legged horse.

What I was saying is that Armen's flippant comment (and subsequent nonsensical riposte) about not knowing anything regarding the taxation of small businesses portrayed Armen as ignorant at best, and astoundingly arrogant at worst.

If I said "I don't know anything about X," and someone said "Well, why don't you research X?" I'd think to myself, "That's a good point, maybe I should read up on that." Not, "Whatevs, that's for whiny Tea Baggers in Podunk, Montana/tree huggers in Berkeley" or "Teach me or shut up."

The fact he is a practicing attorney makes his philistine approach that much worse. I could understand if he was a sheltered law student. If I find out who Armen is, I will proactively make sure that people send their business to other attorneys who care more about honing their intellect to best serve their clients.

Some days I wonder why there is so much attrition in Big Law (in general, not specific to Armen, lest I be taken out of context). Other days I don't.

So Armen @12.11pm, go ahead and send me your card, and I'll set the odds :) Cheers.

10/30/2010 8:16 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

8:16, please: shut up.

10/30/2010 8:17 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Sounds like you can really use a hug. Or an invite to a Halloween party or something.

10/30/2010 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm confused. It sounds like Armen and 8:16 are both voting no on prop 24. What exactly is the disagreement?

10/31/2010 2:34 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

2:34, I think you're confused because 8:16 has said a lot while actually not saying anything of substance or use for anyone. Though not limited to any particular law school class, we all know the type.

10/31/2010 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Armen should take 8:16 up on his offer. I like imagining how his hypothetical conversation with in house counsel at some huge corporation would go:

counsel: Hey 8:16, I'm thinking of retaining [firm where Armen is one of 1000 attorneys]. What do you think?

8:16: Bad idea. Armen's a junior associate there, and one time he said on a blog that he's not sure repealing taxes on small businesses is always a good thing. HE'S obviously never read a balance sheet.

counsel: No shit? Thanks 8:16! Thank god you're out there closely monitoring blogs and reading balance sheets! My giant corporation owes you a debt of gratitude!

[8:16's imaginary theme song starts playing]

10/31/2010 10:01 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

I have a crush on 10:01.

10/31/2010 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick, with all due respect, this conversation neither involved you nor necessitated your presence. Please feel free to remove yourself from it at any time. If you don’t like receiving comments, then disable the commenting feature of your blog. That’s quite simple, isn’t it?

Armen, please note that my penultimate post last night was around 8pm. I don’t know when your wine-and-cheese soirees begin and end, but my Halloween plans were from 10pm-3am. I do appreciate the concern; however, there was no need to worry. When you’re not an amateur blogger or an amateur attorney, your schedule tends to be much more flexible and your friends more numerous.

By the way, Armen and Patrick, you two make a dashing and witty couple! I’d love to know where you two register so that I might send along a peace offering for your special day. I’ve always believed in you two!

Sincerely Yours,

10/31/2010 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does 8:16 actually think s/he's being funny?

10/31/2010 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think 8:16pm probably is avoiding his/her Biz Ass homework in favor of beating a dead horse.

10/31/2010 2:59 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

2:52, let's not degrade the female sex by associating 8:16 with it.

10/31/2010 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I begin to think Mark Zuckerberg has it right. Anonymity on the internet is a bad thing.

11/01/2010 8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone want to comment on the results?

Lol @ prop 25 and prop 26 (the anti-25) both passing.

11/03/2010 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

on the statewide ballot measures, the biggest winner was the one taking Congressional re-districting from the elected officials and giving it to the more neutral board. that's good news for voters.

on Prop 25, notice that at the Cal Sec of State site, they actually call it the "Simple Majority Vote to Pass Budget" initiative. i think one of the earlier commenters disagreed with the characterization.

i'm worried about what will now happen with the state's already shaky finances. with a Democratic majority and Brown as governor, let's hope that the party knows what it's doing.

11/03/2010 9:52 AM  

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