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Yes or no? California's ballot propositions can be confusing, so we put together a primer to help you decide 


Every election cycle brings a new slew of state propositions—some of the most confusing yet consequential items on Californians' ballots. We know how hard it is to sift through the stacks of mailers, editorials, and slanted advertising that's pushed out for or against each measure, so ahead of the Nov. 8 election, New Times put together this no-nonsense primer on each one. Happy voting!

Proposition 1: Reproductive freedom protections

After the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Constitution did not protect abortion access and overturned Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, the California state Legislature passed an amendment to solidify reproductive rights in the state's Constitution, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.

The state's Constitution currently guarantees everyone the right to privacy, but does not detail the right to make reproductive choices, the analysis added.

Proposition 1 would change the Constitution to specifically say that California cannot deny or interfere with a person's reproductive freedom to choose whether or not to have an abortion or to use contraceptives, according to previous reporting. Because it's a constitutional amendment, it requires a two-thirds majority in both the state Senate and Assembly, and voter approval. If approved, it can only be overturned through a similar process.

"Could California have done this [earlier]? Perhaps, but I think California was still working in line with the law that was in place at the federal level for decades," state Sen. Monique Limón said in a previous interview. "Passing Proposition 1 will allow Californians to continue with the rights we've seen in the state."

Proposition 26: In-person gambling on tribal lands

This is one of two gambling bills on the ballot that has sparked serious back-and-forth and more than $400 million invested in campaigning, according to previous reporting.

Proposition 26 changes the state Constitution to allow on-site sports betting, racetrack operations, roulette tables, and dice games on federally recognized tribal lands, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office. However, the proposition bans betting on high school and college sports games, and it allows people to file a lawsuit in state courts if any regulations are violated.

All tribes operating a racetrack would be required to pay the state 10 percent of sports bets made each day—after subtracting winning payments—through a new California Sports Wagering Fund, according to the analysis. Percentages for other games will be decided through state agreements with each tribe—which will later be used toward K-12 spending and community colleges each year, as well as supporting regulation costs.

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash, along with several other tribes, is pushing for Proposition 26 because it would support more than 125,000 jobs and revenue for tribal governments along with a $20 billion statewide economic impact and a $3.5 billion tax impact, Chumash Chairman Kenneth Kahn said in a previous interview.

"All of that stays in the state, and that's important to us because that provides jobs in our communities," Khan said. "Tribes use that money for education, general welfare, and health care."

Proposition 27: Online and mobile gambling outside tribal lands

On the other side of the gambling argument, Proposition 27 would allow people over 21 (and off tribal lands) to place online bets for events like football games, award shows, or video competitions, but bans betting on high school games and elections, the Legislative Analyst's Office stated.

click to enlarge DROP IT LIKE IT’S HOT Before you drop off your ballot, you’ll need to figure out how to vote on seven state propositions. - COVER PHOTO BY CAMILLIA LANHAM
  • Cover Photo By Camillia Lanham
  • DROP IT LIKE IT’S HOT Before you drop off your ballot, you’ll need to figure out how to vote on seven state propositions.

Tribes and larger online gambling companies that want to offer online gambling would need to apply for a five-year license with California, and they'd be required to pay 10 percent of sports bets made each month to the state, the analysis added.

The payments would create a new California Online Sports Betting Trust Fund where 85 percent would be funneled to gambling addiction programs and to a grant program for local entities addressing homelessness in their communities.

The remaining 15 percent would go toward tribes that are not involved with online sports betting, and can be used for tribal government, health, or economic development, the Legislative Analyst's Office said.

Supporters—including DraftKings, FanDuel, Sportsbook, and BetMGM—have donated more than $169.2 million as of Sept. 24, according to Ballotpedia, and are saying that this bill would grant hundreds of millions in homelessness solutions and mental health support.

Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming, and the Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming are leading opposition campaigns—with funding close to $214.6 million. These organizations believe this measure will hurt tribal communities, according to Ballotpedia.

Proposition 28: Funding arts and music education

A former Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent spearheaded this measure that, if passed, would require the state to dedicate about $1 billion per year to arts and music education.

Currently, California does not have a guaranteed funding source for arts and music education in K-12 schools. During lean economic years, those subjects are often the first to see cuts.

Proposition 28 would force the state to allocate an amount of funds equal to 1 percent of the overall state education budget to arts and music—with specific directives to hire more teachers and send more funding to disadvantaged school districts.

The measure's supporters include arts organizations, teachers' unions, and the California Democratic Party. It faces no organized opposition. Locally, it's also endorsed by Chris Ungar, a San Luis Coastal Unified School District board trustee, who called the boost for arts and music "critical."

"As Austin Beutner, former LA Unified Schools superintendent and the force behind the proposition, says, 'Math has rules. Grammar has rules. Art is unbounded,'" Ungar said by email. "'And if you think about preparing students for critical thinking, art isn't just the sprinkles on an ice cream sundae. It's an essential piece.'"

Proposition 29: Third time's a charm for dialysis reform?

Proposition 29 is the third attempt by dialysis union workers to put an agenda of reforms in front of voters, after floating similar, unsuccessful ballot measures in 2018 and 2020.

This cycle's measure would place several requirements on the roughly 650 dialysis clinics across the state. It would mandate them to have a licensed physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant with at least six months of kidney care experience on-site during dialysis procedures.

It would also require clinics to divulge the names of any physician with more than a 5 percent ownership interest in the clinic; not discriminate against patients based on their source of payment; report infection data to the state; and obtain permission before closing or reducing hours.

Supporters—including the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, the California Labor Federation, and the California Democratic Party—argue that dialysis companies make huge profits yet are not investing enough in patient care and safety.

Opponents—including the clinic owners, the American Nurses Association, the California Medical Association, the California Republican Party, and most major newspapers—counter that some of what's in the proposition is already happening at clinics, and its other provisions could force clinics to close, which would reduce patients' access to dialysis statewide.

Proposition 30: Taxing millionaires for climate action

It's not every day you see Gov. Gavin Newsom side with the Republican Party, but that's the case with Proposition 30, a proposed tax on millionaires aimed at funding a variety of climate action initiatives.

Proposition 30 imposes a 1.75 percent tax on personal income above $2 million, which would raise between $3.5 billion and $5 billion annually to fund subsidies for electric cars, charging infrastructure, and wildfire response and prevention. About 80 percent of the tax money would go to rebates for electric cars or charging stations.

While Proposition 30 is supported by the California Democratic Party and various unions and climate organizations, it's opposed by Gov. Newsom, who's at odds with its largest donor: Lyft. Newsom accuses Lyft of a "cynical scheme" to saddle taxpayers with the cost of building out electric car infrastructure that the state is requiring of ride-booking companies over the next decade, according to CalMatters.

Newsom and other opponents argue that the state is already investing billions of dollars in electric cars and wildfire prevention. But supporters say the measure provides a reliable stream of funding to bolster climate action across the state.

Proposition 31: Uphold state's flavored tobacco ban

Proposition 31 is an attempt to overturn a recently passed state law that banned the sale of most flavored tobacco products.

State lawmakers adopted the ban in 2020 to protect teens from tobacco and nicotine abuse. It targets flavored products that proponents say are designed for and marketed to youth, including pods for vape pens, tank-based systems, menthol cigarettes, and chewing tobacco.

But before the law could take effect, the tobacco industry funded and spearheaded a ballot referendum to put the issue to voters. Voting "yes" upholds the law while voting "no" overturns it.

Supporters of the measure say the law is critical to curbing rampant underage tobacco and nicotine abuse. SLO County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein urged a "yes" vote in a recent op-ed she penned and sent to local media.

Excessive nicotine use and addiction, Borenstein explained, harms young users by "affecting brain development and impacting attention, mood, and impulse control."

"Despite the tobacco industry being forced to admit the addictive power of nicotine, the industry continues to focus strategies on attracting younger users," Borenstein said. "No other commercial industry has been so persistent in the drive to profit from enticing new, younger people to become addicted."

Opponents of the proposition argue that the law simply bans the sale of an adult product to adult consumers, and that the state will miss out on the roughly $100 million in taxes that flavored tobacco generates. Δ

Contact Sun Staff Writer Taylor O'Connor at [email protected] and New Times Assistant Editor Peter Johnson [email protected].

Readers Poll

Do you think the SLO County Board of Supervisors should have gone against their policy that states funding for independent special districts should not result in a net fiscal loss to the county?

  • A. Yes, the housing and job opportunity the Dana Reserve is bringing is important
  • B. No, it's giving special privileges to the Nipomo Community Services District
  • C. I trust them, they know what's best for the county
  • D. What's going on?

View Results


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