The statements below are not endorsements; however, each proposition has more complex provisions than can be listed here. For complete information, view the state voter guide online: www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov/propositions/ or www.smartvoter.org.
Proposition 19: Legalization of marijuana
Proposition 19 would allow adults age 21 or older to have, share and use up to 1 ounce of marijuana in a nonpublic place. The plant could be grown on private property in an area no larger than 25 square feet. Selling marijuana and consuming it in front of minors would both be prohibited.
The measure would allow state and local governments to authorize, regulate and tax various marijuana-related commercial activities. Whether or not local governments engaged in this regulation, the state could, on a statewide basis, regulate the commercial production of marijuana.
Proposition 19 would require that licensed marijuana establishments pay federal, state, and local taxes and fees imposed on other, similar businesses. This would raise revenue for government and would offset any costs associated with marijuana regulation. Despite the changes to state law, however, marijuana-related activities would continue to be prohibited under federal law, which could still be enforced by federal agencies.
The fiscal effects of the measure could vary, largely depending on the extent to which the federal government enforced federal marijuana laws and whether the state and local governments chose to authorize, regulate and tax various marijuana-related activities. Passage of the proposition could save tens of millions of dollars in annual costs to state and local governments to jail and supervise certain marijuana offenders. State and local government tax and fee revenues would increase, potentially in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
**Taxing marijuana would generate billions in revenue and saves taxpayer money.
**Potentially, legalizing the drug could weaken drug cartels.
**Passing the measure could cause multiple clashes with federal law and the strong likelihood of confusing and conflicting municipal laws.
Proposition 20: Changes to redistricting
Every 10 years, based on federal census data, legislative and other political district boundaries must be re-drawn. Before Proposition 11 passed in 2008, the power to draw boundaries was with California elected officials. The passage of Proposition 11 created the Citizens Redistricting Commission, a panel of 14 people (five Republicans, five Democrats and four citizens registered with no political party) to draw boundaries for Senate, Assembly and State Board of Equalization districts based on the geographic integrity of an area, without discriminating against one political party.
However, Proposition 11 did not change how the boundaries for 53 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for the state are drawn, leaving the possibility of gerrymandered congressional districts. Proposition 20 would move the restricting final say from the state House of Representatives to the Citizens Redistricting Commission.
**The commission would reduce gerrymandered districts by creating logical boundaries based on geography and community areas.
**Boundary changes would require three yes votes each from Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters on the 14-person commission.
**The commission is not accountable in the same way as elected officials.
Proposition 21: State parks vehicle license tax
An $18 annual surcharge would be added to the amount paid when a person registers a motor vehicle. Money from the tax would build a fund to pay for state parks and wildlife conservation programs. In turn, vehicles belonging to people who paid the tax would have free admission and parking at all state parks. The proposition exempts commercial vehicles, trailers and trailer coaches from the surcharge.
About $200 million of the $500 million generated by the tax would replace funding from the state’s general fund. Also, about $50 million from gate fees would be lost due to free entry to the park. Therefore, funding would increase by about $250 million to state parks (85 percent) and conservation programs (15 percent).
**For Californians who use state parks, entry would be free. Most parks charge $5 to $15 per vehicle, per visit.
**State parks would have a stable funding source, and about $150 million will be removed from the state budget roll.
**Drivers would pay $18 more for every vehicle they registered.
**Opponents have called the tax a Band-Aid for the state budget.
Proposition 22: State borrowing Under the measure, the state could not shift, take, borrow, or restrict the use of local government tax revenues dedicated by law to fund local services, community redevelopment projects, or transportation projects and services.
Proposition 22 would also prohibit state government from borrowing or taking gas taxes and vehicle license fees, as well as property taxes, including those used by redevelopment agencies.
These fees are intended for local government funds. But when facing multibillion dollar deficits, the state has frequently tapped the money to cover holes in other programs.
The measure would also reduce the state’s authority to borrow or redistribute fuel tax money or to use fuel taxes to pay for transportation bonds.
If the measure passes, state general fund spending would likely increase, probably in the range of $1 billion to several billions of dollars annually. If passed, there could be comparable increases in funding for transportation and local redevelopment.
**State politicians would be unable to take local government funds.
**The state could no longer take gas taxes that voters have dedicated to transportation for other purposes.
**Public schools would stand to lose billions of dollars if the state cannot redirect property tax revenue to education.
**The proposition would take money firefighters use to fight fires and natural disasters while protecting redevelopment agencies.
Proposition 23: Greenhouse gas emissions
This measure suspends state law requirements that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020. Those requirements would remain suspended until California's unemployment dropped to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters.
Greenhouse gases warm the Earth’s temperature by trapping heat from the sun within the atmosphere, according to the California Air Resources Board. California is the second-largest emitter of these gases in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world, which is why greenhouse gas reduction programs and requirements to decrease the state’s dependency on fossil fuels and save energy were enacted in 2006.
If passed, the measure would shelve a comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program that increases renewable energy and cleaner fuel requirements, as well as mandatory emissions reporting and fee requirements for major emissions sources, such as power plants and oil refineries.
The suspension of greenhouse gas regulations would likely lead to a modest net increase in overall economic activity, which could result in a significant net increase in state and local revenues. The measure could lower costs to businesses and avoid energy price increases that otherwise would largely be passed on to energy consumers.
But if passed, the measure could have negative impacts on the state economy. For example, the suspension could delay investments in clean techniques that would result in cost savings to businesses and consumers. Investment in research and development and job creation in the energy efficiency and clean energy sectors might also be discouraged by this proposition.
Suspending the requirements could slow air-quality improvements that would have public health benefits, such as reduced respiratory illnesses, which would decrease worker productivity and increase costs to health care.
**The measure would prevent energy tax increases while preserving California's clean air and water laws.
**Passage could threaten public health, increase dependence on oil and kill competition from job-creating wind and solar companies.
Proposition 24: Business tax liability changes
This measure repeals legislation adopted in late 2008 and early 2009 that would allow businesses to lower their tax liability.
Proposition 24 would change these provisions of California's laws for taxing businesses that were changed recently as part of state budget agreements. Under existing law, all of these recent changes that would give businesses new tax breaks will be in effect by mid-2011. The California Teachers Association, which organized the measure, asserts that those tax breaks would mean a $1.3 billion hit to the general fund and should be repealed.
If the measure were enacted, the state would see increased general fund revenues, because businesses wouldn’t receive certain tax breaks and credits. Part of Proposition 24’s revenue increases would go to schools and community colleges.
Proponents believe Proposition 24 would close loopholes that would benefit only a handful of the state’s most prosperous businesses, while opponents argue the measure is an attempt to raise taxes for businesses and could cost jobs. They argue the revenue is not guaranteed to go to any classroom or vital program.
If the measure were passed, businesses would be less able to deduct losses in one year against income in other years, a multistate business would have its California income determined by a new calculation and a business would not be able to share tax credits with related businesses.
**The measure would stop more than a billion dollars in new special tax breaks for wealthy, multistate corporations that get tax loopholes without creating new jobs while small businesses get virtually no benefit.
**The measure could hurt small businesses, tax job creation and send jobs out of California.
Proposition 25: Changes to state budget voting
If it passed, Proposition 25 would change the legislative vote requirement to pass the state budget from two-thirds to a simple majority. It also states that if the legislature failed to pass a budget by June 15, members of the legislature would forfeit their salary until the day they passed a budget bill. Since 1980, the legislature has agreed on a budget by June 15 only five times.
The proposition would not lower the two-thirds threshold to raise taxes.
**The legislature likely would be able to pass a budget by the June 15 deadline each year, which would let public agencies, including school districts, know how much money to expect each year in a timely fashion.
**Potentially, the party with the most elected officials in office could pass a budget without agreement or input from any members of the other party. The effect could be increased partisan politics.
n It’s unpredictable, according to analysts, exactly what the change would mean for the state’s budget priorities. That would depend on the party in power.
Proposition 26: Expanded tax definition
Passage would change the classification of some fees to taxes, such as fees on restaurants to pay for health inspections and fees on beverage containers to pay for recycling.
Under existing law, taxes are anything that raises revenue. Fees, however, pay for specific programs, services or the environmental impact of certain activities.
The proposition would make it so that most fees would require a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of the state legislature, the same percentage needed for the passage of a new tax, even if the law’s fiscal effect would not increase state revenue.
Any law not conforming to the proposition would be repealed after a year.
**For taxpayers, passage could mean fewer fees in the future, because it would become more difficult to pass a fee, which proponents of the measure call simply another tax.
**In the long term, analysts predict less revenue for the state and for local government, resulting in less spending by government.
**Fees are used to pay for programs such as recycling, hazardous materials disposal and public education in some cities. The proposition would make these fees harder to pass and could result in fewer public programs.
**The proposition is heavily financed by the alcohol industry and polluters that likely want to avoid additional fees.
Proposition 27: Redistricting consolidation
Proposition 20 and 27 go head to head in the November election. (See Proposition 20 explanation above.) Proposition 27 would eliminate the Citizens Redistricting Commission that was created by voters in 2008 and turn over all redistricting to the state legislature. If both propositions passed, the measure with the higher pass rate would go into effect.
**The change would reduce the state budget by $1 million this year and an estimated several million dollars once every 10 years, beginning in 2020.
**Voters would have the authority to reject district boundary maps approved by the legislature.
**If passed, the proposition would leave redistricting in the hands of the legislature, likely resulting in gerrymandered districts that would allow for politically motivated boundaries.
Michelle Camerlingo and Peter Burke contributed to this report.