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  • Writer's pictureMario A. Guerra

California ballot propositions 2020: How I'm voting

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

September 25, 2020

It’s here. Election time in California is unlike any others. While many are discussing the presidential and national elections, we have some contentious local elections that will have consequences for Californians for many years. Especially under our unique proposition system.

From allowing for gig workers to be independent contractors to making radical changes to Prop 13, from stricter rent control (again) to allowing 17-year-olds to vote. From bringing back affirmative action to allowing parolees to vote. There is a lot going on in this election.

Ironically, 10 of the 12 propositions are repeats from recent elections. We voters have chimed in before (defeating them), including some we voted against as recently as 2018. But the sponsors and supporters are hoping we changed our minds or forgot why we voted against them.

Some propositions were placed on the ballot by the Legislature and some by self interest groups. There are a lot of misleading TV ads from those measures that have the most money and funded groups behind them, so it is vital that we Californians inform ourselves.

This wouldn’t be a California election without at least a few wildly contentious ballot measures about housing and property taxes (and their accompanying exaggerated or deceiving ads). Seeing misleading ads, knowing that a particular proposition is the opposite of what they are portraying, is also frustrating, so it is vital that we educate ourselves.

One television commercial that is particularly deceiving shows families being thrown out of their homes. The actual ballot proposition does nothing to keep folks in their homes but it makes for a good, deceptive ad. This is why we need to be vigilant and informed.

California, the home of three-strikes sentencing, has also spent the last decade rethinking its approach to criminal justice. Two measures (Prop 21 and 25) on the November ballot, channeling the spirit of the ‘90s, are pushing to reverse that reversal.

Hopefully these recaps are helpful. I tried to stay as neutral and factual as I can without showing bias (some comments will). You can also go to my social media to find out how I will be voting in more detail. My facebook is Mario A Guerra and my Instagram and twitter accounts are @deaconmario.

Prop. 14: Borrowing for Stem Cell

What it would do: Borrow $5.5 billion to fund more stem cell research

In 2004, voters passed Proposition 71 to create the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The institute exists to channel state money toward stem cell research. Prop 71 also let the state borrow $3 billion to do that.

That pot of cash is now almost empty. During these times when with finite resources using $260 million per year (payment of this new bond) of public funds for the next 30 years seems out of reach. This ballot was sponsored by the Chairman of the Research institute who gets the money.

It is important to note that federal limits on spending for stem cell research no longer exists. This was the reason California voters were asked to fund this in the first place.

We can’t afford this at this time – I am voting NO on Prop 14

Prop. 15: Split roll – Amends Prop 13

What it would do: Taxes commercial property based on its current market value, rather than the price at which it was purchased. This would raise property taxes on many businesses and property owners across the state. It would create the largest tax increase in the history of the State.

In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13, placing a cap on property taxes, kicking off a nationwide anti-tax revolt. Prop 15 is the political battle many have expecting for decades.

If this measure passes, those landowners would have to make tax payments based on the current value of their properties — a tax hike — resulting in an estimated $7to $11.5 billion tax hike. Their fear would be that this large tax hike would have to be passed down to tenants, consumers and would affect everyone in the state. At a time when we need a strong economic recovery this tax increase is counterproductive to achieving that.

It is a misguided effort to raise billions in new taxes. I am voting NO on Prop 15

Prop. 16: Repealing Prop 209 and Affirmative Action

What it would do: A yes vote would make it legal to allow public schools, public employers and public contracting and public agencies to take race, and gender and other immutable characteristics into account when making admission, hiring or contracting decisions.

In 1996 California voters passed Proposition 209, a constitutional amendment banning affirmative action at state institutions. Race and gender based discrimination is currently prohibited in California. While this ballot measure is only nine words long it would simply repeal Proposition 209.

In an era of equality discussion, this constitutional amendment put on the ballot by the legislature last month seems to go against the will of what protesters are asking for. Since Prop 209, our public colleges have increasingly reflected the diversity of the state. I was reminded the other day that this proposition seeks to sacrifice the principal of equality in the name of justice.

It seems unfair and unjust to bring legalized discrimination, based on race or ethnicity against anybody, back into California. I am voting NO on Prop 16.

Prop. 17: Parolee Voting Rights

What it would do: Allows Californians who are currently on parole to vote.

In 1974, California voters passed a ballot measure (a constitutional amendment) giving people who have committed felonies the right to vote once they complete their sentences and are no longer on parole.

The California Constitution allows someone on probation to vote, while not allowing voting for a parolee until the time of parole has been completed. This proposal, placed on the ballot by the legislature, would remove that restriction and allow a person on parole to vote before finishing their sentence. I am voting NO on Prop 17

Prop. 18: Letting eligible 17-year-olds vote (some of the time)

What it would do: Allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary and special election as long as they will turn 18 by the subsequent general election.

Legislators have tried to do this six times before; this is the first to make the ballot. They are asking for another Constitutional amendment. I am voting NO on Prop 18

Prop. 19: Property Tax Transfers

What it would do: Allow homeowners who are over 55, disabled or victims of natural disaster to take a portion of their property tax base with them when they sell their home and buy a new one. It would also limit or delete the ability of new homeowners who inherit properties to keep their parents’ or grandparents’ lower property tax payments. The details matter and are very important.

We’ve seen this one before — half of it, anyway. In 2018, the California Association of Realtors had a proposition allowing older or disabled homeowners to keep a portion of their Prop. 13 tax break. The Realtors argued that the current property tax rules disincentivize longtime homeowners from moving, “trapping” empty-nesters in houses that are too big for them and locking out new families. But because the measure would cost schools, counties and cities, it was opposed by organized labor and local government groups — and was defeated by 20 points. The Realtors tried again this year, but with a new twist to try to gain our vote.

Unfortunately, under this proposal, anyone who inherits a home from their parents would only be allowed to keep the lower property taxes if they use the home as their primary residence. It takes away the inheritance pass through of grandchildren and as a family second home. This is a huge tax increase to families that want to keep their parent’s homes but will not be able to keep the property because they have to pay for the tax increase.

Opponents say Prop 19 will result in less money for schools and other public entities funded by property taxes in California. This new proposition has a sweetener made by the realtors though that says funds go to fight fires. The similar bill (without the fire fighting aspect) that failed in 2018 was also backed by the home-selling industry. I am voting NO on Prop 19

Prop. 20: Stiffer Criminal Sentencing

What it would do: Allow prosecutors to charge repeat or organized petty theft as a felony, require probation officers to seek tougher penalties for those who violate the term of their parole three times, and exclude those who have been convicted of domestic violence and certain nonviolent crimes from early parole consideration. Some of these crimes are credit card theft rings, organized theft, and stealing firearms.

In 2011, California legislators reduced punishments for parole violators. In 2014, voters passed Proposition 47, recategorizing some non-violent crimes as misdemeanors. In 2016, voters passed Proposition 57, giving inmates convicted of certain non-violent offenses a shot at early release.

This ballot measure would partially undo each of those. I am voting YES on Prop 20

Prop. 21: Rent Control

What it would do: Allow cities to introduce new rent control laws, or expand existing ones.

Despite a 20-percentage point loss, and 56-out-of-58 county defeat in 2018, a statewide rent control measure is back on the ballot.

Yes, we do have rent control statewide now. It has been implemented and signed into law. Current California law restricts rent increases to 5% plus inflation, one of the strictest statewide caps on rent hikes in the country.

But it was not enough for the supporters of this proposition. Under Prop 21, cities would be allowed to apply new rent control ordinances only to homes that are at least 15 years old. And it exempts single-family homes owned by landlords with no more than two properties.

State lawmakers — by passing a law last year that set on how much landlords can raise rents each year — had hoped to ward off another attempt by this self-interest group. They had no such luck.

There is a lot of money behind this proposition but generally, with current rent control statewide now in effect this proposition is anti-housing and anti-building just when we need both more than ever. I am voting NO on Prop 21

Prop. 22: Self-Employment Act for Ride-Hail and Other App-Drivers

What it would do: Turn “app-based” drivers into independent contractors, exempting companies such as Lyft and Uber from having to have their drivers classified as employees. It would also guarantee these drivers an earnings floor, a stipend to purchase health insurance and other minimum benefits.

As many know, the most controversial law of the 2019 legislative session was Assembly Bill 5. On its face, the law simply codified a state Supreme Court ruling, making it much harder for companies to treat their workers as independent contractors, rather than full-fledged employees. In practice, it upended the business models of Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Postmates and Instacart, all of which rely on an army of phone-toting gig-workers to provide their various services.

There are currently over 100 exemptions to AB 5. It’s a bad sign when so many exemptions have to be written into a law. AB 5 takes away the ability to act as your own boss and contract with whomever you’d like without the restrictions made by an employer. AB 5 should be completely repealed but for now this proposition helps so many keep their source of income. This measure also imposes some worker benefits and protections. I am voting YES on Prop 22

Prop. 23: Dialysis Clinic Requirements

What it would do: Require dialysis clinics to have at least one physician on site at all times and to report patient infection data to California health officials.

After unsuccessful efforts to unionize clinic staff, the union sponsored legislation to cap reimbursement rates to clinics and floated an array of possible ballot measures to boost their staff spending and cut their profits. In 2018, the union finally got one on the ballot Prop 8, which would have set a cap on clinic profit margins.

The measure was soundly defeated, but only after large amounts of spending on both sides. It was the most expensive ballot campaign ever. This one isn’t likely to be much cheaper. I am voting NO on Prop 23

Prop. 24: Stronger consumer privacy laws

What it would do: Expands California’s already strongest-in-the-nation consumer privacy law and establish a California Privacy Protection Agency.

In 2018, California lawmakers passed the California Consumer Privacy Act , giving consumers the right to find out what data companies are collecting about them, to opt out of having it collected and to have that data scrubbed. It was — and remains — the only law like it in the country.

Along with setting up a state agency tasked with enforcing state privacy law, this measure would beef up financial penalties for violators and allow consumers to demand that personal information not be shared at all, rather than simply not sold.

Supporters say Prop 24 adds extra teeth to privacy laws enacted in 2018. Opponents say Prop 24 does not go far enough and would serve as a giveaway to the biggest social media companies. I will be voting NO on Prop 24.

Prop. 25: Ditch or keep cash bail

What it would do: Asks voters to either approve or strike down a state law that banished money bail from the state criminal justice system.

Voters will vote either “yes” to keep the state law and end cash bail for good, making California the first state to do so, or “no” to keep the bail system. I will be voting NO on Prop 25.

I hope this helped you to be informed and educated about our propositions. I debated about listing my votes as I really wanted to inform versus promote. But several people have asked me from my past election articles to write this and wanted me to give my opinions. Informed choices are the best voters and play such an important role in the decisions that impact us all.

Please research candidates as well, from city council, school board and water districts to Congress and president. Our votes are important and those we elect will have an impact on the way we live and govern.

Mario A. Guerra is the former Mayor of Downey and can be reached at or via email at


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