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Propositions on June ballot draw mixed reviews

The Union Democrat has already endorsed Proposition 14, which calls for open primary elections. The paper has also urged a no vote on the PG&E-backed Proposition 16, which would require a two-thirds’ vote before any local government can enter the power business or expand its existing service.

With ballots due in the mail shortly, here are The Union Democrat’s recommendation on the remaining three June 8 measures:

    Proposition 13: Although it bears the number of the most famous proposition ever passed by California voters (1978’s property tax limit), the 2010 version is nowhere near as controversial.
    In fact, our contentious, often gridlocked Legislature voted unanimously to put 13 on the ballot.
    The measure augments incentives already given to those retrofitting their homes and businesses for earthquake safety. Under 13, present law exempting earthquake upgrades from property tax reassessment would be extended to older, unreinforced masonry buildings that are in the greatest need of retrofitting.
    The proposition not only makes sense and shows compassion, but could save entire neighborhoods. It deserves a yes vote.
    Proposition 15:  This measure wades into the murky waters of election financing, then gets stuck in the sand.
    With one gubernatorial candidate, Meg Whitman, reportedly ready to spend tens of millions of her personal fortune to be elected, the issue is certainly timely. But 15 both goes too far and not far enough.
    For starters, it lifts California’s 22-year-old ban on public election financing. This could open the door to a few experiments in cities, counties and legislative districts, where campaign costs have not reached astronomic levels.
    Next, however, Proposition 15 proposes its own pilot project for public funding: the statewide elections for secretary of state in 2014 and 2018. Proposed is a “Fair Elections Fund” for candidates swearing off private financing. It would be financed by a $350-a-year hike in lobbyist registration fees and by $1 optional contributions by those checking a tax-return box.
    Each major party secretary of state candidate who first collects 7,500 signatures and $5 contributions from each would qualify for up to $11.5 million for the primary and general elections.
    But some races, such as governor, will cost a lot more.
    Also, there are eight statewide offices and 120 legislative posts. Given the sheer number of candidates, a state that’s $20 billion in the hole and has no apparent strategy for extending public financing beyond one office, Proposition 15 is flawed. It deserves a no vote.
    Proposition 17: When a single company is the driving force behind a ballot initiative, eyebrows should shoot up. This measure is no exception.
    The 17 campaign is almost entirely funded by the Mercury Insurance Group, which by early this month has paid out more than $7 million. The proposition would allow insurance companies to give customers “persistency discounts” for a maintaining continuous coverage — even if that coverage has been with different firms.
    But according to the state ballot summary, Proposition 17 may also allow companies to increase premiums for those who do not qualify for the discount. And any lapse in coverage due to missed premium payments, the summary continues, would disqualify customers from the discount.
    Simply put, those that need insurance most and can least afford it would suffer. About 20 percent of drivers, proponents admit, could be hit with a surcharge.
    The Union Democrat joins every major newspaper in California in urging a no vote on Proposition 17.

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