The Union Democrat recommends the following votes on propositions and measures on the June 5 ballot.
Proposition 28 - Yes
Prop 28, a state constitutional amendment, fixes the state's distorted, two-decade-old term limit system, cutting state lawmakers' terms to 12 years in both houses of the legislature combined.
It smartly discourages "career politicians," while also addressing an unintended consequence of the state's 20-year-old reforms - that is, dumbing down the Assembly and actually encouraging politicians to aspire to higher office while learning their current jobs.
State law now allows lawmakers to serve a maximum of three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-terms in the Senate - a total of 14 years. Coupled with the freedom to serve out partial vacancies, not counted toward the term limit, lawmakers can spend up to 17 years in the legislature.
The current system inadvertently created a quick turnover in the Assembly, forcing politicians in the lower house to jockey for Senate positions just as they settle into their Assembly seats.
Dan Schnur, former chairman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission, a supporter of the earlier reforms, says the simple 12-year cap would do a better job than the current law of restoring "citizen legislators" to the Senate and Assembly and discouraging the development of "career politicians," as term limits are intended to do.
Opponents say Prop 28 could actually lengthen legislators' terms by doubling the years a lawmaker could serve in the Assembly.
Prop. 28 is supported by the California League of Women Voters, the Congress of California Seniors and California Common Cause. Every major newspaper in the state with the exception of the Orange County Register supports Prop. 28.
It's opposed by several conservative think tanks, including People's Advocate Inc., founded by Prop. 13 co-architect Paul Gann and the California chapter of Americans for Prosperity, which helped lead Republicans to victory in the 2010 congressional election.
Proposition 29 - No
Prop 29 more than doubles the state excise tax on packs of cigarettes.
Proponents, including bicycling cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, say the $1 increase will go to pay for cancer research. What's not to like?
Well, once again, the state is relying on a regressive tax to pay for programs. To boot, only a share of the tax revenues will go to cancer research, the rest going to maintain a governor-appointed oversight board and toward law enforcement expenses intended to curb smuggling and tax evasion, both of which seem more likely as the cost of cigarettes rise.
Opponents include the California Republican Party, the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register.
Measure C - Yes
The Union Democrat strongly supports Measure C.
If passed, it will broaden the reach of the county's existing hotel-motel tax (TOT) to include RV parks, houseboats and privately-run campgrounds. It is a tax on visitors and tourists who come to our county - not a tax on local residents.
The revenues generated will go toward supporting Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and the Mother Lode Fairgrounds. There is indeed a nexus between the tax and the beneficiaries - Railtown and fairground activities draws tourists to the county, as well as serving local residents. The failure of Measure C puts in jeopardy Railtown and the fairgrounds' very existence. Both have lost state funding needed for on-going operations.
These two institutions are essential to a thriving tourism market and an important part of our heritage. We strongly recommend a yes vote for Measure C.
Measure D - Cast a vote that best serves your community
It's tempting, but may be irresponsible, to urge a 'no' vote on Measure D.
Our recommendation: Groveland area residents must dig deep to determine how to vote on this issue. Do what's best for your family and your community.
On one hand, supporters and fire department staffers say it's needed to maintain firefighting and emergency services at the current levels, which may be true.
Proponents also argue it is really similar to a tax extension - the $107 (improved property) or $53 (unimproved property) annual tax assessment replaces an $84 expiring tax - and the $400,000 it would provide is a third of the department budget.
Measure D foes correctly point out that the department has done little to control costs.
Sadly, the Groveland Community Services District, which oversees the department, has done little to earn the public's trust in its ability to perform its functions well - or provide transparency. It's also unclear whether parks will get back $100,0000 that has been diverted to the fire department annually.
We urge our readers to participate in the political process. Cast your vote on June 5 and strike a blow for democracy!