California Proposition Guide: What You Need to Know About the Ballot Initiatives

There are 11 state propositions in the November election, and Patch is helping out with our voter guide of California ballot initiatives.


With less than a week left before Election Day 2012, the amount of political mailers and robocalls voters get continue to increase.

Many fliers are about the local elections, especially for Measure M, but voters might also have gotten ads about the various state propositions.

Confused on which proposition is which? Not sure how to vote?

Every year Pete Stahl rates the positions and he's organized them this way:

  • Taxes and Budget: 30, 31, 38, 39
  • Criminal Law: 34, 35, 36
  • Commerce: 33, 37
  • Gratuitous Ballot Clutter: 40

Stahl, who's a non-partisan voter and is asked each year to present by the non-partisan League of Women Voters of Los Altos-Mountain View, analyzes each proposition and then makes a recommendation. (He also conducts a neutral presentation for the LWV-Los Altos-Mountain View that do not include his opinion on how to vote).

This Nov. 2012 Stahl plans to vote this way (if you click on each link, it'll take you to the explanation of his reasoning):

If you want to read the positions of other non-partisan groups follow this handy Proposition Voter Guide, with links, briefs and local opinion about each proposition to help you make an informed decision at the polls on Nov. 6

Nonpartisan Websites

California Choices- Includes an endorsements table featuring where non-profits, newspapers, unions and political parties stand on each proposition.

Smart Voter (League of Women Voters)

KQED Public Media 


Maplight.org - Includes in-depth campaign spending information.

EdSource - To compare how Propositions 30 and 38 differ, from an education perspective. 


Proposition 30: Temporary Taxes to Fund State Programs

Voters will face two, some say conflicting, tax measures on this year’s ballot. The first is supported by Governor Jerry Brown and is also known as the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act. The measure is intended to help close the state’s budget gap and fund schools.

The act would raise the personal income tax rate for people who make more than $250,000 a year. Individuals who make less than $250,000 a year and couples who make less than $500,000 a year will not see an increase. The ballot measure would also raise the state sales tax by a quarter cent for the next four years.

The money raised from the tax hike is expected to generate $6.6 billion for education. If voters reject it, a series of trigger cuts that will result in a nearly $5.4 billion hit to education will be enforced.

Click here for more information on Proposition 30.

Patch Articles on Proposition 30:

  • Deciphering Prop. 30 vs. 38
  • Democratic Party Picks State Ballot Measures to Support
  • California Republicans Oppose Proposed Tax Measures
  • Teachers Ride Caltrain in Favor of Prop 30 and Against Prop 32 Monday
  • Proposition 30 and 38 Explained By EdSource

Proposition 31: State Budget

This proposition would allow local governments and school districts create plans to coordinate how public services are provided. These plans include areas of public health and safety, education, social services, and economic development. Governing boards for the county, school district and city must approve the plans. The proposition would allow local governments flexibility on how state-funded programs are administered and how property taxes are transferred.

The proposition would also place restrictions on Legislature’s ability to increase or decrease state revenue and when they can pass bills.

Click here for more information on Proposition 31.

Patch Articles and Local Voices on Proposition 31

  • Democratic Party Picks State Ballot Measures to Support
  • California Republicans Oppose Proposed Tax Measure

Proposition 32: Political Contributions

This measure seeks to reform campaign finance rules in three key ways. The first would ban employee paycheck reductions for “political purposes.” The second would prevent corporations and unions from making direct contributions to state and local candidates or the committees that fund them.

The third would forbid government contractors to contribute to elected officials who were involved in the process that awarded them the contract. This would keep the contractors from contributing while that contract is under consideration or is in effect.

Click here for more information on Proposition 32.

Patch Articles on Proposition 32

  • Poll: Should Labor Unions Lose Paycheck Deductions for Political Spending?
  • County Board of Supervisors Vote to Oppose Prop. 32
  • Teachers Ride Caltrain in Favor of Prop 30 and Against Prop 32 Monday

Proposition 33: Auto Insurance Rates

Prop. 33 would change state law to allow insurance companies to set prices based on whether the driver previously carried auto insurance with any insurance company. Drivers who have not had prior, continuous coverage could be charge higher rates, while those who have had coverage could receive discounts.

Click here for more information on Proposition 33.

Patch Articles on Proposition 33

  • Insurance Industry-Backed Proposition on California Ballot

Proposition 34: Death Penalty Repeal

Prop. 34 would repeal the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. This would also affect individuals currently sentenced to death. According to the proposition, the measure would create a $100 million fund for law enforcement efforts.

Click here for more information on Proposition 34.

Patch Articles on Proposition 34

  • Voter Guide: Propositions 34 and 36

Proposition 35: Human Trafficking/Sex Offender

Proposition 35 would increase prison sentences and fines for human trafficking. A conviction for human trafficking would be require the offender to register as a sex offender.

Click here for more information on Proposition 35.

Patch Articles on Proposition 35

  • Democratic Party Picks State Ballot Measures to Support
  • California Republicans Oppose Proposed Tax Measures

Proposition 36: Three Strikes Law

This measure would change California's current "Three Strikes" law by imposing a life sentence only when the crime committed is a serious, violent crime. This could allow some offenders with two prior serious or violent felony convictions, and currently serving life sentences for nonserious, non-violent felony convictions, serve shorter prison terms. This would not affect felons with prior convictions of murder, rape, or the sexual abuse of children.

Click here for more information on Proposition 36.

Patch Articles on Proposition 36

  • Voter Guide: Propositions 34 and 36

Proposition 37: Genetically Modified Foods

Prop. 37 would require labeling alerting consumers of any raw or processed food made from genetically-modified plants and animals. Genetically engineered food cannot be marketed as "natural” under the measure, although certain foods are exempted from this measure.

Click here for more information on Proposition 37.

Patch Articles on Proposition 37

  • Prop. 37: Should Genetically Modified Foods Be Denoted in Labels?
  • Poll: Is Prop 37 a Smart Recipe for Food Consumers?

Proposition 38: Molly Munger’s Tax Proposal

This second tax rate measure would increase the state income tax rates for most Californians on a sliding scale, resulting in projected increased revenues of about $10 billion a year, according to California Choices. Revenues would go to K-12 schools and early childhood programs, as well as some of the state’s debt. If voters pass both Propositions 30 and 38, the proposition with the most votes will pass. 

Click here for more information on Proposition 38.

Patch Articles and Local Voices on Proposition 38

  • Deciphering Prop. 30 vs. 38
  • Blog: Another Pop Quiz on Proposition 38
  • Democratic Party Picks State Ballot Measures to Support
  • California Republicans Oppose Proposed Tax Measures

Proposition 39: Multi-state Business Tax

According to California Choices, Prop. 39 would throw out an existing law allowing multi-state businesses to choose a “tax liability formula that provides favorable tax treatment for businesses with property and payroll outside California.” Multi-state businesses’ California income tax liability will be determined based on the percentage of their sales in California. Increased revenue is intended to fund energy efficiency projects and clean energy jobs.

Click here for more information on Proposition 39.

Patch Articles on Proposition 39

  • Prop. 39 Seeks to Close $1B Tax Loophole for Multi-State Corporations

Proposition 40: Redistricting

Prop. 40 is a referendum on the California State Senate redistricting plan approved by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. If the proposition does not pass, the districts will be determined by officials under the California Supreme Court.

Click here for more information on Proposition 40.

Patch Local Voices on Proposition 40

  • Craig and Lou at the ballot box: Proposition 40 – Director's cut ending


—Patch editors Claudia Cruz and L.A. Chung contributed to this story

Brentwood Resident # 49 November 03, 2012 at 07:06 PM
A vote yes on 30 is a vote to fund Teachers Pensions, plain and simple, while allowing the California State Legislature to hold a threat of cutting education to get funds instead of addressing the significant budget problems the state has and acting accordingly by significantly cutting spending. California get the 5th most income per person in state taxes , and 6th most in combination of sales tax and income tax, does that sound like we have a Revenue problem? California teachers are paid the 4th highest in the country, 22% above the average, 12k per year. This had produced 500 Billion in unfunded pension benefits as well. California spends 13% less per student than the national average, seems to me that our legislatures need to address teachers salaries and pensions, all government employee pensions for that matter, to not only balance our budget but spend more on our schools, our students and not the teachers whose salaries have risen almost 30% over the past decade. Vote no on 30 to make our elected officials actually make changes in how our taxes are spent instead of always asking for more!
Eric November 03, 2012 at 07:17 PM
I'm almost entirely in agreement with Stahl's recommendations except for prop 37. Definite yes on 37. Consumers have the right to know if their food has been genetically modified. Labeling of genetically modified food is already mandatory in the European Union and more than a dozen other countries and has had very little impact on food prices. Know what you're eating. Yes on 37.
Christy Wilhelmi November 06, 2012 at 12:03 AM
I agree with Eric. Yes on 37. The ad campaign against it has been sponsored by Monsanto and companies that use GMOs in their products. That's reason enough to vote Yes on 37. It didn't cost us a dime to get nutritional information added to packaging. Neither would this.
Brian Aherne November 06, 2012 at 03:18 AM
Interesting. I am almost complete disagreement withthe recommendations. This is already about the most taxed and regulated state around, and coupled with a socialist bent governor(s) and legislative majority it is also the most mismanaged in the USA. We, in my life time, have gone from the Golden State to the Cooked Goose state. It makes me very sad If you ask why I am still here, my answer is simple: The variety of environments and the climates.
Sean McCarthy November 06, 2012 at 06:17 PM
The Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce recommends the following votes: Prop 30 - Oppose, Prop 31 - Support, Prop 32 - Support, Prop 33 - Support, Prop 34 - No Position, Prop 35 - Support, Prop 36 - No Position, Prop 37 - Oppose, Prop 38 - Oppose, Prop 39 - Oppose, Prop 40 - No Position. LA Measures: A - Oppose, B - Oppose, J - Oppose, HH - Oppose, MM - Oppose. For more information go to: http://woodlandhills.patch.com/blog_posts/woodland-hills-tarzana-chamber-of-commerce-2012-voter-guide


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