Ballot Measures Mostly Do No Harm

Every two years California voters face a mixed bag of ballot measures, many often hostile to business and economic development. This year was no different, and while some measures remain too close for a final call, voters seem to have done their best to minimize any harm to the economy.

While the fate of Proposition 15, the split roll property tax increase, is still not final, the good news is that ‘no’ votes continue to outnumber ‘yes’ votes.  CalChamber strongly opposed Proposition 15 as the largest tax increase in California history.  During the campaign, CalChamber pointed out that Prop. 15 would certainly result in higher costs for consumers and hurt small businesses in the state.

A significant win was passage of Proposition 22.  CalChamber supported the measure which ensures workers who provide app-based service remain classified as independent contractors, not employees of the technology companies that create the apps.  CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg applauded voter approval of the initiative saying, “Prop. 22 was a big win for California workers who want the independence, flexibility, and income opportunities provided by working for themselves.  Especially in these uncertain times, we should be focused on providing workers with all options to support their families.  The take-away for the Legislature is that freelance work is integral to California’s innovation economy and should be celebrated, not discouraged.”

The fate of two other measures opposed by CalChamber includes voter rejection of Propositions 21 (statewide rent controls) and Proposition 23 (overregulation of dialysis clinics).  Both of these initiatives were placed on the ballot by single special interests for the second straight election.

Two additional measures must await the results of a complete ballot count: Proposition 14, which authorizes $5.5 billion in bonds for stem cell research, is nursing a small lead, as is Proposition 19, which allows certain homeowners to carry their Prop 13 property tax basis to newly purchased homes in other counties.

A measure to allow public agencies to consider race or gender as factors in hiring or public programs was rejected by voters. Proposition 16, which was supported by CalChamber, would have repealed a measure adopted in 1996 that banned the use of gender, race or ethnicity in determining eligibility for any public education programs, hiring or contracting decisions.

Reversing a trend from an earlier generation, voters indicated a less punitive approach to criminals, supporting Proposition 17, which restores voting rights to parolees, and rejecting Proposition 20, which would have increased penalties for certain property and personal crimes. CalChamber supported Prop 20.

The results of several measures can be interpreted as voters’ efforts to moderate the Legislature, including the passage of Proposition 22, which reverses one of the main objectives of AB 5, the 2018 bill that redefined and restricted independent contractor classifications. While voters still mostly elected Democratic candidates, many of whom supported the initiatives targeting business, their votes on these initiatives demonstrate voters remain committed to protecting jobs and the economy.

Loren Kaye, President, California Foundation for Commerce and Education