From criminal sentencing reform to regulating health insurance rates — and maybe even a water bond measure — Napa County voters will face a series of ballot measures and initiatives when they open their ballots for the November election.
The California Secretary of State’s Office has qualified six ballot measures for the election this fall, although the Legislature has flexibility to add others later if it can drum up enough votes to do so. The cutoff date was last week.
The Legislature continued to wrangle through negotiations on the water bond measure, with lawmakers hoping to replace an $11 billion bond measure that’s currently on the ballot with a cheaper alternative they consider more palatable to voters.
A $10.5 billion package was rejected in the Senate, and Gov. Jerry Brown pitched a smaller, $6 billion option in response. On Thursday, state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, agreed to cut $3 billion from her measure, Senate Bill 848, considered one of the most likely to replace the $11 billion package.
The levels of funding have been moving targets in the various iterations of the bond measure, but one sticking point has been the amount of money earmarked for water storage projects. Wolk balked at including the $3 billion included in the $11 billion measure before relenting and adding it.
But Brown wanted a $2 billion amount, and Wolk and other leaders in the Senate such as outgoing Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, agreed to that cut, she said in a news release Thursday. Other areas were trimmed back on a proportional scale, except if they dealt with groundwater or recycled water.
- Wolk said the bill, also supported by the incoming President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, would likely come with a $7.5 billion price tag.
- It doesn’t include funding for a proposed twin tunnels project to carry water around the San Francisco Bay Delta, a plan favored by Brown but opposed by Wolk and others because it would divert flow from the Sacramento River north of the delta and send it farther south.
- “This revised version of SB 848 responds to the governor’s desire for a smaller bond while remaining a comprehensive approach to the state’s critical water needs,” Wolk said. “The Senate bond continues to help communities enhance their water supply and prepare for drought. It funds storage projects at the same level proposed by the governor. And, critically, it continues to be tunnel neutral.”
- If the $11 billion bond measure isn’t replaced or removed by the Legislature, it would appear on ballots as Proposition 43. Other ballot measures that qualified, according to the Secretary of State’s Office, include:
- Proposition 44: A measure sent to voters by state lawmakers that would amend the California Constitution to create a rainy-day fund requested by Brown and supported by legislators of both parties. If approved, it take 1.5 percent of the state’s main operating fund revenue and put it into a savings account, with half going into reserves and the other half going to fund debt payments or covering long-term unfunded liabilities such as pension costs for public employees.
- Proposition 45: An initiative sent to voters asks them to require the state’s insurance commissioner to sign off on health insurance rates before they take effect. The measure, if passed, would have public notification before rates changed, as well as review by judges, but large group health plans offered through employers would be exempt, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Policy eligibility or rates could not be set or determined based on lack of coverage or a poor credit history.
- Proposition 46: This measure also qualified based on the initiative process, and would raise the $250,000 cap in damages plaintiffs can seek for pain and suffering through medical malpractice lawsuits. It would also require alcohol and drug testing for doctors, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
- Proposition 47: Another initiative that would reduce some property and drug-possession crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, unless the defendants had prior convictions for serious crimes such as rape, child molestation or murder.
- Proposition 48: A referendum asking voters to overturn two tribal gaming compacts passed by the Legislature and signed by Brown. The compacts are with the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the Wiyot Tribe, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.