Nov. 8 could be a history-making day in the story of this nation. America could have its first woman president.

It also could be one for the California history books, as once again this state’s voters are faced with a veritable phone book of ballot initiatives.

The following is the first of two editorials outlining our recommendations to voters — we have chosen to include all 17 ballot measures, although there are a few on which we make no recommendation. 

Proposition 51 seeks bond funding authority for K-12 public schools, with the money to pay for new construction, modernization and facilities upgrades. The measure includes $2 billion for community colleges — all of which is necessary if Californians aim to support public education. The downside is that $9 billion in bonds will require a repayment of $8.6 billion in accumulated interest, spread over 35 years, a very high cost, but we don’t see many alternatives. We recommend a “yes” vote.

Proposition 52 would require a two-thirds vote by the state Legislature to amend existing hospital fees directed to Medi-Cal. It’s a complicated, confusing issue, but analysts say passage could save the state a half-billion dollars a year. We recommend a “yes” vote.

Proposition 53 requires voter approval on revenue bonds exceeding $2 billion. Analysts say the overall fiscal effects of passage are unknown, which to us is an unacceptable risk. We recommend a “no” vote.

Proposition 54 prohibits the Legislature from passing a bill unless it has been in print and published online within at least 72 hours before any vote. We strongly recommend a “yes” vote.

Proposition 55 would extend by 12 years higher personal income taxes on the state’s top brackets, with revenue going to K-12 schools, community colleges and various health-care programs. We recommend a “yes” vote.

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Proposition 56 adds a $2 sales tax on a pack of cigarettes, which to smokers may seem like piling it on. However, it is unfair to non-smokers to saddle them with the enormous social and health costs of smoking. The extra revenue will go to health programs and anti-smoking campaigns. History will eventually reveal smoking to be one of the planet’s worst plagues. We recommend a “yes” vote.

Proposition 57 passage gives judges more discretion in sentencing juveniles, and redefines parole considerations in favor of those sentenced for non-violent felonies. We recommend a “yes” vote.

Proposition 58 repeals the worst elements of Proposition 227, which limits methods of teaching English learners in public schools. Approval of Prop. 58 gives parents and educators a chance to use strategies that actually work. We recommend a “yes” vote.

Proposition 59 describes itself as a means of erasing at least some of the corrupting influence of money in our democratic process — an admirable goal, to be sure — but Prop. 59 is not the right solution, and could actually add to the problem. The measure is poorly written, with unintended consequences, one of which could actually limit free speech. We strongly recommend a “no” vote.

Proposition 60 would require condom use in California’s porn film industry. We’re not certain why this is on the statewide ballot, and we have no recommendation.

In our next editorial we will take up several of the weightier ballot measures, including the issue of California’s death penalty, legalization of marijuana for recreational use and one that perhaps doesn’t weigh much but is important nonetheless — the matter of a statewide plastic bag ban.

Meanwhile, we encourage readers to send us your thoughts on the ballot measures, and on the process in general.


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