Voters Have Plenty of Choices to Ponder

The upcoming midterm elections are shaping up to be historical. And shape-shifting.

Which makes the voter turnout extremely important. 

According to the Ad Council website, if 50 percent of voters vote in the upcoming midterm election, it would be the highest midterm turnout in a century. And millennials will make up the largest voting bloc for the first time. 

Nationally, 435 Congressional seats and 35 senate seats are up for election. More than 50 percent of the United States population is female, yet only 20 percent of Congress is female. 

In California, Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John H. Cox are in a contentious battle to replace Jerry Brown as governor. Newsom still enjoys a comfortable lead in the polls. Other critical races involve lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, controller, state senators, and state assembly candidates.

Southland voters will also have 11 propositions to approve or defeat. (Originally there were 12, but Proposition 9, an initiative to split California into three states, was removed from the ballot by the state Supreme Court on July 18.)

The most contested of these propositions are Proposition 6, which would repeal the gasoline tax (after Jan. 1, 2017) and eliminate certain road repair and transportation funding; Proposition 8, which would further regulate the amounts outpatient kidney dialysis clinics charge for dialysis treatment; and Proposition 10, which would expand local government’s authority to enact rent control on residential property.

Here is a closer look at these three propositions:

Proposition 6

A “yes” vote on this initiative amends the state constitution to require the Legislature to get voter approval for any new or increased taxes or fees on the sale, storage, use, or consumption of gas or diesel fuel, or on the privilege to operate a vehicle on public highways. It would also repeal the 2017 provisions that pay for repairs and improvements to local roads, state highways and public transportation.

Those in favor argue that Californians already pay about 95.5 cents to the government on every gallon of gas, much more than many other states; that the state currently has a $16 billion budget surplus; and that 72 percent of all state motor vehicle-related taxes and fees collected are used for programs other than roads, bridges and highways.

Those against Proposition 6 argue that it does not include any provision to reduce gasoline prices; that the passing of Proposition 69 prevents state politicians from raiding the transportation funds; and that passage of Proposition 6 would eliminate $5 billion annually in existing funding and jeopardize more than 6,500 transportation projects currently underway, which could lead to the elimination of an estimated 68,000 jobs annually.

Proposition 8

There has been a highly visible television ad campaign on this proposition, which (beginning in 2019) would require clinics each year to calculate the amount by which their revenues exceed a specified cap, and pay rebates  to payers — excluding Medicare and other government payers — in the amount that revenues exceed said cap.   The initiative would also prohibit clinics from refusing to treat patients based on the source of payment for the care.

Most dialysis patients receive said treatment in clinics. There are an estimated 588 licensed clinics in California run by various entities. But two private for-profit companies, DaVita, Inc., and Fresenius Medical Care, own 72 percent of the licensed clinics.

Revenue caps would be equal to 115 percent of specified “direct patient care services cost” and “health care quality improvement costs.”

The impact of Proposition 8’s passage would depend on how allowable costs are defined. And it’s uncertain how clinics would respond; by increasing or reducing certain costs, seeking adjustments to the newly determined venue cap, scale back operations, or close down.

Proponents claim that passage would stop clinics from overcharging patients, and help lower health costs for everyone.

Opponents claim that approving the proposition would spur closures of clinics and put vulnerable patients at risk, as well as increase health costs for all.

Proposition 10

This may be the most controversial proposition — and the least understood.

 

The initiative states that passage would repeal current state law restricting “the scope” of rent control policies that cities and local jurisdictions could impose, and allow policies that could limit the rental rates residential property owners may charge for new tenants, new construction and single-family homes.

Several cities — including Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose — do limit how much landlords can increase rents for housing from one year to the next. The courts have ruled that rent control laws must allow landlords to receive “a fair rate of return.”

About one-fifth of Californians live in cities that have rent control laws. Those laws are limited in three ways by the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act: that rent control cannot apply to any single-family home, can never be applied to any newly built housing completed on or after Feb. 1, 1995, and landlords cannot be told what they can charge a new renter when first moving in.

Those in favor claim Proposition 10 would free local communities to decide what rent control protections (if any) should be in place, and could positively impact the large homeless population by making renting more affordable.

Those against claim Proposition 10 would instead worsen the housing crisis by giving entities like rental boards the power to add fees on top of rent and that many on fixed incomes could be forced out of apartments because landlords could turn them into condos or short-term vacation rentals.

Other ballot propositions include state bonds for housing assistance programs, construction bonds for hospitals providing children’s health care, allowing the state Legislature to make Daylight Savings Time year around instead of from March to November, and require private sector Emergency Ambulances to remain on-call during work breaks.

The decisions are up to you. So go out and vote.

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