Props to Know in CA: Yes on 15, No on 16!

If you live in California and have been overwhelmed by all the mailings from vaguely legitimate groups about the upcoming propositions on Tuesday's ballot, here are a couple you should know about and share with your friends and lists.

YES on Proposition 15, for Clean Elections.

This proposition does two significant things: It starts a pilot program wherein candidates for Secretary of State for California in 2014 and 2018 will have the option of accepting public funds for their race instead of seeking donations. Contrary to what many of these mailers have been repeating, these funds are not from taxpayers. Where does the money come from? Lobbyists. The current state fees for lobbyists to register to be able to collect money to affect elected officials is cheaper than it is to apply to college. This prop will make California lobbyists registration fees closer to (but still not as much as) the cost of auto registration in California.

The other significant thing this proposition does is repeal a ban on public funded elections that was inserted into California law years ago. Many incumbents, regardless of party, will want to stay in power and continue accepting large cash from the concerns that have business matters being decided by the State Assembly, so why mess up the status quo of quid pro quo? Outgoing Governor Schwarzenegger saw fit to include this on the ballot after years of this proposal being ignored in Sacramento, and it may well be the only improvement he brings to the gridlock in state politics, the sworn enemy which managed to devour his time in office.

NO on Proposition 16, the Gift to Pacific Gas & Electric

This proposition requires a 2/3 approval of the ENTIRE STATE OF CALIFORNIA to force Pacific Gas & Electric to allow any competition in the marketplace, or expand services to new territories, as opposed to elected government officials being sufficient authority. California is in its celebrated state of dysfunction because of old laws on the books that require two thirds of the state to agree on anything to make it law. The budget crisis in California lingers on because over 60% of the California Assembly has to placate the minority opposition on everything. Why stop there, Pacific Gas & Electric? Why not require 99% voter approval to make you lower your rates to be more affordable, and require an in-person headcount with your utility bill in hand to make the vote legit?

Let's look at this line of reasoning another way, when huge energy concerns get to preemptively use the elections for legal cover: say some negligent utility concern did something unbelievably careless and destructive, like killed some workers and began leaking tens of millions of gallons of crude oil onto our coastline. While this crisis is still unfolding, we could have our elected officials ride rough shod on these tycoons who prefer to downplay disaster daily, OR, we could set a future date to go to the polls and send out mailers to everyone in the state of California meant to confuse them into voting to let the oil keep gushing into the water. Sarah Palin might even swing through and let everyone know how the anti-drilling environmentalists obviously caused such an oil spill, and with her comes news cameras and angry people who will protest anything if they get to wear a tri-corner hat. And then our local crisis has become a talking point for cable news trying to play the eternal horse game of who is ahead, Democrats or Republicans, not that either side will do much different, anyway.

Pacific Gas & Electric has spent over $46 million to get you to vote for their monopoly in our elections. The Prop 16 opposition, which does not get money from every single resident in the state, has spent closer to $300,000.

When just anyone can get a proposition on the ballot, you will get the corporate shills eager to impress their employers, who would have had us celebrating Enron Day. Likewise, when the one shot in a long time comes around to take the 'Pay to Play' out of elections and make candidates have to listen to the voters, not their donors, you can expect the same corporate free for all in misleading election mailings.