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Primary Vote 2012: A Closer Look At Props And Measures: Primary Vote 2012: A Closer Look At Props And Measures

With Mitt Romney officially earning the Republican nomination in last week’s Texas primary and Barack Obama’s presence on every pre-convention ballot a mere formality, very little appears to be at stake, at least from a national perspective, for Californians and Santa Monicans as they hit the polls on Tuesday.

Of course, there are a few state level races that are sure to capture the attention of local voters, such as the 50th Assembly race.

In alphabetical order, the 50th Assembly candidates are: Richard Bloom, Betsy Butler, Torie Osborn, and Brad Torgan (Click here to read more about the four candidates).

Beyond the federal, state, and county races, there are also several issues presented on the June 5 primary ballot, including a pair of propositions proposing term limits and a $1 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes. Also on the ballot are measures calling for the continuation of taxes on hotel guests and landfills, respectively.

On the state level, Proposition 28 seeks to limit total service as a state legislator to 12 years, down from the current 14-year limit. Meanwhile, Proposition 29 proposes an additional tax on cigarettes of $1 per pack in hopes to raise funds for cancer research.

Voters in Santa Monica and across Los Angeles County will be voting on Measure H, which, if passed, would retain the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) at 12 percent and “applies to temporary occupants of hotels, motels, and other places of lodging within the unincorporated County of Los Angeles.” Unincorporated areas within the county include communities such as Castaic, East Los Angeles, and Rowland Heights.

Santa Monica will also join county voters in determining the fate of Measure L, which would maintain a 21-year tax of 10 percent on landfill operators located in unincorporated areas.

To help Santa Monica voters better grasp these four initiatives, below is an overview of each of the measures.

Proposition 28: Limits on Legislators’ Terms in Office

If passed, Proposition 28 would limit the amount of total time a state legislator may serve in Sacramento to 12 years. The term limit applies to both houses of legislation. Once an elected official has served 12 years in Sacramento, they may no longer seek a state-level Assembly or Senate seat.

The term limitation would only apply to candidates elected to the state legislator after the June 5 primary should voters approved Proposition 28.

Currently, state legislators have a 14-year term limitation. Within that limitation, a state legislator may serve up to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate.

The new 12-year term limit would allow a legislator to combine service in either house. Accordingly, a legislator may serve eight years in the Assembly and four years in the Senate, or any combination thereof so long as the total length of service does not exceed 12 years.

According to a statement issued on smartvoter.org: “An individual could be elected to serve in one house of the Legislature and then be elected to the other house, but his or her total service in the Legislature would be limited to no more than 12 years.”

Those in favor of Proposition 28 argue the revised term limitations demands accountability. Under the current system, Proposition 28 supporters point out that state legislators may actually serve up to 17 years because of a loophole that counts terms served instead of years.

“Prop. 28 reduces the lifetime limit to 12 years and closes that ‘17-year loophole’ by imposing a strict limit based on the number of years served in the Legislature, not on the number of terms. After 12 years in the Legislature … a politician is prohibited from running for the Legislature,” a joint statement by California Common Sense, the League of Women Voters in California, and the Congress of California Seniors said.

Opponents state Proposition 28 is a scam.

“Proposition 28 is designed to trick voters into thinking it strengthens terms limits when it does the exact opposite. Prop. 28 actually weakens term limits for state legislators and dramatically lengthens the amount of time politicians can stay in office,” a coalition of U.S. Term Limits, Parents In Charge Foundation, and National Tax Limitation Committee said in a joint statement, adding the new law, if passed, would double the amount of time one may serve in the Assembly and increase by 50 percent time served in the State Senate.

Proposition 29: Additional Tax on Cigarettes for Cancer Research

Perhaps the most controversial ballot measure is Proposition 29. If passed, the new law would impose a five-cent tax on each cigarette distributed – or $1 per pack – “to fund cancer research and other specified purposes.”

According to the proposition, the cigarette tax would raise as much as $735 million annually in revenues by the 2013-2014 fiscal year but diminish slightly each year thereafter. Another $50 million in annual revenue is forecast via the tax on other tobacco products, with a net increase of $10 million to $20 million annually in state and local sales tax revenues.

Revenues would be “be deposited into a special fund to finance research and research facilities focused on detecting, preventing, treating, and curing cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and other tobacco-related diseases, and to finance prevention programs.”

A nine-member committee would be created to administer the fund.

Should voters approve Proposition 29, the state excise tax on a pack of cigarettes would $1.87. If the proposition were defeated, the excise tax would remain at 87 cents per pack.

Supporters of the new tax, including the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association in California, and the American Heart Association (Western States Affiliates), argue that Proposition 29 only affects cigarette smokers and gives doctors and scientists a new revenue stream to research cancer and other deadly diseases. They also claim politicians would not have access to the funds.

“Prop. 29 keeps funding decisions in the hands of an independent panel of California’s leading research organizations (and) trusted public health advocates,” supporters said in a joint statement. “Prop. 29 sets aside funds to prevent cigarette smuggling (and) requires audits to ensure all funds are spent properly.”

Opponents, however, claim if the proposition becomes law, a new layer of bureaucracy would be added and a new government spending would be created. Further, opponents contend there is no accountability within and the nine-member commission “doesn’t require grant money to produce results” nor does the measure provide for new funding sources to treat cancer patients.

“Cancer research is important, but if we’re going to spend $735 million a year, we need to have strict controls and make sure our tax dollars are spent in California,” Marcy Zwelling, former president of the Los Angeles County Medical Association, stated.

Measure H: LA County Hotel Occupancy Tax Continuation Measure

If approved, the 12 percent tax on lodging venues within the unincorporated portions of Los Angeles County would remain in effect. The tax rate has resulted in an additional $2.1 million annually to the county general fund since it was increased from the 10 percent assessment in 1991. The tax rate would revert back to 10 percent if the proposition were not approved.

Exempt from the tax rate are emergency shelters, individuals traveling on government business, and those staying in a hotel or motel for more than 30 days.

“The hotel tax is charged to tourists, out-of-town businesspeople, and other visitors staying in unincorporated areas of the County,” a statement issued on smartvoter.org said. “Revenue from the TOT supports important County services such as parks, libraries, senior and emergency services; unless the current rate is approved, services dependent on the revenue will have to be cut.”

Measure L: LA County Landfill Tax Continuation Measure

If approved, Measure L would retain a 10 percent tax that has been in effect since 1991 and imposed upon “operators of landfills in unincorporated areas of the county … based on gross receipts received for the disposal of waste in a landfill facility.”

Voting against the measure means the landfill tax “would no longer be imposed and general fund revenues would be reduced.”

According to smartvoter.org: “The landfill tax adds about $12 million annually to the county general fund. It supports countywide general fund services, such as parks, libraries, senior services, and law enforcement.”

“Measure L is not a new tax; it maintains an existing tax at the existing rate. It ensures that County residents will continue to enjoy high-quality park, library, senior and emergency services at no cost to local taxpayers,” supporters stated.

Among those in support of Measure L were Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, County CEO William Fujioka, County Fire Chief Daryl Osby, and County Librarian Margaret Donnellan Todd.

There were no oppositions filed against Measures H or L.

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