By Quinci LeGardye, California Black Media  

2020 is a big election year. With all eyes on the presidential race, Californians can’t afford to lose sight of our state and local elections. These decisions need the same amount of consideration being given to the big race. They are the ones with the most — and the most immediate — effects on you and your family’s safety, quality of life and finances.  

This year, California as a whole is reckoning with some big changes. The 12 qualified propositions on the ballot cover many issues, including tax codes, voting rights, workers’ rights and affirmative action. The results of these ballot measures will affect every life in California in some shape or form, and it’s important that voters understand them and make informed decisions on how to vote. 

Prop 14 – Authorizes Bonds Continuing Stem Cell Research. Initiative Statute. 

Prop 14 considers bonds for stem-cell and other medical research.  

If passed, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine will issue $5.5 billion in state bonds to fund stem cell and other medical research, with $1.5 billion going to research and therapy for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, epilepsy and other brain and central nervous system diseases. Money would come from the state General Fund. 

Proponents of Prop 14 argue that the funding will help accelerate development of treatment and cures for many diseases, including cancer and infectious diseases like COVID-19.  

Opponents of the measure say that the state can’t afford the debt from borrowing the $5.5 billion, which would reach $8 billion with interest added. They also point out that the majority of the money from the first stem-cell research measure, Proposition 71 from 2004, went to infrastructure, education, and training, producing few medical breakthroughs. 

Prop 15 – Increases Funding for Public Schools, Community Colleges, and Local Government Services by Changing Tax Assessment of Commercial and Industrial Property. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. 

Prop 15 ask voters to weigh in on the biggest change to the state’s property tax code in four decades, since 1978’s Proposition 13. Prop 13 placed a 1 % cap on the amount of tax that can be charged on commercial properties in the state.  

If passed, commercial and industrial property will be taxed based on current market value instead of the purchase price. It would replace the current rule, where property taxes can’t rise more than two percent unless there’s new construction or ownership, with tax reassessments of commercial and industrial properties at least every three years.   

The new tax revenue this generates, an estimated $6.5 to 11.5 billion, will fund K-12 public schools, community colleges and local governments. The measure would exempt residential properties and owners of commercial properties with a combined value of $3 million or less, and exempt small businesses from personal property tax. 

Proponents of Prop 15 argue that the initiative would close corporate tax loopholes and force wealthy corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. They also argue that money is needed for schools and local communities struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Opponents of Prop 15 argue that wealthy corporations and landlords will probably pass the buck to tenants and small businesses, and that any tax raise would ultimately raise the cost of living in the state. 

Prop 16 – Allows Diversity as a Factor in Public Employment, Education, and Contracting Decisions. Legislative Constitutional Amendment. 

Prop 16, if passed, would remove California’s ban on affirmative action, which was put in place with Prop 209 in 1996. Repealing the ban on affirmative action would allow state agencies and institutions, including colleges and universities, to consider race, ethnicity and gender for employment, admissions and contracting decisions. 

Proponents of Prop 16 argue that it would create targeted opportunities for Black and Latino communities and help to correct centuries of economic exclusion and institutional racism. They also argue that the measure is a way to address the racial wealth gap in California, a state where White Californians make up 60% of high earners though they’re only 37% of the state population.  

Opponents of Prop 16 argue that the change would make race more important than merit in college admissions and employment processes, a form of reverse discrimination.