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 18 – Amends California Constitution to Permit 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primary and Special Elections If They Will Turn 18 by the Next General Election and Be Otherwise Eligible to Vote. Legislative Constitutional Amendment. 

Prop 18 concerns the minimum voting age. If passed, young people who are 17-years-olds at the time of a primary or special election will be able to vote if they will turn 18 by the following general election and are otherwise eligible. This would allow these young adults to exercise their vote across a full election cycle. 

Proponents of Prop 18 argue that 17-year-olds can make informed decisions about voting and should be allowed to participate in the full election cycle. They also argue that young people should have a say in issues that directly affect them, and that the change will inspire young people to get more engaged in politics.  

Opponents of the measure say that 17-year-olds are still legal minors and can be unduly influenced by parents and teachers. 

Prop 19 – Changes Certain Property Tax Rules. Legislative Constitutional Amendment. 

Prop 19 regards property tax code changes for older Californians and natural disaster victims. If passed, the proposition would give homeowners who are over 55, disabled, or victims of wildfires and other natural disasters a tax break, allowing them to transfer their primary home’s low property tax base to their new home when they move, up to three times.  

It would also change the inheritance tax break to require heirs to use the inherited home as their primary residence within a year, or else the property tax will be reassessed to market value. If passed, local governments and schools could gain tens of millions of dollars in new property tax revenue per year, and the initiative would also establish a fund for fire protection. 

Proponents argue that Prop 19 will provide tax relief for seniors who are stuck in houses that they can’t maintain or are too far from family or medical care. They also argue that narrowing the inheritance tax break would generate more revenue for local governments and schools, since people who use inherited property as rental units or second homes would be forced to pay more taxes. 

Opponents argue that the initiative would increase inequality by allowing homeowners to take the tax break, their initial home’s low property tax base, with them for up to three properties, instead of the current limit of one move. They say it would put people who are struggling to buy a home at a disadvantage, giving more purchasing power to existing homeowners. 

Prop 20 – Restricts Parole for Certain Offenses Currently Considered to Be Non-Violent. Authorizes Felony Sentences for Certain Offenses Currently Treated Only as Misdemeanors.  Initiative Statute. 

Prop 20, if passed, would change procedures and standards for the state Board of Parole Hearings and community probation programs, and expand the list of offenses that disqualify an inmate from parole. It would change several theft-related crimes from misdemeanors to felonies and create two new crimes, serial theft and organized retail theft. It would also expand DNA testing to require samples from some people convicted of theft and domestic violence. 

Those who support Prop 20 argue that previous prison reforms, specifically propositions 47 in 2014 and 57 in 2016, led to an increase in crime by repeat offenders, and tougher parole standards are needed.  

Opponents of Prop 20 argue that the measure is a prison spending scheme that will increase spending for prisons, money that should go to programs like schools, rehabilitation, mental health and homelessness. 

Prop 21 – Expands Local Governments’ Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property. Initiative Statute. 

Prop 21 is the latest rent control proposition. If passed, it would amend state law to allow local governments to establish rent control for residential properties over 15 years old. Local rent-control limits can differ from the statewide limit, but local governments would be required to allow landlords to increase rents by 15 % after three years. Also, people who own no more than two housing units with separate titles, such as single-family homes and duplexes, are exempt from rent control. Currently, 64% of African Americans in California are renters. 

Those in favor of Prop 21 argue that putting a cap on California’s sky-high rents is a strategic move that will assist renters to stay in their homes and help prevent homelessness. Half of renter households in the state are overburdened and spend more than 30 % of their incomes on rent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  

Opponents, primarily developers, landlords and business owners, argue that rent control would discourage construction and take affordable units off the market.