With discussions of the “red wave,” the balance of power in Congress, and setting precedents for 2024, it was easy for Californians (and Riversiders) to overlook other ballot initiatives during this year’s midterm elections. In particular, aside from the back and forth over gambling at casinos between Propositions 26 and 27 that broke spending records, many of the propositions this year were thoroughly overshadowed. At the end of the day, only three out of the seven Californians voted on were passed. But what impact will these approved measures approved by voters have on our state?
Proposition 1, which has been projected to pass with a large margin of 66.3% to 33.7% with 74% reporting amends California’s state constitution to guarantee rights to abortion. California’s constitution originally legalized abortion on the basis of a right to privacy. This protection was jeopardized following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade where the justices stated that the right to privacy was not a legitimate justification for abortion. The actualization of Proposition 1 fundamentally re-establishes abortion as a state right, removing any legal ambiguity about its legality. However, while abortion has been the main focus for voters when looking at this measure over the past few months, it is also important to note that citizens are now explicitly allowed to choose whether they want to purchase and utilize contraceptives, such as condoms and other birth control products. Proponents of Prop 1 have celebrated its passing, believing that the enshrinement of these reproductive freedoms into law are leaps towards letting people control their own futures and live their own dreams.
Despite proponents only spending $13M, significantly less than the initiatives that passed, Proposition 28 has won by a vote percentage of 63% to 37%. Its effects on California are simple. The state now has to provide additional funding for arts education that exceeds the amount currently constitutionally required for public schools (our budget currently allocates $110 billion). Notably, the amount provided annually on programs now must be 1% higher than the year before. Now, what will this funding specifically be used for? First and foremost, 80% of spending will be on staff because there can be no increase in arts education in our state without more teachers planning for and running those classes. Although not required, this proposition recommends that the remaining funding (around 20%) be used for training, supplies, materials, and for arts specific partnership programs. It is also worthy to note that funding will be distributed based on a formula that seeks to alleviate disparities in access to visual and performing arts curricula that disproportionately harms underprivileged students in our state. 28 clearly establishes that 70% would go to schools based on their share of statewide enrollment while 30% would go to schools based on their share of low-income students enrolled. Many, such as the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education, have celebrated the passing of this proposition as a win for education seeing as attendance and participation levels in schools have empirically improved following the implementation of the arts.
Proposition 31 has triumphed with 26% more votes for its passage than its failure. For reference, the current tally is 63.2% in favor to 36.8% in opposition with roughly 73% reporting.
In 2020, the Legislature and Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 793 which strove to ban stores and vending machines from selling flavored tobacco products. Prop 31 was a referendum of this legislation, and its passing means that the bill will soon go into effect. “Flavored tobacco products” are defined as all items in flavors other than that of regular tobacco, including, but not limited to: fruit, mint, vanilla, chocolate, or honey. As a means of enforcement, stores and vending machine owners will be charged $250 for each violation of the bans set forth by this measure. Now, why was SB793 proposed in the first place? Survey data across California found that a majority of smoking children were using flavored products – deemed more attractive and “stomachable” compared to standard ones. Thus, lawmakers hope that by outlawing their sale and leaving only non-flavored products on the shelves, there will be a decrease in the percentage of our youth that experience the detrimental health effects associated with the consumption of tobacco. Across the state, organizations like the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and even the California Teachers Associate have highly regarded the passing of this proposition as a win for protecting children from a lifetime of addiction and substance abuse.
We can celebrate the victories of this year’s midterms now they are over, but it’s also important and saddening to note that turnout in 2022 dropped to pre-2020 levels with only about 48.2% of Californians participating in the election. Adding flame to the fire, measures like Prop 28 which obviously benefited the livelihoods of constituents in our states only received votes for or against from a little over a third of our state’s citizens. Remember, it’s critical to pay attention to and vote for everything on the ballot – EVEN the propositions that aren’t getting as much noise as the senator or governor race because they still impact you immensely as a Californian.