A deep dive into California’s 2020 Propositions

Story by Katie Hohman, Georgia Parsons, Adam Kwoh, & Matthew Tsai
Staff Writers, Copy Editor, & Print Managing Editor

Graphics by Charlotte Cohen
Staff Illustrator

Photo by Alicia Alderete

Californians will vote on many propositions on Election Day 2020 that could shape the future of the state for generations. Tiger examines four propositions with the potential to significantly impact students.

Proposition 15: Commercial Property Taxes

Proposition 15 would increase taxes on large businesses by enforcing payments on current market values rather than original purchase price. Farm land, residential properties, and any businesses valued under $3 million would remain unaffected.

California would dole out billions of dollars in tax revenue to communities, with local governments and public agencies receiving 60 percent of funds and the rest divided among schools. Prop. 15 would raise an estimated $1.86 million and $2.79 million for South Pasadena and SPUSD, respectively.

Led by the California Teachers Association and the Democratic Party, supporters argue that the proposition would generate necessary funds for cities and schools struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Prop. 15 would allow us to curtail these incredibly difficult, damaging losses and provide immeasurable support and stability to our school district,” English teacher Rama Kadri said. “Prop. 15 is a fundamental piece of legislation that will offer the financial support we so desperately need in SPUSD and across the state of California.”

However, some assert that the pandemic is the main reason to oppose Prop. 15. California is currently in an economic recession and critics believe that major tax increases could prove to be catastrophic. Large corporations might increase housing costs, indirectly jeopardizing renters and small businesses.

“Since there is no rent control in South Pasadena, local housing is inaccessible for a lot of people,” senior Jayden Eden said. “Any type of raised rent could practically decimate a lot of current tenants’ living situations.”

Proposition 16: Reinstating Affirmative Action

Affirmative action was used to fight institutional inequality in the 1960s until it was officially outlawed in California in 1996. Proposition 16 would reverse the 1996 ban on affirmative action, allowing schools and public agencies to take race and other demographics such as gender into account for admission and hiring decisions.

Supporters argue that the proposition is needed to counteract the years of discrimination against women and minorities. Black and Latinx admission rates at UC campuses have fallen a significant 26 percent since the 1996 ban, according to a 2020 University of Washington study. As displayed in the 2019 college admissions scandal, wealthy white Californians still have much control over the college admissions process through application as a legacy student or athlete. This proposition would presumably level the playing field, allowing women and people of color equal opportunity in the admissions process.

“There has always been a discrepancy between men and women in top colleges. White men have always had the upper hand in college admissions, and we are still working towards closing that gap. Recognizing and acknowledging differences to start helping each other out is how you begin creating equal chances and opportunities for all,” junior Samantha Molina said.

Opponents of the proposition suggest that it would indirectly harm minorities by placing them in an environment they are not adequately prepared for. A 2012 Duke University study showed a significant drop in affirmative action student’s grade point averages between freshman and senior year.

The future of Prop. 16 is relatively uncertain as indicated in various polls, and its impact on the college admissions process will not be known until implemented.

Proposition 18: Primary Voting at 17

Young people have recently been advocating for a national constitutional amendment lowering the voting age to 16. While no such amendment has been passed, some states have enacted more moderate policies to make civic participation more accessible to youth. Proposition 18, a California constitutional amendment, would allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the general election to vote in primaries.

During primary elections, California residents can pick any voter nominated candidate on the ballot, and the top two vote-getters will move onto the general election. However, for certain positions, like the District Attorney, if someone garners over 50 percent of primary votes, they automatically win the election.

With so much at stake in the primaries, supporters argue that young people who can vote in the general election should be able to voice their opinion earlier that year.

“With information more accessible than ever, teens are inclined to make informed choices… and fully engage in the election process,” senior Mollie Parker said.

Opponents believe that, since 17-year-olds are minors, they are strongly influenced by their parents. This could prevent them from expressing their own voice and opinions, but increased high school voter education is a potential solution.

“I think Prop 18 is a great idea,” AP Government teacher Maryann Nielsen said. “The one caveat is that 18 to 24-year-olds have the lowest voter turnout rate of any age group, so… voter education needs to go along with the expansion of voting rights to truly make an impact!”

Proposition 24: Greater Consumer Privacy

Proposition 24 aims to curtail tech companies’ profits from selling consumer data by allowing Internet users to limit how much sensitive information, like religion or race, they share and also restricting how long businesses can hold onto those demographics.

The proposition will patch holes in the 2018 California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which was a response to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal where users’ personal data was harvested for political advertising purposes. Critics of the CCPA have noted its lack of enforcement policies, and have thus supported Prop. 24 for its creation of a state agency to regulate privacy laws.

However, some groups are also criticizing Prop. 24 for its potential to harm lower-income consumers. Real estate developer Alastair MacTaggart spearheaded the ballot measure, but compromised with tech companies along the way so businesses can legally charge more to consumers who opt out of giving personal information.

“The [idea] that you have to pay for being safe online is ridiculous,” freshman Twyla Metcalfe said. “I think that these companies sell the idea of privacy but one mistake online can lead to a lifetime of consequences.”

Teenagers are heavily involved in online activities, which leads some students to believe that privacy is impossible to accomplish in today’s society.

“I don’t really believe that online privacy is all that attainable in this virtual day and age, so I would hesitate more [to pay for privacy],” senior Kayla Nielsen said. “This also brings up issues of privacy being a right of all people. Why should we have to pay for something that should be our inherent right?”

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