California 2018 Propositions 10-12 : Are They Really About Rent Control, Lunch Breaks and Cage-Free Eggs?

by on October 4, 2018 · 3 comments

in California

In the conclusion to this series on statewide propositions, we’ll look at two measures that aren’t what they seem to be and one that is what it seems to be, even though opponents claim otherwise.

Prop 10 asks voters to repeal the law prohibiting communities from regulating what landlords can charge residential tenants. Prop 11 asks voters to legalize a questionable labor policy. And Prop 12 ups the ante on the treatment of animals raised for human consumption.

If you’re wondering about Prop 9–aka the billionaire scheme to split California into three parts–you won’t find it.

The “Three States Initiative” was removed from the ballot by California Supreme Court” because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity and because we conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election.”

Alas, venture capitalist and cryptocurrency investor Tim Draper has declared he’ll no longer be interested in this form of political tinkering by 2020.

One quick note: some of the details/wording in this article is borrowed from a ’first look’ column I posted in late August; I’ve had the opportunity to do some more study and am sharing my findings.

Prop 10: Repeal Costa-Hawkings Rental Housing Act

Expands Local Governments’ Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property

Credit: Nick rose – rent control 5 / Flickr

What do outnumbered reactionaries do when localized grassroots movements push for things they don’t want?

They get the next higher step of government to squash those aspirations.

This has happened with proposals to increase the minimum wage. Twenty-five states have passed laws preempting cities from passing their own local minimum wage laws.

Thanks to the politician-buying power of the National Rifle Association, more than 40 states have passed broad firearm preemption laws specifically prohibiting local governments from adopting reasonable gun laws tailored to local conditions.

Ordinances limiting the use of pesticides, taxing sugary drinks, and mandating paid sick leave have all been overridden by state legislatures. ALEC, the billionaire-funded corporate bill mill, likely has a collection of fill-in-the-blank preemptive laws available for donation-challenged legislators in a hurry to overrule local control.

After the rent reductions/supposedly trickling down after 1978’s Proposition 13 failed to appear in California, tenant groups across the state intensified organizing for municipal rent control ordinances. The real estate industry fought back.

Following several years of failed attempts, the Costa-Hawkings Rental Housing Act was enacted in 1995. It prevented local governments from imposing rent control on new buildings and separate buildings like condominiums and townhouses. It also allowed for rent increases when tenants change.

Proposition 10 does not enact rent control; it simply returns the matter for localities to decide.

Obviously, the subject of rent control has become a popular concern. The typical example trotted out by opponents involves a hard-working immigrant who’s invested money in an apartment complex and now stands to lose everything.

This line of thought deflects attention from the underlying problem behind increases in rental prices far outstripping inflation.

The type of investors who dove into the unregulated derivatives market prior to last decades real estate crash found similar returns in buying up foreclosed single home properties and turning them into rentals.

Using economies of scale to control costs, national corporate groups have gone into the rental apartment business in a big way.

More than 52,000 local rentals are owned by 20 such companies. What we think of locally as big real estate outfits like HG Fenton and Sudberry Properties are not so big compared to R & V Mangement, which has 8000 or so units in the San Diego market.

The problem with this corporate takeover of the rental business is that investors expect growth. Lots of it. Last year’s profits won’t do. This year’s cash flow can be used to pay dividends. This, as much as the old ‘supply and demand’ excuse, puts pressure on renters to pay more.

It should be no surprise to learn these corporate types are rushing to protect their cash cows. Opponents to Prop 10 have a three to one advantage in fundraising, and the TV ads promising increased homelessness caused by rent control are already running.

Once again, Proposition 10 does not mandate or create rent control. It simply allows the concept to be discussed and either accepted or rejected by localities.

From the Los Angeles Times editorial in support of Prop 10:

Local governments are on the front lines of managing homelessness, displacement and gentrification. They need the ability to stop the bleeding. Proposition 10 would give them an additional option for helping those at risk of losing their homes. Proposition 10 isn’t the solution to the state’s affordable housing crisis, but it is a valuable tool to manage the consequences.

Most of the state’s newspapers, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, have bought into the argument that says “build, baby, build” is the only solution.

It may not be enough, but builders are building. They’re just not building for the people who need housing. I’m dumbfounded looking at the soaring luxury highrises full of vacant units whenever I go downtown at night.

People are supporting rent control, once again, because they see no other choice. Rents are rising faster than wages, even as profitability and stock prices soar. What are people supposed to do? Camp in the UT’s lobby?

Perhaps the reason those luxury condos continue to be built is that they’re convenient parking places for overseas cash. Between that and the greed of corporate Air BnB entities hiding behind mom and pop property owners, I suspect there are a lot of ways we can look at the housing shortage, ways that would make ideas like rent control not as much of a priority.

Prop 11: Corporate Labor Law at the Ballot Box?

Requires Private-Sector Emergency Ambulance Employees to Remain on Call During Work Breaks. Changes Other Conditions of Employment.

This proposition would allow ambulance providers to require workers to remain on-call during breaks (with their regular rate of pay) and requires employers to provide specific training and mental health services.

Wow. Sounds like a public safety issue. Of course, I want an ambulance driver to put down the veggie wrap and come running when my ticker gives up the ghost.

Only it’s really not that way.

The San Francisco Chronicle was the only newspaper I’m aware of in the state who saw through this faulty premise:

Californians who only see the ads for Proposition 11 may be likely to vote yes. After all, it sounds not only reasonable, but also a matter of essential public safety: to require ambulance workers to remain on call during their paid work breaks. It also would guarantee mental health benefits for emergency medical technicians and paramedics, and additional training for active shooters, terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

But, as is too often the case in the initiative process, the pitch is decidedly deceptive.

A State Supreme Court ruling in 2016 (Augustus vs. ABM Security Services) that private security guards are subject to state labor rules has California’s big private ambulance operator worried. They’d like voters to give them a blank check to fix their potential problem.

Assembly Bill 263, which passed 56-17 in June 2017 was supported by the union representing 4,000 ambulance workers. It spelled out rules saying employees could be required to monitor pagers, radios, station and alert boxes, intercoms, cell phones, and other communications devices during their breaks — and could be required to answer an emergency call.

Buried in the fine print, however, was a proviso voiding prior legal claims against companies filed by workers. So the bill died in the Senate because American Medical Response, which also happens to be the funder of Prop. 11, figured it’d be cheaper to solve this at the ballot box.

They’ve already put $3,650,000.00 down on getting this problem solved in their favor, so these must be some honkin’ bad legal claims they’re trying to bury.

Prop 12: Farm Animal Confinement Initiative

Establishes New Standards for Confinement of Certain Farm Animals; Bans Sale of Certain Non-Complying Products

This measure is an upgrade to Proposition 2, passed a decade ago. It sets a standard– instead of a general aspiration–to the amount of room required for egg-laying chickens and other animals being raised for human consumption.

Prevent Cruelty California is the coalition in favor of Prop 12, organized by the Humane Society. 29 other Animal Protection Organizations, 109 Family Farms, religious leaders, and a huge number of veterinary clinics and individual vets also support it.

Here’s a look at their rationale, courtesy of an op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune:

So why are we revisiting it 10 years later? With many other states creating animal welfare legislation stronger than California’s, it’s time to update ours. That’s what Proposition 12 will do.

It’s still legal in our state to sell veal from a calf taken from his mother shortly after birth and forced into a narrow crate until slaughter. It’s still legal to sell pork from operations that confine each mother pig in a crate so small she’s unable to turn around her entire life — often up to four years. And it’s permissible to sell eggs from a hen confined in a cage so small she’s forced to eat, sleep, sit in her own waste, and lay eggs in the same small space every single day.

We can do better. That’s why the San Diego Humane Society is supporting Proposition 12 and invites all San Diegans to join us in helping this ballot initiative become a reality.

Lined up against Prop 12 are The Californians Against Cruelty, Cages, and Fraud, the Humane Farming Action Fund, the Association of California Egg Farmers, and that National Pork Producers Council, all the folks you’d expect to oppose something impacting the businesses.

But, Wait!–as they say in the TV ads–there’s more: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Friends of Animals are also opposing Prop 12. They say the mandated footage amounts to the codification of animal cruelty and more:

Proposition 12 is a cruel and reckless exploitation of California’s initiative process which not only harms farm animals, but it also puts in danger a wide array of existing consumer, animal, and environmental protection laws.

In other words, the scandal-ridden Humane Society of the United States is back to its old tricks.

The same group that said California hens would be cage free by 2015, that Michael Vick would be a “good pet owner,” that embraces SeaWorld, and lost millions of dollars in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act lawsuit, is back.

So who do YOU want to believe? I have mixed feelings about animal rights activists.

I recognize our present food system is not sustainable. I recognize that SeaWorld is still exploiting its captives.

But when I got to their rhetoric about Micheal Vick and the RICO lawsuit I recalled just how strident and out-of-touch these folks can be. Both claims are horribly out of context. There’s just too much ‘my way or the highway’ going on there.

I’ll vote for Prop 12, understanding it’s an incremental improvement.

From San Diego Free Press

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Steven Maviglio October 5, 2018 at 7:29 am

The Prop 10 analysis is wrong. This is not at all about “local control” — otherwise the California League of Cities (the organization of the state’s cities) would have wholeheartedly endorsed it. It did not. And it’s why more than 50 local officials have announced their opposition, as have Gavin Newsom, John Cox, the California NAACP, and state building trades union and all but 2 newspapers in the state. Prop 10 will make California’s housing crisis worse. It allows NIMBY, anti-development regulation to put on the ballot by special interest groups. We’re already seeing it all over California, with local officials trying to fend off radical attempts to limit the housing we so desperately need. Read the editorials urging NO on Prop 10 in the SF Chronicle, Mercury News, LA Daily News, Fresno Bee or 20 other of the state’s newspapers and vote NO!

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Avatar Doug Porter October 5, 2018 at 11:29 am

Steve, by the way, is a political consultant on the side of the anti-10 folks who have raised a bazillion dollars so they don’t have to actually face local people who might be interested in rent control. THIS is what they’re actually afraid of.

Listen to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher and vote Yes on 10.

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Avatar triggerfinger October 5, 2018 at 3:02 pm

I can’t say what rent control measures I would support, if any, but I do support allowing local government the opportunity to serve (or screw) the citizens. I don’t think it’s Sacramento’s business if parts of San Diego decide they want to implement it. It’s a local issue.

If corporate-led legislation is the problem, let’s tackle it, starting with prohibiting paid signature gathering, not by using the state to disarm local government.

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