Tuesday, June 25, 2024

A measure to place abortion protections in the state Constitution ahead in early returns

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A measure to codify progressive abortion protections in the California Constitution under Proposition 1 was leading in early results on Tuesday, prompting supporters to pop open champagne.

The fate of six additional statewide ballot measures was still unclear. Among those still undecided are dueling sports betting measures and an effort to tax high-income Californians to subsidize the electric car industry.

Under Proposition 1, which was authored in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the state Constitution would expressly guarantee a person’s “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.”

California’s Democratic-controlled Legislature placed Proposition 1 before voters, saying it was needed to ensure that state courts or politicians could not undermine reproductive rights in the future without voter approval.

Polling leading up to the election showed support for Proposition 1 far ahead. Voters’ strong convictions on the issue of abortion access were expected to mobilize reluctant voters, a potential benefit to Democrats who placed the measure on the ballot — and their congressional colleagues.

Gov. Gavin Newsom contributed $3.4 million from his gubernatorial reelection war chest in support of the proposition and was featured in ads promoting the amendment. The effort benefited both the Proposition 1 campaign and his own effort to win a second term.

“California will not back down from the fight to protect abortion rights as more than half the states in this country, enabled by the Supreme Court, ban or severely restrict access,” Newsom said after Proposition 1 was placed on the ballot.

Meagerly funded opposition campaigns argued that the broad language in Proposition 1 would override California’s laws limiting late-term abortions and allow the procedure up until birth for any reason. Constitutional law experts dismissed those concerns, saying state laws regarding when abortions can be performed will remain in effect.

California law allows a person to have an abortion until the point that a physician determines “there is a reasonable likelihood of the fetus’ sustained survival outside the uterus without the application of extraordinary medical measures” or if the procedure is necessary in order to “protect the life or health of the woman.”

In most cases, doctors have considered a fetus viable at 24 weeks, but that determination varies based on each pregnancy.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), author of the bill that placed Proposition 1 on the ballot, said the measure would make it “undeniably clear that in California, abortion and contraception are healthcare and are a private matter between a patient and their medical provider.”

Votes were still being counted for Proposition 30, a measure to spend $30 billion to $90 billion to subsidize the electric car industry over the next 20 years. Wealthy California residents would be taxed 1.75% on reported income of more than $2 million to fund the program.

State financial analysts estimate that $3.5 billion to $5 billion would be raised each year. Of that amount, 80% would support sales of electric vehicles and public car chargers, with 20% for wildfire suppression and prevention.

Newsom bucked his own party and opposed the measure, broadcasting and streaming campaign ads that called it “corporate welfare” and “a cynical scheme to grab a huge taxpayer-funded subsidy” for a plan “developed by a single company to funnel state income taxes to benefit their company.”

That company is Lyft, which drafted the proposition and donated at least $45 million to support the “yes” campaign. The ride-hailing company is subject to a new state law that will require most of its fleet to run on electric power by 2030. Those cars are owned by drivers who contract with Lyft and could receive Proposition 30 subsidies to buy electric cars.

Two competing measures, Propositions 26 and 27, were on the ballot in Tuesday’s election, with a half-billion dollars spent on ads to convince Californians to legalize sports gaming.

Campaigns for the measures flooded the airwaves with a constant barrage of attack ads, which some California political poll directors criticized for driving up opposition and confusing voters.

Proposition 26 would allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and horse racing tracks. Leaders of four of California’s most successful Native American tribes with gaming interests are the original proponents of Proposition 26. It would impose a 10% tax on sports betting to fund gambling addiction treatment and enforcement programs.

Proposition 27 would allow online sports wagering, including on cellphones and tablets, and was funded by gambling corporations, including sports gaming companies DraftKings and FanDuel. If the measure passes, tribes and gambling companies with sports betting licenses would pay 10% of their take from sports bets each month to the state, after subtracting some expenses and losses, to fund programs for homelessness and gambling addiction.

Tobacco foes scored a victory at the ballot box in a multiyear fight against the industry.

Proposition 31 was placed on the ballot soon after Newsom signed Senate Bill 793, the Legislature’s bipartisan effort to crack down on e-cigarettes and other products popular with kids.

The 2020 law banned the sale of certain flavored tobacco products in stores and vending machines, including menthol cigarettes, but with exceptions for hookah, premium cigars and loose-leaf tobacco.

But SB 793 was blocked by the tobacco industry, which put a referendum on the November 2022 ballot to give voters the final say on its merit. A “yes” vote meant the law would go into effect and crack down on certain tobacco products, while a “no” vote would have blocked it.

Advocates for Proposition 31 argued the restrictions would disincentivize tobacco use among kids by eliminating youth-friendly flavors such as bubblegum, cotton candy and cherry.

California schools would receive a boost of about $1 billion for music and arts education starting next year under Proposition 28, which was headed to victory on Tuesday.

The measure was designed to replenish resources for K-12 courses such as dance, theater and graphic design that are typically the first to be cut from school budgets during financial downturns.

Proposition 28 would not raise taxes but instead creates a guaranteed annual funding stream for music and arts education by requiring the state to set aside an amount that equals 1% of the total funding already provided to schools each year.

Despite a record-high state budget, and a legal requirement to offer music and arts education in some capacity, only 1 in 5 public schools in California has a full-time program, according to former Los Angeles Unified Supt. Austin Beutner, who led the effort.

California voters were also considering a statewide mandate to increase medical staffing at dialysis centers. Proposition 29 would require dialysis clinics to have a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant present while patients are receiving care at any of the state’s 600 dialysis centers. Clinics also would be required to disclose if a physician had ownership interest in a facility and to report patient infection data.

Times staff writers Phil Willon, Mackenzie Mays and Marissa Evans contributed to this report.

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