Even though it isn’t yet clear who will face off against Democratic incumbent Ricardo Lara for California insurance commissioner in the November general election, the slate of statewide ballot initiatives is beginning to take shape.
On Tuesday, two days before the deadline to finalize the list of ballot measures, Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced the latest initiative to qualify: one that would impose a 1.75% tax on Californians earning more than $2 million to fund an array of environmental programs, including rebates for buying electric cars and developing electric-vehicle charging infrastructure.
- Lyft, which poured millions of dollars into qualifying the measure, is facing a state mandate to log 90% of California miles in electric vehicles by 2030.
On Monday, another ballot measure qualified. Sponsored by gaming giants including FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM, the initiative would allow companies to offer online sports betting in California if, among other requirements, they partner with a Native American tribe and pay a one-time licensing fee of $100 million.
That primes the state for what is likely to be a highly expensive and highly emotional battle over sports betting: Also eligible for the ballot is a separate measure backed by a group of Native American tribes that would allow tribal casinos and the state’s four horse race tracks to offer sports betting while expanding the games tribal casinos can offer.
The battle over capturing California’s sports betting market, which experts say could be the most lucrative in the nation, originally featured four separate ballot measure campaigns and pledges from one tribal coalition to spend at least $100 million on ads. The face-off between the two remaining measures has the potential to shatter spending records set in 2020, when nearly $226 million was spent by the campaigns on both sides of a ballot measure to exempt Uber, Lyft and other gig-economy companies from a state labor law.
Meanwhile, it’s looking increasingly likely that the backers of a measure to reduce single-use plastics will withdraw it from the November ballot, following fierce negotiations with lawmakers and others on a bill that aims to achieve many of the same goals and was passed on a unanimous, bipartisan vote during a hastily called Tuesday hearing, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports.
That marks a noticeable shift from last week, when the initiative’s proponents expressed serious concerns that the legislative workaround didn’t go far enough in reducing plastic waste and holding manufacturers accountable.
- Nicole Kurian, policy analyst for Californians Against Waste, which opposed earlier versions of the legislation: “Based on the most recent amendments and the author’s commitment to continue to work on the one outstanding issue raised by environmental justice groups around definitions, we are happy to express our support.”
If lawmakers pass the plastics bill by Thursday and initiative proponents agree to withdraw their measure, it will be the second time in as many months: Gov. Gavin Newsom in May signed a law to reform California’s medical malpractice system, avoiding what would have been a costly and complex fight at the ballot box in November.
Other measures eligible for the November ballot:
- An amendment to enshrine the right to abortion and contraception in California’s constitution. As CalMatters columnist Dan Walters pointed out to me, one of the many budget “trailer bills” state lawmakers unveiled over the weekend would require this amendment “to be designated as ‘Proposition 1’ and placed as the first measure on the ballot.”
- An initiative to strengthen regulations of kidney dialysis clinics — the third time California voters have been asked to vote on this issue in four years.
- An initiative to set aside a certain amount of state money each year to fund arts and music education in K-12 public schools, primarily by employing teachers.
- A referendum to overturn a state law Newsom signed in 2020 banning the sale of flavored tobacco products.