Capitol Alert

California water bond, reduced drug felonies pass

Portions of the two largest north-south water delivery systems in California run side-by-side near Patterson, Stanislaus County.
Portions of the two largest north-south water delivery systems in California run side-by-side near Patterson, Stanislaus County. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

California voters on Tuesday approved billions in borrowing for water projects, the creation of a tighter budget reserve fund, and lighter penalties for drug crimes and theft while rejecting measures to regulate health insurance rates and to drug test doctors while raising a cap on medical malpractice payouts.

Two ballot initiatives passed by the Legislature and promoted by Gov. Jerry Brown more vigorously than he campaigned for his own re-election – a water bond and a measure creating a rainy day reserve fund for state budgets – passed handily. You can read more about the water bond here.

A pair of health-related measure that ignited massive spending lost by large margins.

Proposition 45 sought to empower California’s elected insurance commissioner to oversee health insurance rates, prompting a well-funded opposition campaign by the insurance industry. Proposition 46 was the latest flareup in a long-smoldering fight between doctors and lawyers over California’s medical malpractice laws. In addition to lifting a $250,000 cap on pain-and-suffering damages recoverable in malpractice lawsuits, the measure would have imposed mandatory physician drug testing.

Proposition 45 lost by nearly 20 points. The gap for Proposition 46 was close to 35 points.

With California in the midst of a years-long effort to reduce prison overcrowding, proponents of Proposition 47 said the measure would improve criminal justice efforts by converting petty theft and drug possession from felonies to misdemeanors, while targeting savings at programs to reduce truancy and substance abuse. Despite law enforcement warnings that the measure would reduce penalties for possession of date-rate drugs and gun theft, Proposition 47 led by 17 percentage points in unofficial returns.

Voters rejected Proposition 48, a referendum that targeted a single casino but carried a broader context.

The “no” vote on the measure blocks a pact with the state to allow the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to operate a Vegas-style casino miles from the tribe’s existing land. Opponents of the facility warned that the deal would lead to a spike of new casinos near urban areas. Some tribes with nearby casinos poured millions of dollars into the campaign to defeat Propositio 48.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.