County supervisors Tuesday opposed statewide ballot initiatives that would legalize marijuana, add $18 to vehicle license fees to finance state parks, and undercut an anti-global warming law passed by the Legislature four years ago.
The votes came as supervisors mulled five propositions that will be on the Nov. 2 ballot. The 90-minute discussion was designed to inform the public as well as prepare for a statewide meeting later this week of the California State Association of Counties.
All five supervisors opposed Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana. The measure would let Californians grow and consume the narcotic.
It would also allow local governments to draw up individual laws to implement Proposition 19, and that is what torpedoed it in the eyes of supervisors.
Supervisor Bruce Gibson criticized the proposition because of its “patchwork” nature. He said it could result in 58 different situations, one for each county in California.
Supervisor Katcho Achadjian said he worried that Proposition 19 would allow people who work for him to smoke marijuana during their break.
Supervisor Frank Mecham reminded his colleagues that marijuana is illegal nationally, and said Proposition 19 would inevitably wend its way to the Supreme Court.
Proposition 21 would protect state parks from fluctuating budgets by adding the $18 surcharge to license fees on all noncommercial vehicles. In return, those who pay the fees would have free admission to state parks.
During its years-long budget crisis, the state has threatened to close state parks, including some in San Luis Obispo County. The uncertain revenue situation led parks supporters to put Proposition 21 on the ballot.
A vote to support Proposition 21 would have left officials vulnerable to the charge that they voted to raise taxes, and county supervisors, with one exception, opposed it.
The exception was Gibson, who argued that the local tourist economy would benefit from Proposition 21’s passage. However, his fellow environmentalists on the board, Adam Hill and Jim Patterson, did not join him.
Patterson said vehicle license fees should be used for vehicle-related purposes. He also noted that only 15 to 20 percent of people use state parks, and said the measure would penalize those who don’t.
Hill said he is growing “nihilistic” about the use of ballot measures to legislate. “I find myself wanting to vote ‘no’ on all these propositions,” he said.
Achadjian, who owns gas stations in Arroyo Grande, asked, “Why go after cars?” He said car sales are down, and suggested user fees to pay for state parks.
Mary Golden of the Central Coast Natural History Association, supporting Proposition 21, said user fees don’t raise enough money to protect parks.
The final tally was 4-1.
Proposition 23 would suspend AB 32, the so-called “Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006,” which was designed to cut back on pollution and nudge the state’s economy toward greener pursuits.
Among other things, AB 32 calls for California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. From the start, it was criticized as harming economic growth.
Proposition 23 would suspend AB 32 until the state unemployment rate is 5.5 percent or less for four economic quarters. Since that level has been achieved only once in decades, opponents of Proposition 23 call it a de facto repeal of AB 32.
Patterson said it would “dampen the green economy that’s been building in our state.”
The vote was 3-2, with Patterson, Gibson and Hill voting to oppose Proposition 23 and Mecham and Achadjian supporting it.
Under Proposition 26, some “fees” would be designated as “taxes.” The change in terminology is significant because it is more difficult to raise taxes than it is to hike fees.
Most fees that would become taxes “address health, environmental, or other societal or economic concerns,” according to a staff analysis.
The practical effect would be to require a two-thirds, rather than a simple majority vote, to raise fees/taxes on an increasing number of programs. That, in turn, would lessen the county’s ability to do its job, opponents said.
Supervisors voted 3-1 to oppose Proposition 26, with Gibson, Hill and Patterson in favor and Achadjian against. Mecham abstained.