MapLight is a non-profit non-partisan organization ABC7 has worked with for several years. Their primary mission is tracking money in politics, who is contributing to what. Now, MapLight is launching this guide to help California voters sort out who is for and who is against the various propositions that make their way onto the ballot.
Ask any voter what's most important when deciding on a ballot proposition. You might hear, "Is it going to raise taxes?" Or, "Who's for it and who's against?" Or, "Who's paying for it? Who wants it?" In Berkeley, MapLight is putting all that and more on a single site. "It has the top funders of the campaigns, what the ballot initiatives would actually do, and soon, we'll also have endorsements and campaign advertisements, and newspaper editorials too," MapLight's president and co-founder Daniel Newman explained.
Newman says only two initiatives have qualified for the June ballot. Proposition 29 would levy a dollar-per-pack tax on cigarettes, the money going to cancer research. "You can click here and see what your vote means," he explained. "You can see the financial effect." You can see the campaign arguments and where the money's coming from. "So, here you can see for example that Lance Armstrong Foundation is the top funder on the yes side, giving $1.5 million, and the top funder on the no side is Phillip Morris at $9.4 million," he demonstrated.
The other measure on the June ballot is Proposition 28, a term limits measure which cuts the maximum number of years that lawmakers can spend in the senate and assembly from 14 years down to 12. It's a bit more complicated. "And, that's why you have to do a little bit of reading to understand this," Newman said.
As the MapLight site explains, yes, lawmakers would be termed out after 12 years, but unlike the current provision, they wouldn't have to leave the assembly after six years or the senate after eight. They could spend all 12 years in either house if they chose to and if the voters kept them in.
"It'll allow people to stabilize their time of office so that they're not switching from one house to another, and they can actually learn their positions and spend more time on committee work, and actually study the details of the budget," said ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain. Cain calls it a good governance measure because it allows lawmakers to stay put and learn the ropes rather than moving from the assembly in order to get to the Senate.
Right now, MapLight shows there's no financial opposition to Prop 28, but that could change.