June Primary: Californians Rejecting Prop 98—Landlords’ Hidden Agenda Scheme—But Approving Prop 99 Eminent Domain Reform, New PPIC Poll Shows5 min read

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The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) asked California likely voters for their opinions on the two statewide ballot propositions on the June election ballot, and the results show Prop 98, which would abolish renter protections is already losing while a rival measure to reform eminent domain, Prop 99, is ahead with the voters.

In their 33 page survey just released, the PPIC found Prop 98 losing amongst all voters 37% to 41% with 22% expressing no opinion, when asked the following question:

“Proposition 98 is called ‘Eminent Domain Limits on Government Authority Initiative Constitutional Amendment.’ It bars state and local governments from taking or damaging private property for private uses. It prohibits rent control and similar measures, eliminates deference to government in property rights cases, and changes condemnation rules. Fiscal impact includes increased costs to many governments due to the measure’s restrictions. The net statewide fiscal effect, however, probably would not be significant. If the June primary election were held today, would you vote yes or no on Proposition 98?”

Democrats, by a large 49% to 29% margin and independents by a 41% to 36% margin are rejecting Prop 98, while Republicans are in support by a 45% to 31% margin. It trails badly in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles regions and is tied in the Central Valley region and also tied within the margin of error of the poll (41% to 40%) in the “other Southern California” region. It is even losing already with those who own their own home by a statistically insignificant margin of 37% to 39% and is crushed by a 48% to 35% no vote from those who rent.

The explanation for this vote on Prop 98 can be found in the response to the following question posed by PPIC:

“Do you think rent control—that is, the ability of local governments to set limits on how much rents can be increased each year—is a good thing or a bad thing?”

53% of likely voters said they thought this was a “good thing” and only 39% were of the opinion that it was a “bad thing.” This included large majorities of Democrats—61% to 29%–and Independents 55% to 33%. Republicans by 55% to 40% said it was a “bad thing.” Only 8% of all likely voters have no opinion about this. Surprisingly, 41% of those who say rent control is a good thing say they would vote for Prop 98. This means the no on 98 campaign has opportunities to pick up additional no votes by emphasizing this feature of 98.

However, turnout in the June primary is going to be key. Without a hot presidential primary race on the ballot to draw out voters and with only these two statewide ballot propositions on a sometimes difficult to grasp issue and lower visibility (but important) races at play, those actually voting in some areas may resemble the low numbers seen in special elections.

Prop 98 goes beyond the devastating impact it would have with California’s renters and mobile homeowners. It eliminates important renter protections such as laws protecting renters against unfair evictions and also would outlaw rent control. Landlords will be able to kick out tenants for no good reason. Then, after the unit is vacated, with rent control lifted, landlords will be able to raise rents as high as they want. It also eliminates renter protections like laws requiring the fair return of rental deposits.

Prop 98 also has what its opponents call “hidden provisions” that also gut environmental protections, jeopardize future water projects needed to improve quality and enhance supply, and would result in frivolous lawsuits and higher taxpayer costs.
“Clearly, California voters are not being fooled by the landlords’ deceptive scheme,” said Dean Preston, Co-Chair, Coalition to Protect California Renters. “Voters are capable of sorting out the real eminent domain reform from the phony reform. If the landlords think they are going to trick voters into abolishing rent control and renter protections, they’ve got another thing coming. Voters are not so easily fooled by the landlords’ hidden agenda.”

The PPIC shows rival measure Prop 99 ahead by 53% to 27% with 20% of likely voters saying they have no opinion. It is ahead by at least 20 points by Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. If the election were held today, it would pass in all regions of the state by comfortable margins. The question asked by PPIC was:

“Proposition 99 is called ‘Eminent Domain Limits on Government Acquisition of Owner-Occupied Residence Initiative Constitutional Amendment.’ It bars the use of eminent domain to acquire an owner-occupied residence for conveyance to a private person or business entity. It creates exceptions for public works, public health and safety, and crime prevention. There would be no significant fiscal impact on state or local governments. If the June primary election were held today, would you vote yes or no on Proposition 99?”

In order to be successful, ballot measures usually need to start far ahead before negative advertising and ballot arguments designed to raise questions with voters become more widely known. Once again turnout will be key and Republican support for Prop 99—58% in favor and 23% opposed, which is stronger than Democrats and Independents, may very well lessen.

Unless Prop 99 passes, we will see more eminent domain initiatives on future ballots—as the PPIC figures show 38% of likely voters favor major changes in eminent domain and another 33% favor minor changes. Only 15% think the situation is fine the way it is and 14% say they don’t know.

“The PPIC survey shows voters clearly want honest eminent domain reform, and they recognize that Prop. 99 is the most responsible way to reform eminent domain without the hidden agendas and adverse consequences of Prop. 98,” said Nan Brasmer, President, California Alliance for Retired Americans.

Proposition 98 is opposed by leading California organizations like the AARP, League of Women Voters of California, the Coalition to Protect California Renters, Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League, Inc. (GSMOL), California Professional Firefighters, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Teachers Association, California Police Chiefs Association, California Chamber of Commerce and dozens of others. For a complete list of organizations opposing Prop. 98 and supporting Prop. 99, click here.

The PPIC is a non-partisan respected organization that has polled Californians on their attitudes towards government since 1994. The survey results just released were taken earlier this month of 2002 Californians, out of which 1077 were identified as likely voters. This is a large sample and the margin of error of likely voters is 2%.

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