Results mixed on California soda taxes, fracking, marijuana measures

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 06 November 2014 | 12.56

Here is a breakdown of some big issues facing California cities and counties and how they fared in Tuesday's election:

Soda tax

Background: Measures were on the ballot in San Francisco and Berkeley to levy taxes on sodas and other sugary beverages that officials say contribute to health problems, including diabetes and obesity. The American Beverage Assn. contributed a total of $11 million to defeat both Bay Area proposals.

Outcome: Berkeley became the first city in the nation to approve such a law with 75% of voters backing Measure D, which will levy a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in the city. San Francisco's measure, which would have imposed a 2-cent-an-ounce tax, failed.

Analysis: Supporters of Berkeley's measure predicted that approval would set off a nationwide movement, much like the one waged against tobacco. But opponents contend that liberal Berkeley is unique and not representative of most U.S. cities. San Francisco's measure had a much higher bar to scale because it needed a two-thirds majority vote for approval. Although 54.5% of San Francisco voters backed the sugary-drink tax, it needed 66.67% to pass.


Background: Measures were on the ballot in Santa Barbara, San Benito and Mendocino counties to prohibit high-intensity petroleum operations, including hydraulic fracturing — the oil-extraction method known as fracking. Supporters said fracking could trigger earthquakes, pollute the aquifer and deplete groundwater supplies during droughts. Energy companies argued that such measures could seriously damage, if not wipe out, their operations.

Outcome: The measures were approved in San Benito and Mendocino counties, with 57.4% and 67.2% of the vote, respectively, but failed in Santa Barbara County, where 62.6% of voters said no to the proposed ban.

Analysis: Oil companies spent about $7.7 million to fight the measures in San Benito and Santa Barbara counties, putting most of their money into the latter. They said their success in Santa Barbara County showed that people realize the importance of the energy industry to the region and that the measure was a drastic approach to energy policy. Supporters of the San Benito County measure said they hoped the results would put pressure on Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a statewide ban on fracking.


Background: A number of medical marijuana initiatives were on county and city ballots around the state, proposing either restrictions or leniency on collectives and dispensaries. Two competing measures in Northern California's Lake County sought to overturn existing laws on marijuana cultivation. The city of Weed in Siskiyou County had two advisory measures on its ballot.

Outcome: Both Lake County measures were defeated, with 64% of voters opposing Measure O and 68% rejecting Measure P. Voters in Weed gave thumbs down to Measure L, asking if they would support more collectives and dispensaries in the city; they OKd Measure K, asking if they would support a citywide ban on outdoor medical marijuana cultivation, by a slim margin.

Analysis: Although voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., joined Colorado and Washington state this week in legalizing marijuana, California is not there yet. Instead, the issue is being played out at the local level, and the results appear to be mixed. Voters in La Mesa and Encinitas in San Diego County rejected measures that would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries, while Santa Ana voters favored a measure to legalize medical marijuana collectives in the city.

Minimum wage

Background: Three cities — San Francisco, Oakland and Eureka — voted on minimum wage hikes designed to help workers make ends meet as the cost of living rises, especially in the expensive Bay Area.

Outcome: San Francisco and Oakland approved the increases and Eureka rejected its proposal. San Francisco's Measure J, which received 76% of the vote, will raise the current $10.74 an hour to $12.25 next May, $13 in July 2015 and a dollar a year until it reaches $15 in 2018. Oakland's Measure FF, passed with 81% of the vote, will raise the minimum wage from $9 to $12.25 an hour starting in March. Eureka's Measure R was voted down by 62% of the electorate; it would have raised the minimum wage from $9 an hour to $12.

Analysis: Several city councils in California are looking at raising the pay for low-wage workers struggling to support themselves and their families. Los Angeles is considering raising its minimum wage to $13.25 or $15.25. The San Francisco minimum wage hike comes as the city is booming thanks to the tech industry. But the economies in Oakland and Los Angeles are not quite as strong, and Eureka has been struggling for years. Generally, businesses oppose these hikes, saying they can't afford the added costs of paying their workers more.

Twitter: @amcovarrubias

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

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