As the June 3 election approaches, it may be somewhat cumbersome to read about the propositions in the secretary of state’s official voter guide.
Both propositions pertain to eminent domain, which is the governmental power to appropriate private property, but the propositions do so in opposite ways.
Propositions 98 and 99 represent a minimalist and maximalist perspective for government control.
Prop. 98 is the more complicated initiative because it allows voters to decide whether the state should restrict government agencies from using powers of eminent domain to force the sale of properties for use in private development, and whether to phase out rent control in California.
The contending measure, Prop. 99, would prohibit the government from using eminent domain to take owner-occupied homes. However, it does not address rent control.
A main argument against Prop. 98 is that it only helps out landlords, not renters, homeowners and taxpayers. The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) reports that “many governments would have net increased costs to acquire property, but . . . the net statewide fiscal effect probably would not be significant.”
Homeowners would also be provided with eminent domain protections similar to those in Prop. 99, which would also extend to businesses, farms and other properties.
The measure would prohibit government agencies from forcing owners to sell property, except to accommodate public facilities such as schools and roads.
A strong opponent to Prop. 98 is AARP, a senior citizens’ lobby that supports Prop. 99, claiming an advertisement that Prop. 98 is a “deceptive scheme by a few wealthy landlords to eliminate rent control.”
According to the LAO, rent control would continue to exist for current tenants as long as they remain in their apartments or mobile home spaces. As people move out, rent controls would be removed from those units.
If passed, Prop. 98 could invalidate laws on the books in some of California’s cities and counties that require developers to dedicate a certain percentage of new housing units to affordable housing.
The main financial backing of Prop. 98 includes apartment owners, their associations, and the California Farm Bureau Federation. The Western Growers Association opposes Prop. 98 because its ban on eminent domain could possibly limit the government’s ability to build water projects such as reservoirs and groundwater storage facilities.
The California Chamber of Commerce, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Gov. Pete Wilson share the same sentiment as the growers, worrying about the possibility of water projects being stopped.
Prop. 99 differs as the measure sets out to prohibit the government from using eminent domain to take a single-family home or condominium and transfer it to another person, business or association.
Critics of Prop. 99 believe that one of the reasons this initiative is on the ballot is to prevent the other proposition from passing.
If both pass, Prop. 99 has a secret weapon: it includes a provision specifying that if it were to get more votes than Prop. 98, then no part of Prop. 98 could take effect.