Confused about Prop 98 and 99? Well of course you are, and that’s intentional. Most of what you hear is designed to take your attention away from the real purpose these propositions were intended to address.
The US Supreme Court, in Kelo vs. City of New London, held that government may use eminent domain to take property from its owner for the purpose of transferring it to a private developer. This decision skewed the Constitution’s original wording of “public use” to one of public benefit. “Public use” originally meant the direct use of property by a government agency for the purpose of transportation, utilities, or facilities. Now, it has been redefined as public benefit, where the government benefits if it can realize increased tax receipts by taking property and transferring it to an entity that can generate greater tax income. The supposed intent of each Proposition is to protect private property owners from this glaring redefinition of the US Constitution.
However, Prop 99 does not provide this protection. Prop 99 is worded to ONLY prohibit government from taking “owner occupied” homes. No mention of business property, rental property of any type (including detached homes, apartments, condos, or trailer homes), or even farm and ranch property. It doesn’t even protect those “owner occupied” homes if the owner has occupied it for less than 12 months. An analysis by the Institute for Justice, (a non-profit public interest law firm out of Arlington, VA that litigated against expanding eminent domain in the Kelo case) states Prop 99 would provide insubstantial protection against abuse of eminent domain for private commercial development. The State of California's non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office says that Prop 99 "is not likely to significantly alter current government land acquisition practices."
Opponents of Prop 98 state it is a deceptive plan to force people out of their rent controlled apartments or trailer homes. This is a distraction based on emotional fear. In fact, Prop 98 states that any statute or ordinance that limits the price an owner may charge a tenant may remain in effect as long as at least one of the tenants continues to occupy the space as his or her principal place of residence. Would it be ironic, or just plain sad, for those in rent controlled apartments or trailer homes to vote against Prop 98 then have their residence taken because it was not “owner occupied” and thus not protected by Prop 99? Only Prop 98 addresses the main issue of taking private property, of any type, unlike the narrowly defined conditions for property found in Prop 99.
So who stands to benefit, given the passage of one over the other. Opponents of Prop 98 lump supporters into the categories of either Apartment Owner Interests or Mobile Home Park Interests, all otherwise known as Wealthy Landlords (how the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association can be labeled an “Apartment Owner Interest” is bewildering). These “Interests” are portrayed as greedy and evil. I don’t think I can completely attribute nefarious motivations to someone who wants to protect his or her property from being taken by the government.
Backers of Prop 99 include elected government officials (Feinstein, Pelosi, Schwarzenegger), government agencies, environmental groups, labor and development groups. It was authored by the League of California Cities. These groups benefit immensely with greater ease in taking private property. The Livermore City council endorsed the Kilo decision after it came out. They now back Prop 99. Don’t you think they are in favor of making it easier to take private property?
So if you fall for sappy, emotional advertising and are in favor of greater governmental control and confiscation of property, then it looks like Prop 99 is for you.
If you are for stopping governmental encroachment on your private property rights then vote Yes on Prop 98.