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Californians Will Probably Vote on Data Privacy, the Gas Tax and More in November

As one election turns into the next, Sacramento's divisive debate over rent control, data privacy and gas taxes are beginning to heat up.

by Alexei Koseff, The Sacramento Bee / June 7, 2018
(TNS/Genaro Molina)

(TNS) — Election officials haven't even finished counting the votes from Tuesday's primary, but the campaign has already begun for the November general election. Here are some key races to keep an eye on over the next five months, and why they could have a huge impact on California politics.

Gas Tax Repeal

You will probably have an opportunity this November to vote on proposals to make it harder to raise local taxes and even split California into three separate states. But no issue is likely to generate more attention than an initiative to repeal a recent increase of transportation fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees lawmakers approved to fix California’s crumbling roads.

Public polls consistently indicate that the fees, passed by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative Democrats last year, are deeply unpopular with Californians — and Republicans have seized on that with a vengeance. They used his support for the gas tax increase to convince voters to recall state Sen. Josh Newman on Tuesday, depriving Democrats of their Senate supermajority.

A measure to undo the taxes is currently undergoing signature verification and is expected to qualify for the November ballot. Though its passage would be a major rebuke to Brown as he finishes a historic run in the governor's office, it was sponsored by House Republicans primarily as a way to drive up GOP turnout as they face serious challenges to their re-election this year.

Now, after the successful Newman recall, its backers are imagining even greater opportunities to revive the GOP's diminished relevance in California. Carl DeMaio, chairman of the initiative campaign, threatened Wednesday on Twitter to launch recall campaigns against two more Democratic senators and use the gas tax as a political bludgeon against half a dozen Assembly Democrats.

Rent Control

Everyone is looking for a solution to California's housing crisis — they just can't agree on what it is. After a bill failed in the legislature earlier this year, proponents are headed to the November ballot with a measure that would reverse a 1995 law severely limiting the use of rent control in the state. If passed by voters, it would allows cities and counties to enact much stricter renter protections, including for some types of housing, such as single-family homes and condos, where it was previously prohibited. But apartment landlords, investors and developers argue the initiative would actually make California's affordability problems even worse by bringing new construction to a standstill. Some consultants involved with the campaign estimate that it could be an $80 million fight this fall.

Data Privacy

If recent news about data breaches and Cambridge Analytica has you feeling wary of what personal information you have floating around online, then you may find some relief in a data privacy initiative expected to qualify for the November election. The measure, sponsored by a trio of San Francisco Bay Area business professionals, would require big companies to disclose what information they gather, explain how they share or sell it, and give people the right to block the spread of their personal data. Business groups, particularly those representing tech companies, are lining up against the proposal, which they contend is unworkable and would cause their members to flee the state. But some major opponents, such as Facebook, have backed off amid their own data-related scandals.

©2018 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.