Our View On Perplexing Propositions


Prop. 201: Home warranties

Great goal.

Bad plan.

That about sums up Proposition 100, the so-called Homeowner’s Bill of Rights.

We like a lot of what this bill would do to protect home buyers from shoddy construction. That includes a 10-year warranty, more disclosure and a say in who does repair work when the original builder does a slip shod job.

Still, the bill goes too far – and interjects some unsettling restrictions on arbitration or other means of solving problems besides hauling the builder into court.

Several construction unions back the measure, hoping that more quality conscious builders will do the new math involved in cutting corners and turn to more skilled union labor.

But while we believe home buyers do need more protection, we think these restrictions will create more problems than they solve.

We urge a “no” vote on Proposition 201.

Prop. 202: Immigration reform

We support this effort to protect employers from unfair prosecutions for hiring undocumented workers - but not without a lot of head scratching and squinting.

The current state law imposes tough penalties on employers who hire illegal workers, which can include the loss of a license to operate in the state. Overall, we support that effort: We will never get control of illegal immigration until we crack down on the employer just as hard as on the border runners.

But a frustrated legislature enacted the state law in the face of a still-broken federal system. As a result, state employers face serious consequences even when they make a good-faith effort to obey the law by checking documentation.

The federal e-verify system represents a good start, but is not yet reliable enough to either protect employers or the rights of legal workers.

Proposition 202 would provide some additional protection for employers who try to obey the law.

For instance, if an employer properly uses the federal e-verify system, he or she won’t face prosecution by the state should that system turn out to be wrong.

Opponents claim that some of the provisions in the measure will make it much harder to make a case against an employer. That’s a worrisome argument – since a realistic threat of consequences for the employer remains essential in solving the larger problem.

Still, on balance we think the current law represents the larger danger. It can easily abuse the rights of both employers and legal workers, who find themselves caught in the middle by the draconian ambiguities of the current regulations. Once the federal government does its job and provides a reliable and efficient system to certify a worker has the legal right to work, the states can build on that.

But for now, we must urge a “yes” vote on Proposition 202.

Prop. 200: Payday loan reforms

This one’s easy: It’s a crocodile dressed up like a gondola.

Supposedly, Proposition 200 will impose “reforms” on the predatory payday loan industry.

And on the face of it, the various restrictions sound reasonable enough, with electronic debiting, limits on some fees, payment plans and licensing of the businesses involved.

But here’s the catch – in return for the modest “reforms” the payday loan industry gets permanent licenses. The current system essentially goes out of business on July 1, 2010.

And good riddance.

These predatory businesses finagled an exemption from the state’s usury laws – which limit annual interest rates to a maximum of 36 percent annually. Many of these operations charge interest rates that work out to more like 400 percent annually. They offer desperate borrowers a quick fix – and a long addiction.

We do see a need for short-term loans in low-income neighborhoods shut out by the conventional credit markets. But the payday loan industry needs real reform – not this wink and a pat on the head so they can go back to ripping off their customers.

We urge a “no” vote on Proposition 201.


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