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What Everybody Ought to Know About Prop 16

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Photo by kevindooley via Flickr

Photo by kevindooley via Flickr
When we hit the voting booth on June 8th, we'll be faced with a handful of props. One of those you've probably seen commercials for on TV already -- you know, the ones that have the slogan "Protect Your Right to Vote." It's about letting the people decide if government or private businesses give new areas electricity service. Considering the recent LADWP drama, many in L.A. might want to side with the private sector, but the "right to vote" angle might not be what it's about. LA Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik this weekend took a look at a number of corporate sponsored ballot items, including Prop 16 (Yes/No), which he calls the "Immunize PG&E from Competition" initiative. Pacific Gas & Electric is a Northern California investor owned utility that has spent $28.5 million already funding the initiative.

Prop 16 would require "local governments to obtain the approval of two-thirds of the voters before providing electricity service to new customers or expanding such service to new territories using public funds or bonds," among other things, according to the official title and summary (.pdf).

"PG&E's measure would cripple efforts by municipalities to create or expand public power agencies to compete with corporate utilities such as, um, PG&E," says Hiltzik. "It would require a two-thirds vote by taxpayers for any such efforts to inject genuine competition into the electricity business — in effect, giving bruisers like PG&E permanent domination of your power service."

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And about the protecting the right to vote thing, Hiltzik says that's untrue: "PG&E Chairman Peter Darbee gave the game away when he told Wall Street analysts in March that he was tired of having to spend millions of dollars to fend off competition from public power agencies year after year."

That discovery has touched off a lawsuit filed last week, seeking the prop's removal from the ballot.

Be that as it may, PG&E may have timed this proposition wisely, considering California's deficit and disapproval of elected officials. How will you be voting and why? Explain below in the comments.

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