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PROPOSITION ME!

Everywhere I go recently, people ask: "Cap'n Dave, what's the deal with the election this year?" They are referring to the fact that this upcoming vote is a mind bender. In addition to the usual nagging responsibility of doofus-selection for all the high offices, we've also got about a dozen different propositions to consider. The publicity pamphlet they sent to my house in an attempt to explain these so-called "ballot initiatives" is thicker than a TV Guide, contains zero pictures and was apparently written by the pre-law club down at a Mary Moppet's Preschool. As a public service, the ruling chieftains here at New Times have asked me to explain these inexplicable propositions. My research--which comprised buying lunch for and sucking back several beers with a couple of local political reporters--is complete. Some of these propositions are more important than others. For obvious reasons, I've grouped them accordingly. As a Halloween treat, I've fished out a special category of scary facts pertaining to these props. For a spine-chillingly good time, I suggest you put on the music from Twin Peaks and read those sections out loud in a darkened room. Oooo.

Prop-by-prop, here's the deal: THE WEENIE PROPS

Prop 100: According to the pamphlet, "Proposition 100 will amend the State Constitution to allow exchanges of state trust land for other public or private lands of equal value." Somehow, funding for schools is involved here, too. Got it? My spin: In Arizona, where you should probably assume that all land deals are crooked, any change in the constitution making them easier is pretty scary. On the other hand: Apparently, these exchanges go on all the time anyway, but the constitution needs to be retooled to make everything hunky-dory with the yellow-notepad set. Scary facts: The State Land Commissioner who would referee exchanges is a political appointee. Meaning, your average telephone solicitor is about as qualified for the job as the guy or gal who may eventually get it. And as the legislature's lawyers say against this prop, "The unstable world of speculative real estate markets is no place for bureaucrats." You should: Vote yes anyway.

Prop 101: This has something to do with changing the constitution so that cities can go further into debt to build more roads. My spin: See above. On the other hand: Car accidents usually occur on roads, don't they? Scary fact: It's a possibility that there is no afterlife, that our existence is but a momentary interruption of eternal nothingness. You should: Vote against this prop if you're against building more roads in cities. Prop 102: Civil cases involving more than $2,500 now have to go to Superior Court. This prop raises that dollar figure to $10,000, which will enable more people to do their petty bickering in front of lower court.

My spin: Brings much-needed relief to overworked Superior Court swearing-in personnel. And, since people are more likely to represent themselves in a lower court, lawyers will theoretically get less business. May also encourage more people to file lawsuits. Just what we need. On the other hand: Most lawyers won't take cheap-o cases anyway. So, for lawyer-haters, it's a wash.

Scary fact: In fiscal 1989, more than 175,000 civil suits were filed in Arizona. You should: Say aye.

Prop 200: This measure would allow the state to skim $20 million from the lottery handle and give it to rocks and critters. The state parks board will get a cut of this so-called Heritage Fund, and so will Game and Fish. Supposedly, the dough will fund wildlife habitats, parks, trails, historic preservation projects, environmental education and annual birthday strip-o-grams for every park ranger in the state. Just kidding!

My spin: Who doesn't like rocks and critters? On the other hand: That $20 million from the lottery is already spent on other worthy things. At some point, we'll have to raise taxes to pay for the stuff it used to pay for. In other words, voting for this prop is not unlike making a credit-card payment using a cash advance from a different card. Which is dumb, but I know people who do it all the time. Scary facts: In dollars spent per capita, the Arizona state parks system ranks 46th in the nation. The good news is, our state-park acreage ranks 43rd. You should: Vote yes.

Prop 300: A pay raise for state legislators, from $15,000 a year to $24,000. My spin: Since the job pays so little, only persons with weird occupations--such as retired military, housewives and real estate agents--can join. If the job paid more, maybe normal people would get involved. On the other hand: Like everyone else, I hate the idea of giving another penny to the nitwits in there currently. Scary fact: As some wag once said, "The problem with representative government is that it usually is."

You should: Fight off your true feelings long enough to vote yes. THE IMPORTANT PROPS Prop 301: Part one of our King Day quinella gives us a paid state holiday on the third Monday of January and lowers Columbus' holiday status to nonpaid. My spin: Marvin Gaye, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, James Brown.

On the other hand: David Duke, Bull Connor, George Wallace, Evan Mecham. Scary fact: Arizona is one of only three states that don't have a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. (Answer to special Cap'n Dave political brainteaser: Montana and New Hampshire.) You should: Abstain from this one but vote yes on 302.

Prop 302: 'Lumbo gets to keep his holiday in this version, and Dr. King gets a day of his own, which he deserves. My spin: Creates an additional paid holiday for state workers. On the other hand: What kind of shriveled-up grind do you have to be to make the argument that we already have too many holidays? I know the answer to that: You're a shriveled-up management grind, or, worse yet, a shriveled-up company-owner grind, or, even worse yet, a shriveled-up stockholder grind. I say, next year we get some petitions together and go for about twenty more paid holidays! Yeah!

Scary fact: Ronald Reagan, Bill Shover, Bill Bidwill, and I all are on the same side of this issue. You should: Consider for a moment the vast and interesting mix of supporters of a King Day. Now consider the small band of mean pinch-butts who oppose it. Which group would you rather be trapped inside a bowling alley with for, say, two weeks? Now vote accordingly. THE INSURANCE PROPS

Prop 105: If it passes, drivers won't be able to sue each other so much.
My spin: If it passes, insurance companies won't have to pay so much to drivers injured in car accidents. On the other hand: If it passes and some weasel runs a red light and plows into your new truck, I suggest you pull him out of his vehicle and beat the shit out of him right there on the street. You'll certainly be getting no such satisfaction in court. Scary fact: Nobody knows how many Arizona drivers are totally uninsured, but a good guess is about 40 percent. You should: Vote no.

Prop 203: This prop--known popularly as "the no-fault scam"--is a heap of Sanskrit that makes great changes in Arizona's insurance law. If it passes, no-fault policyholders will have severe limits placed on some claims, and waive the right to sue for more. If it passes, everybody gets no-fault, and you'll have to deal with your agent to get real insurance again. And, yeah, if it passes, no-faulters also get a one-time rollback on rates. Yippee-dip. My spin: I got a letter from my insurance agent about a month ago. Guess what? He suggested that I vote for both 105 and 203, and vote against that nasty 201. What he didn't explain is that one of 203's provisions will make it impossible for me to sue him if he misrepresents or lies to me about a policy or benefits.

On the other hand: Every other piece of correspondence between my insurance agent and me has involved my sending him money. And unless I get all bent up in a car wreck, he's never going to send any of that money back to me.

Scary fact: Arizona has the eleventh- highest auto-insurance rates in the nation. Nothing in the thirtysomething pages of little teeny type that explain this prop in the voter's guide will alter that statistic. You should: Give it a veto.

Prop 201: This prop, the brain child of Tucson state legislator and hellrod John Kromko, sets up all kinds of zany scenarios. It establishes an Insurance Consumer Office, straps all kinds of excellent regulations on the insurance companies--it even creates an across-the-board rate rollback for everybody who drives. My spin: As the insurance-company-financed propaganda campaign has been telling us, this prop will create a ten-million-dollars-or-more-a-year regulatory bureaucracy that won't necessarily lead to lower auto-insurance rates. Also, the rollback, great idea that it is, will probably get clobbered in court. On the other hand: It's my understanding that insurance companies take five billion-with-a-B dollars out of Arizona every year. When you're talking about that kind of jack, I don't think $10 million a year is too much, especially if it buys us a big, mean regulatory Doberman named Butch who will stand at the airport and bark at insurance executives as they deplane. Woof!

Scary facts: Arizona auto-insurance rates increased almost 10 percent last year and have doubled since 1982. For most families, insurance is the third most costly item on the budget, just below food and housing. You should: Just say, "Here, Butch!"

THE EDUCATION PROP Prop 103: By establishing something called the Arizona Classroom Improvement Program, this prop pries loose $100 more a year for the next ten years for each Arizona public school pupil. My spin: As opponents of this proposition keep saying over and over and over until you want to run across their feet with the lawn mower, you can't improve our schools by throwing money at them. On the other hand: 1) You are much more likely to improve our schools by throwing money at them than by not throwing money at them. 2) Opponents of this prop include the Arizona Coordinating Council of Republican Women, Concerned Women for America and state legislator Wayne Stump--who, considered together, sound like a particularly horrifying episode of Fernwood 2-Night. 3) If I ever get canned here, substitute teaching might be the only job I'll be qualified for. 4) Eddie Basha is a big supporter of this prop, and I really like his bran muffins. 5) Like Prop 200's Heritage Fund, this prop is an opportunity for voters to by-pass the pinheads at the legislature and fund something that actually needs funding.

Scary facts: 1) Arizona ranks in the bottom one third in money invested per pupil. 2) Arizona has the fourth-highest dropout rate in the country. 3) One in three Arizona kids drops out of high school. 4) Among those who do go on to graduate, half are functionally illiterate. 5) Of that 50 percent, two thirds go on to believe that pro wrestling is real. You should: Take a close look at the big cigars opposing this proposition. Among the giant business interests and filthy-rich developer/politician types badmouthing 103, what percentage send their kids to private schools? Since I don't develop shopping centers for a living, I'm voting for it. THE KILLER SLUDGE PROP Prop 202: This prop, titled the Arizona Comprehensive Waste Reduction Recycling and Management Act of 1990, deals with cheery topics such as garbage, landfills and hazardous waste. Supposedly, the overall idea is to try to reduce all solid waste in Arizona by 20 percent. The prop also alters landfill laws and laws governing the disposal of medical waste such as used needles and old issues of Golf magazine from doctors' waiting rooms.

My spin: The prop was written by and for a mega-big company that turns a buck by dealing with garbage, landfills and glowing hazardous waste. It's a long shot that such a company would let its lawyers write anything that might make it less profitable. On the other hand: Generally speaking, companies like this prefer people to trust them. "Oh, don't worry about that doggone glowing toxic sludge," they say. "We'll take care of it."

Scary fact: Most people would prefer to trust giant companies. "Would someone please come and get my glowing toxic sludge?" they ask. "Just don't put it out behind the kids' swing set." You should: Go with your gut on this one. Nix it.

THE VICTIM PROP Prop 104: The Victims' Bill of Rights, as this prop is known, amends the state constitution to "equalize the rights of defendants and victims," according to my voter's guide. My spin: My voter's guide also says there are 47 state statutes and a dozen or more court rules that make this prop somewhat redundant. On the other hand: It could've been worse. According to a reporter pal, earlier versions of this measure were "breathtakingly fascistic." The really scary thing about this version is the section that alters the way court rules are decided. It takes that power away from the courts, and gives it to--gasp!--the state legislature. Even criminals deserve better treatment than that. Scary facts: In Arizona, the state with the third-highest crime rate in the nation, approximately 250,000 citizens become victims every year.

You should: Flip a coin. But not in public, because a criminal might see you have money and take it from you.

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Cap'n Dave