Civics Education: Prop. 13 Reform

RubyMacDonald-4webCoordinator: Ruby MacDonald:

Monthly Team Meetings, the 3rd Saturday of the month,
10 am to 12 noon, at the League office,
2530 San Pablo, Berkeley. 510-524-8961
Check the League Calendar for dates

Next meeting, Sat, June 17, 2017, 10AM to Noon.


The Civics Education Team is now working on public and League education and lobbying for Proposition 13 Reform. Closing loopholes in the Prop.13 way of taxing commercial property to make them more fair would bring millions in new funding for schools and local government. New members and potential members most welcome.

Current Prop 13 Projects May 2017

1) A “Make It Fair” brochure to educate voters on i) the history of Prop. 13 which helped homeowners avoid huge increases in their property taxes following skyrocketing property values in the 1970’s, ii) unanticipated state and local budget deficits following Prop. 13’s passage in 1978 and iii) one proposed reform of commercial property tax assessment which would increase revenue collected only from commercial property taxes so that the latter amount would be similar to revenue collected from residential property taxes.

2) Mail, e-mail and telephone outreach to Presidents of each of the 62 local Leagues around California to help them raise awareness among their members of the proposed commercial property tax assessment reform as a state constitutional amendment, in particular the $9 billion this amendment could contribute to the state budget, according to a USC study.

3) Presenting a caucus, “Fix Prop. 13!”, at the state convention June 2 at 9 pm in Sacramento to obtain support for this effort as a LWVC priority.

4) Organizing outreach to voters in the Berkeley community at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market on Saturdays near City Hall.

If any of these actions is just what you are interested in doing, contact Ruby MacDonald at or 510 524-8961!      –Ruby MacDonald

Update from “Brainstorm” Meeting on 2/21/17

The break-out group on Prop. 13 Reform began with enthusiastic self-introductions by Sherry, new member Judy, and Amy, Elise, Ken and Helene. New member Virginia asked to be included at the end of Brainstorm. Other mainstay Team members Bobbie, Jinky and Adena joined other groups to update themselves on activities of other Teams.   Facilitator Ruby launched discussion with a brief history of Prop. 13’s unintended and unfortunate consequences that, we hope, will be addressed by a legislative amendment to the CA constitution. Group offered examples of their own experiences with the impact of Prop. 13,  asked questions about the CA budget process and suggested their ideas on advancing Prop. 13 Reform. Amy recorded suggestions which included some of the Prop. 13 Reform Team’s ongoing agenda: creating an informative brochure, presenting a Prop. 13 Reform caucus at LWVC Convention in June, circulating a petition to promote legislative action on Prop. 13 Reform, community outreach to help voters and local CA LWVs to understand the need for Prop. 13 Reform and lobbying legislators to pass Prop. 13 Reform measures.        –Ruby MacDonald

Projects  in  2017:

Crucial to the decline of Civics Education in public schools has been lack of funding!  Although cities like Berkeley have successfully fought for funding of education, many school districts across California have been unable to withstand the decimation of their budgets by Proposition 13.  The Civics Education Team will promote awareness of the need for legislative Reform of Prop. 13, supported by LWVC, by outreach to our community, as well as to local Leagues around the State.

More on the Prop. 13 Public Education and Action Project:

The Civics Education Team, under Civics Education Team Leader Ruby MacDonald, was successful at the January Program Planning in  proposing a new LWVBAE  effort to educate League members and the public about the benefits of Prop. 13 reform and to urge Local Leagues to take action by lobbying their legislators.

Click Prop.13 Backgrounder for more info.

In a recent meeting with former state Senator Loni Hancock, MacDonald and LWVBAE President Deborah Malbec discussed this proposal. Sen. Hancock encouraged MacDonald and Malbec’s proposal and gave them helpful advice. Sen. Hancock worked in the Legislature for many years to build a coalition to get Prop. 13 reform passed and spoke eloquently about the need for Prop. 13 reform at the 2015 League Community Luncheon,

Sen. Loni Hancock at LWVBAE Community Luncheon 2015

Sen. Loni Hancock at LWVBAE Community Luncheon 2015

Proposed Education and Action: The Civics Education Team of LWVBAE will aim to educate communities and Leagues on the benefits of Prop. 13 Reform. The Team will also focus on carefully crafted outreach to local Leagues to mobilize their members to lobby their legislative representatives.

Goal: The current goal is passage of a state constitutional amendment requiring commercial and industrial property – but not residential property – to be reassessed every 7 years. This simple change would add about $9 billion in much needed revenue to the state’s General Fund, according to research by the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) at USC.

Impacts of Prop 13: By severely limited the annual increase in property taxes, Proposition 13 has helped homeowners keep their properties.  At the same time, it has  caused unacceptable state and local budget deficits. Before Prop. 13, K-12 schools in California ranked 4th to 7th in the country. Today, they rank close to the bottom. Many cities and counties in the East Bay were forced to put tax measures or bonds on their ballots in the last election because infrastructure has decayed;  transit systems have aged;  affordable housing has been long neglected and not enough new affordable housing has been built to meet the growing need.

Students with low or moderate family income have less access  to higher education, as only students from upper income families can afford to attend UC Berkeley and other state institutions. Financial assistance to such students may not cover their actual need.

New Urgency: There is a newly urgent need to increase state revenue because Republicans have won control of the Presidency, Congress and the Senate. Thirty-six percent of the CA budget comes from federal sources. So increasing state income by reforming Prop. 13 will become essential to maintain and increase state income.

Unfairness of Taxes: Similar amounts of revenue were collected as commercial property taxes and residential property taxes before Prop. 13 was passed in 1978.  Today commercial property taxes account for 28% and residential property taxes 72% of revenue collected due in part to certain large corporations exploiting a loophole in Prop. 13!  Closing of this loophole could add $9 billion in state revenue.”  FYI many homeowners do pay more in residential property taxes than others with similar properties thanks to Prop. 13 but correcting this unfairness by legislation  has been too difficult and we need to focus on what can be fixed.

What you can do: Come to the next Civics Education Team meeting and Join the Civics Education Team to help state and local government fair again!  All League members welcome.

Ruby MacDonald,

Chair, Civics Education Team

For a more detailed discussion and background on Prop. 13 see: Prop.13 Backgrounder

Projects  in  2016:

A committee of the Civics Education Team created a brochure to introduce first-time voters to the process of voting — not to be confused with the Smart Voter, Easy Voter Guide or Busy Voter Guide put out by Voter Services!  The eye-catching brochures will continue to be distributed to high school students in Berkeley.

Civics Ed Team members took voter registration into a new venue – i.e. the Berkeley High School gym, see below! – as BHS students received their class assignments on returning to school after the summer.  Looking forward to the next election!

To boost voter turnout for Berkeley High’s Mock Election, a contest for the best GOTV slogan was held for the first time at the Berkeley High School Club Fair.  Voted best slogan by the Voter Services Team was that of student Yosabel Tekeste who said she had never written a slogan before, much less entered a slogan in a contest!  Flyers with Yosabel’s winning slogan, “Use your voice – Make a choice – Go to Vote” were posted around the school to advertise the Mock Election in October.
Berkeley High school gymgotv-flier