As California Goes, So Goes the Nation’s Business?


It’s worth paying attention to the state’s political tides, even with the focus on the White House. Some $650 million has been spent on California ballot propositions this election cycle, in what David McCuan of Sonoma State University calls “the second most expensive political exercise in the free world.”

Here are three of the most consequential propositions for businesses:

Prop. 15: Tax most large commercial and industrial properties based on market value, instead of purchase price. The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, Mark Zuckerberg’s family foundation, gave more than $6.3 million in support, noting that a tenth of landowners would pay more than 90 percent of the tax. The California Chamber of Commerce opposes it, arguing that it would harm small businesses and lead to higher food and energy prices. California capped property tax increases in the 1970s, inspiring similar moves elsewhere; if the initiative passes, local governments desperate for revenue could follow the state’s lead once again.

Prop. 22: Make app-based drivers independent contractors. A consortium of gig companies — including DoorDash, Instacart, Postmates and Uber — has spent more than $200 million to support the proposition, which would allow the companies to avoid classifying their drivers as employees. The fight already serves as a harbinger of wider debates about the flexibility and security of gig work. The Biden campaign cites California’s approach as a model.

Prop. 24: Expand privacy laws and create a state data protection agency. Backers of the plan include the former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, Mayor London Breed of San Francisco, and the real estate tycoon Alastair Mactaggart. Big Tech is mostly quiet about it, but some lawyers for Google and Quora individually signed a letter opposing the initiative. Critics complain that the proposal puts the onus on individuals to opt out and might turn privacy into a luxury item. It would codify an existing law “riddled with problems,” says Eric Goldman, a co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.

President Trump suggests he may fire Dr. Anthony Fauci. At a rally near Miami last night, Mr. Trump responded to a crowd chant of “Fire Fauci” by saying: “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election.” Dr. Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, has recently rebutted the president’s optimistic claims about the state of the pandemic.

Stores are boarding up windows before the election. Retailers are bolstering security — protecting shop windows, hiring more guards and training employees in how to de-escalate conflicts — in anticipation of election-related unrest. (Walmart, however, has reversed its decision to pull firearms and ammunition from store floors.)



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