Monday, September 28, 2020







          Anyone examining the unintended consequences of California’s many past ballot propositions cannot possibly ignore what was accomplished by the 2014 Proposition 14 and its follow-up measure, 2016’s eponymous Proposition 16.


          This fall, Proposition 20 is designed to remedy some of those effects.


          Both the earlier measures passed by margins of more than 60-40 percent. Both aimed to lower the state’s prison population, which had long exceeded intended capacities by many thousands of convicts. They did this by making misdemeanors out of former felony crimes like firearm and vehicle thefts, grand theft, credit card fraud and other types of stealing, so long as the value of what criminals took did not exceed $950. It’s anyone’s guess where that arbitrary figure originated.


          Those changes came in Prop. 14. They were supplemented by Prop. 16, which allowed for earlier than ever paroles for “non-violent” crimes including sex trafficking of children, rape of unconscious persons and felony assault with a deadly weapon, all absurdly mis-classified as not so dastardly.


          Soon afterward, violent crime began rising in some places; in Los Angeles last year, it was up 69.5 percent since 2013.


          These were certainly unintended consequences, even if they were predicted in the ballot arguments against both Props. 14 and 16, not to be confused with initiatives on this fall’s ballot that carry the same numbers.


          Critics also predict higher crime will result from the state’s ongoing early releases of many thousands of prisoners who were within less than a year of fulfilling their sentences, even though that has not happened yet in most places. About 8,000 inmates had been let go early as of the beginning of September in an effort to prevent worsening of outbreaks of COVID-19 in several high-security penitentiaries.


          No one predicted what all this prison-emptying would mean for wildfires, where convict firefighters have long been an underpaid but essential part of California’s defenses.


          Some of them recently called that form of convict work “slave labor,” while others responded that the service inspired them and led them to seek firefighter jobs after leaving custody.


          One unquestioned effect of the reduced number of prison “trustee” firefighters was that the state hired nearly 900 new seasonal firefighters to make up for the dwindling supply of convict shock troops. As of midsummer, only 94 of the state’s usual 192 units of inmate firefighters were available. The coronavirus was hindering efforts to train up more inmate crews. Then came the summer’s unprecedented spate of wildfires, at one point seeing dozens of major blazes in almost all vulnerable parts of California.


          Enter Prop. 20, due to be voted on through most of October and on the official Nov. 3 Election Day.


          Its stated aim is to “prevent early release of violent felons.” It would do this by reclassifying some crimes now officially and strangely considered non-violent, despite their inherently violent nature.


          Says an official state summary, “A yes vote…means people who commit…theft-related crimes could receive increased penalties.” It would also prevent convicted child molesters, sexual predators and violent criminals from winning early prison releases.


          Passing this would indicate a new, less crime-tolerant attitude in California. This would require a shift of at least 10 percent of the electorate away from supporting the earlier prison-emptying measures.


          At the same time, it could provide thousands of additional potential convict firefighters, who usually see their sentences reduced in exchange for very risky service on the fire lines.


          Opponents call this “a prison spending scam,” charging the yes side wants to “scare voters into spending tens of millions on prisons, which could force draconian cuts to rehabilitation, schools, mental health care and (increase) homelessness.”


          No one has yet established a direct connection, but homelessness proliferated in California simultaneously with the advent of the prison emptying measures.


          All this is up for argument right now, but there is no doubt that well over 1 million acres of wild land and hundreds of homes burned in the first two months of the official fire season.


          Voters can now decide whether they believe the shortage of inmate firefighters helped cause all this damage, and what – if anything – to do about it.



 Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit







          The possibility of President Trump legally cheating his way into a second term in the White House and questions about what California might do about it first arose in early summer, when Trump hemmed and hawed while failing to answer questions about whether he would accept the November election results, win or lose. He still has not given a firm answer.


                   Yes, others may have cheated their way into the White House. There was former Civil War Gen. Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican elected in 1876 after losing the popular vote to Democrat Samuel Tilden. That happened only because Southern Democrats tossed him a few Electoral College votes Tilden had earned in exchange for a promise to end Reconstruction, detested by Democrats in the former Confederacy.


          Thousands of dead voters apparently cast ballots in Chicago for Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960, as the late Democratic Mayor Richard J. Daley seemingly found a way to give his party a national margin.


          But no one before attempted a strategy anything like two now reported to be under consideration by Trump and his campaign, which plainly sees a possibility of his losing both the popular vote and the Electoral College.


          If Trump loses and then follows one of two possible plans floated as trial balloons by anonymous officials of his campaign, he can expect strong reactions, which might range from armed resistance to his staying in office to some states trying to secede from the Union. The President has not reacted to a unanimous but toothless Senate resolution demanding a peaceful transfer of power if he loses.


          What might happen? California, for one state, has had a nascent secession movement for years; at one point it had poll support from about one-third of the state’s populace.


Two potential routes exist for Trump to get an unearned second term. Both involve Republican-controlled legislatures in swing states like Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida.


          A scenario first reported by Newsweek has Trump convincing the GOP majorities there to refuse certification of election results in their states, a legislative function that’s previously been perfunctory. Trump has bellowed for many months without any evidence about supposed fraud in mail voting, something that has never involved more than a small handful of votes.


          If Biden wins those states, but results are not certified, there probably would be no majority in the Electoral College for anyone. This would throw the election into the House of Representatives, where each state gets one vote and Republicans have majorities in 26 state delegations to 24 for the Democrats. No one knows what those numbers will be after the election. 


          A second scenario reported in The Atlantic and Forbes magazines also has some GOP-run legislatures refusing to accept Biden wins in their states, then naming electors pledged to Trump instead of the electoral winner. In this circumstance, Trump’s party minions could hand him an Electoral College majority.


          Either development would amount to cheating on a scale and consequence never before contemplated in America. That could activate the principle that for every action there is a reaction.


          Secession looms as a possible reaction by California. If it happens, it won’t be led by Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who declared in an interview during his 2018 campaign that “I am not interested in that. I am an American, period.”


          But other Californians have long felt this state would do just fine on its own, or in a new country accompanied by other Democratic-leaning states like Oregon and Washington.


          The secession-minded Yes, California group on July 3 filed a proposed ballot initiative demanding a popular vote on whether to leave the United States. If it qualifies, the measure will make the state ballot in November 2022. So far, there has been no major petition drive for this proposal, but the deadline for gathering signatures comes next March, leaving plenty of time for action if Trump cheats his way to reelection.


          He has never promised not to try. Rather, he steadfastly refuses to commit himself to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, one hallmark of American democracy that sets this country aside from dictatorships and monarchies.



    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, September 21, 2020







          It doesn’t seem to matter who the commissioners are or which governor appoints them, constant scandal seems to dog this state’s Public Utilities Commission.


          Despite a criminal investigation that revealed proof of a secret rate-fixing deal between former PUC President Michael Peevey and executives of Southern California Edison Co., nothing came of that scandal except Peevey’s quiet departure when his term ended. Peevey was an appointee of ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.


          When the PUC’s failure under Jerry Brown appointee Michael Picker to enforce maintenance rules on Pacific Gas & Electric Co. led to the Camp Fire and 85 deaths, state legislators nevertheless gave the PUC authority for supervising the huge utility’s new fire safety program.


          And on and on.


          So it’s unlikely much will happen to current PUC President Marybel Batjer, who helped craft a $13.5 billion electric company wildfire bailout for which customers now pay monthly, over her commission’s latest potential scandal. Batjer worked for Gov. Gavin Newsom when she helped craft that corporate rescue; Newsom then made her the commission’s boss.


          Commissioners including the agency president get six-year staggered terms and cannot be fired even by the governor who appointed them. The PUC now features two Newsom appointees and three Brown leftovers.


          Now Batjer, in her second year, stands accused in court filings and letters of conducting secret commission meetings and of first suspending and then firing her agency’s executive director, Alice Stebbins, as payback for Stebbins’ reporting that the PUC has not collected about $200 million in fees and fines the agency assessed. Batjer says Stebbins was fired over a hiring matter.


          The fees and fines, owed by a variety of utilities, can sometimes be important political and public relations tools, especially when imposed as penalties for corporate malfeasance. The PUC invariably reaps positive publicity when it trumpets penalties, but it allegedly fails to collect some of them.


          That money could be important for an agency which has often said it can’t enforce all its rules because it has insufficient personnel. Imagine how many inspectors could be hired with 200 million extra dollars.


          No one knows just what decisions have lately been made in the secret meetings alleged in a filing from consumer attorney Michael Aguirre, a former elected city attorney of San Diego. The commission legally must provide public summaries of any closed meetings, but Aguirre’s brief cites a spreadsheet listing “a staggering number of closed meetings of the commission in the past three years, most of them on matters which do not justify closed sessions.”


          Another report alleges that in Batjer’s first 13 months as PUC president, she held more than 21 closed meetings, with specific dates listed.


          The Aguirre brief, filed with the state’s First District Court of Appeals – the main court where reviews of PUC decisions are possible – charges “the utilities and their supposed regulator, the PUC, systematically engage in secret government decision-making…”


          That description is consistent with evidence gathered in the Peevey-era investigation into how SoCal Edison customers were dunned for the Edison-caused 2012 failure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. A search warrant led to discovery in Peevey’s home of a napkin from a Warsaw hotel where he met Edison executives during an international conference. Handwritten on the napkin were the terms of the assessment later charged to electric customers.


          Says the Aguirre brief, “There is a profound public interest in the PUC keeping meetings open to the public as required by (law). Under the PUC, the combined revenue authorized to be taken from utility customers is almost $30 billion (per year)…”


          Aguirre asserts the commission is illegally holding closed sessions without reporting actions agreed to there. Essentially, he’s saying no one knows how much less customers might pay for power, natural gas and water if all PUC decisions were made in public, as they’re supposed to be.


          Which means almost all Californians have a major stake in the outcome of this case and the eventual fate of the gutsy Stebbins, who raised the alarm in a remarkable case akin to a corporate general manager blowing the whistle on the very CEO who hired her.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit






          The thermometer has spoken. 102 degrees in San Francisco in early September, a record 121 on the same day in parts of Los Angeles, a simultaneous 130 in Death Valley – the third highest figure ever recorded on earth and the highest reliable reading anywhere since the 1930s.


          The thermometer’s objective message : climate change is no longer a coming phenomenon; our climate has already changed, with more to come.


          That’s the biggest reason wildfire seasons since 2017 have been far more destructive than any before then, the dozens of blazes destroying thousands of homes. Some very thoroughly burned areas were never before considered prone to wildfires.


          That creates a new reality. As former Gov. Jerry Brown noted in the New York Times the other day, you can leave California if you don’t like it. “But tell me where you’re going to go?” he asked rhetorically. Iowa? he asked. Nope. Tornadoes are striking Iowa and other plains states in unprecedented numbers. Florida? Uh-uh. Can’t escape the new nature there, either, when hurricanes arrive with unheard-of frequency and fury.


          Yet, climate change deniers persist, refusing to recognize reality and sticking to unfounded views they’ve held since the earth’s latest changes first became obvious to the vast majority of geologists and atmospheric scientists.


          President Trump repeated his denial kant during a mid-September stop near Sacramento, declaring that “I don’t think science knows, actually.” He told Gov. Gavin Newsom the remedy for wildfires is for California to clear dead trees and leaves, not acknowledging that if anyone should remove leaves and logs, it’s he, since the federal government owns most of California’s wild lands.


          Yes, this state always had brush and forest fires. Native American tribes living here before Europeans arrived set preventive blazes to clear excess brush and lower their people’s exposure to sudden crises. Modern foresters only lately revived the ancient tactic.


          This state has always had arsonists and droughts, too, both contributors to wildfire disasters, along with irresponsible utility companies.


          Trump expresses sympathy for fire victims, but that’s pure hypocrisy when he’s refused since taking office to accept reality because doing so could cost some of his supporters billions. Said Brown, “He’s presiding over a demolition derby on our environment...” Brown spoke of Trump’s many reversals of prior federal moves to stem greenhouse gases that push global warming, loosening many limits on industrial and automotive pollution, plus his reversal of clean air rules and tying the enforcement hands of the Environmental Protection Agency.


          Newsom still must see him at times to ensure federal funding and manpower aid as he contends with the newest spate of huge blazes.


          Newsom made his frustration obvious via several things he said in the days before meeting with Trump. “This is a climate damn emergency,” he exclaimed. “California is in fast forward. What we’re experiencing is coming to communities all across the country. Mother Nature is physics, biology and chemistry. She bats last and she bats 1,000. That’s the reality. The debate is over about climate change.”


          He spoke these things at different times, but they’re stark truths, obvious to all who look, as Trump had the chance to do while flying past the Sierra National Forest’s Creek Fire en route to meet Newsom.


          Those truths affect almost every person in California, not only people with burned or threatened homes. Smoke from the fires drifted as far as Europe, turning skies over San Francisco to strange tones of orange, making air there and in Southern California unsafe to breathe and requiring residents to stay indoors even more than they already were because of the coronavirus pandemic.


          One thing is certain: There will be prices to pay for the federal refusal to accept reality, as Trump and others like the U.S. Senate’s chief climate change denier, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, may learn. They can continue to deny climate change if they wish, but they can’t stop the thermometer.


No one yet knows what penalties they will suffer, but the vast majority of Americans have accepted the reality of climate change for many years. Still, they will almost certainly suffer the penalties right along with the deniers, for there’s no escaping the problems that denial allows to fester.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, September 14, 2020






          The headline back on June 12 was threatening: “A revolt against masks creates new risk,” warned one newspaper atop a wire service story about mass resistance in California to helping stave off the coronavirus pandemic by wearing masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.


          That story was prophetic: Just two weeks later, the state began piling up its highest numbers ever for COVID-19 cases and deaths. It was a simple case of cause and effect, separated by the virus’ approximate two-week incubation period.


          Even renewed runs on funeral homes, hospital beds and space in intensive care units didn’t quell the revolt. In a parallel phenomenon, Louisiana, which refuses firmly to adopt masking rules, has the nation’s highest per-capita coronavirus rate, 70 percent above California’s.


          It’s natural for people and even states to resist masking when the President of the United States first called the coronavirus a hoax and later said it would simply disappear. And then, still later, admitted he lied about it, claiming he did so to prevent panic. Meanwhile, he also precluded a quick national response.


This should surprise no one, when that same President has become a parody of the old parable about the boy who cried wolf. Donald Trump has cast himself as the man who cries “hoax” upon encountering anything he dislikes.


          Because he’s the President, many Americans continue believing him, despite admitted lies and many others he doesn’t cop to.


          It’s almost as if the anti-vaccination movement has taken over part of the national psyche and California’s.


          There is strong evidence that the best ways to stave off new infections are wearing masks, washing hands often and keeping at least six feet away from people not sheltering with you.


          But when county health officers impose masking rules, they meet resistance to the point of death threats. Intimidation caused the former health officer of Orange County, for one, to resign, believing she and her family were endangered. Even as deaths pile up, resisters contend masks don’t help, or that the disease itself is phony. Why shouldn’t they spout such claptrap when the President has done it?


          These tactics ape what the anti-vaccination movement has done to opponents for years, including a street attack on the author of a state law tightening restrictions on inoculation exemptions for schoolchildren.


          Anti-vaxxers now signal that whenever a COVID-19 vaccine appears, they will try to discourage the public from using it. Activists are already posting anti-COVID-19 vaccination messages on social media. Polls indicate about one-third of Americans won’t soon accept a vaccination.


          It’s part of a “me first” philosophy putting public welfare behind personal convenience. Yes, the anti-vaxx movement consistently promotes disproven claims about vaccine side effects, and will surely do the same when a coronavirus preventive appears.


          The essence of the movement is that any individual’s preference trumps the public interest. If it’s inconvenient for me to inoculate my child against smallpox and polio, this element says the child should be exempt. That amounts to child abuse, exposing youngsters to serious and deadly diseases. Activists also say “don’t tell me what to do.” Yet, the same folks stop for red lights, wear clothing and put up with other common infringements on absolute personal liberty.


          Maybe it’s somehow a right for parents to expose their kids to diseases that could kill them or, with ailments like measles or mumps, impair them for life. But it’s patently absurd for parents to claim the right to expose other people’s children.


          Similarly, it might be individuals’ right to expose themselves to COVID-19 by not wearing masks indoors, but when huge numbers of cases have been transmitted person-to-person by unknowing, undetected carriers, the rights of those who might be infected take precedence.


          Meanwhile, the claim that the coronavirus plague is a hoax has not died since anti-vaxxers began shouting it last spring at rallies against shutdown orders. It’s been picked up by the many more folks who are reluctant to wear masks and by people who claim – without evidence – that masks prevent them from breathing well.


          Masks may be inconvenient, but COVID-19 is no hoax. Just ask the almost 200,000 Americans dead from it.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit






          More than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, no one has done much to stop the near-constant toll the coronavirus has taken among those most vulnerable to it: people living in nursing homes.


          It’s well known by now that almost three-fourths of all fatalities from this virus come in the 65-and-up age group, and virtually everyone involved in trying to bring the plague to heel calls continuously for protecting those most prone to infection.


          That includes California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the newest addition to President Trump’s coronavirus task force, Scott Atlas – a scholar at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution think tank, a physician not trained as an epidemics expert. But none of these folks faces up to the obvious: To stem Covid-caused deaths, they will have to do something about the toll in nursing homes.


          For of the many fatalities among senior citizens, about two-thirds – or almost half the total deaths – have been residents of the nation’s almost 15,000 nursing homes, just under 2,000 of them in California. That’s because this virus is particularly pernicious when attacking those who are already compromised – and who lives in nursing homes if not previously compromised in some way?


          It’s been clear from the pandemic’s beginning last spring that nursing homes – often not prepared for external disasters like wildfires and earthquakes – also were not and still are not generally equipped to stem the virus.


          This is because of conditions inside the homes, like frequently leaving disabled patients abed for days at a time, not testing staffers very often for viral exposure and not always establishing social distance within the homes. It’s also because both state and federal governments have failed consistently in responding to appeals from nursing home groups for more supplies of quality personal protection equipment for their workers.


          But the most vital keys to stemming the viral tide among those most vulnerable are two items, one very specific to nursing homes, one very general.


          First, nursing homes must be allowed, even compelled, to allow more visitors. At the start of the pandemic, nursing homes nationwide stopped allowing any visitors. Not even state inspectors could get in for fear they might bring in contagion. But staff continued to come and go and still does, often working at more than one job because wages in the homes can be very low.


          Without visitors, no one can know what really goes on in the homes. Friends and relatives who make contact with residents through ground-floor windows and Facetime or Zoom conversations can barely get an inkling. Nursing home managements love complying with no-visitor rules, as that means no one can monitor their practices.


          This makes allowing visitors the most direct way to improve things in the homes. There have been moves in that direction. In California, visitors can enter now, to see one per resident at a time, if a home has had no COVID-19 cases for several weeks and if they dress up in mask, gown and gloves to make sure of sanitation on all sides. But homes with no virus cases for weeks at a time are scarce, so this rule still needs more easing. For visitors have long been the prime control on nursing home practices. They see when patients are dehydrated, not bathed regularly, suffer from bedsores or are not properly distanced from each other.


          The second need to cut the death toll in long-term care homes is much more general: a great reduction in cases within the outside community. For as isolated as the residents have become, often causing them enormous mental and emotional distress, staffers in the homes are just the opposite. Besides often working multiple jobs, they frequently live in crowded quarters among people of all ages and health practices and they bring those exposures into the homes daily. When community-wide caseloads rise, that means viral incidence and deaths in nursing homes do, too.


          Nursing homes must have three things if the pace of deaths there is to subside: More equipment, better conditions outside the homes and, most important, more visitors so that relatives and others can know what’s going on inside and act on it where needed.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Friday, September 4, 2020




          There could be no better way to promote a lifelong sense of victimhood and an enduring series of grudges and resentments than to adopt a public school ethnic studies curriculum like the one now proposed for California’s public schoolchildren.

          Here’s why: Despite being sent back to the drawing board last year because of its obvious biases, untruths and incompleteness, the second draft plan still is under the strong influence of the Critical Ethnic Studies Assn. (CESA), a college-level academic group that stresses (according to its websites) “colonialism and conquest, racial chattel slavery and white supremacist (doctrines).”

          Although it has added anti-Semitism and the Armenian genocide of the early 20th Century to its list of longstanding persecutions, the new version still lacks emphasis on anyone’s positive contributions to America and California, let alone those of European-derived whites who organized this country.

          Its stress on conquest would likely result in teaching schoolkids about how their infecting the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans of Mexico and Central and South America with smallpox enabled a very small force of Spanish conquistadors to conquer large and successful empires.

          But chances are it would ignore the fact that the Spanish conquests ended human sacrifice and some limited forms of cannibalism in this hemisphere. Odds are it would also ignore how English settlers brought ideas like freedom of religion here after being persecuted in Britain.

          Yes, the proposed curriculum would justifiably and properly emphasize how much enslaved Africans contributed to the building of America, but it would downplay the contributions of figures like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and James Madison because they owned slaves. Not that those seminal historic figures should be excused for owning, exploiting and trading in the lives of other humans. But the fact that they promoted and wrote into the Constitution ideas contrary to their personal practices must also be recognized, if there is to be any accuracy to this program. Their vital contributions to establishing the world’s first democracy since King Philip of Macedon defeated ancient Athens cannot be ignored, even as some of their statues come down.

          But accuracy is not the hallmark of the CESA. Grudges are.

          As one reader noted, it’s not enough to cover the history of American slavery and blame it all on Europeans, although they were certainly culpable. Ignoring the fact that slavery was an ancient practice recognized and not condemned even in the Bible makes America seem uniquely evil, promoting lasting resentment of this country. Ignoring the fact that Africans held and traded in slaves long before they began selling some to Europeans who carried them to America promotes an inaccurate version of history.

          Said the reader, “Our children have to be taught the history of America using hard facts and documents, not opinions.”

          Of course, opinions about what’s important vary, also changing over time. Is it more important to cover Jim Crow laws in an ethnic studies course or to examine the racial and religious restrictions that prevailed in America until about 80 years ago, some still memorialized in current deed restrictions that are no longer recognized legally? Why not look at both?

          But the proposed curriculum prevents such a realistic look at a seamy side of American life by dividing this nation into four basic groups: whites, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asians and Pacific Islanders. Where does that leave, for example, Jews – they have lived for centuries in every area from which those four groups stem. Yet their exclusion until the last half-century or so from many neighborhoods and the limitations admission quotas long placed on their presence at many universities would be ignored by the curriculum.

          In short, the CESA-led group that designed the new planned curriculum has decided which people are and were legitimate victims and which were not, regardless of what may really have befallen them.

          That’s not a factual approach and cannot help but lead to inaccurate classroom instruction.

          Which means that the state Board of Education, due to okay or reject the latest curriculum plan by the end of next March, must sent it back for another rewrite, or perpetuate what may be the most destructive set of academic guidelines ever introduced into California’s education system.            

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          The presidential election appears to be no contest in California, if the polls are correct, with Democrat Joe Biden leading Republican incumbent Donald Trump by as much as 39 percent, an unprecedented margin.

          But even without a U.S. Senate race to liven things up this fall, there still figure to be plenty of close contests here, in several congressional districts and especially among the 12 initiatives on the Nov. 3 ballot.

          Some of those congressional races, mostly in the Central Valley and Orange County, remained too close to call less than two months before Election Day – itself a non-realistic term when all voters will receive mail ballots and most will vote long before the official date of the election.

          But clear-cut winners and losers can be spotted among the propositions.

          Start with Proposition 15, the fight over the Split Roll, which aims to deprive commercial real estate of its current exemption under the 1978 Proposition 13 from frequent reassessment and property tax increases. In most years, this would have a solid chance, its sponsors promising around $12 billion in new funding for public schools, cities and counties.

          None of that money, they say, would come from the pockets of most taxpayers, with the entire new bill footed by owners of factories, office towers, shopping malls and other businesses. But wait. With hundreds of companies sending staff home to work, and thousands of leases getting cancelled or going unrenewed, no one can know what office buildings and other commercial properties will be worth later this year or next. So the $12 billion promise is nebulous at best.

          Plus, whatever businesses survive the coronavirus shutdowns will surely pass on to consumers via higher prices every cent of the rent increases that inevitably follow a tax increase. So it turns out the average taxpayer would foot this bill.

          Once voters figure this out, -- and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will speed that along – this measure doesn’t figure to do well. It’s a matter of the poorest possible timing and the impatience for change of labor unions behind the Split Roll. They’re ignoring very public advice to hold off two years until the next general election.

         But the climate may be right this year for Proposition 16, aiming to end California’s 24-year ban on affirmative action in college admissions, hiring and other fields. Every poll says voters are more sympathetic now to helping minorities upward than they’ve been in decades. While affirmative action went down by a significant margin in a 1996 vote, there’s a good chance for a comeback now.

     Another likely winner is Proposition 18, allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they’ll be 18 by the following November’s general election. Plenty of senior citizens and middle-aged voters know that high school students taking civics classes can be well informed. Many will gladly opt to expand voting rights a bit.

       Another potential winner is Proposition 19, letting homeowners over 55 change homes, but keep their property tax at the same level it’s been for years under the 1978 Proposition 13. This one, backed by realtors wanting to market more homes, might break up the logjam caused by seniors and others hanging onto properties larger than they really need because they can’t afford the taxes they’d have to pay if they buy another home. This would let older folks downsize more comfortably, while opening up buying opportunities for young families in areas where sales are now infrequent.

       Reruns also adorn this ballot. Statewide rent control is back after losing badly two years ago. Unless voters have become far more left-leaning since that election – a possibility after two more years of observing President Trump – this one figures to lose again as Proposition 21.

          New and larger staffing requirements for kidney dialysis centers are also back after losing two years ago, this time appearing as Proposition 23. It will likely lose once more if the big-money dialysis companies again convince voters this move would cause many dialysis centers to close.

      There’s some predictability to all this, but nothing is certain among the propositions, even when it seems to be.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit