Hastings Law Journal


It took over forty-one years, but on November 2, 2004, President John F. Kennedy's vision of mental health care became a reality in California when 53.8% of the voters of California ratified Proposition 63. Proposition 63 (the Proposition) was criticized, however, the proponents of sought to bring relief to California's mental health system after decades of broken promises. The controversy surrounding Proposition 63 is not whether treatment for the mentally ill is a priority of the State but whether the novel funding structure is abusive.

The Note will first trace the roots of the controversy through a historical analysis of California's mental health system in Part I. Part II discusses the Proposition's rationale, its goals of mental health expansion and prevention, and the impact of its implementation. Part III engages in a discussion of the direct democratic process, its pitfalls, and concludes by asserting that Proposition 63 is not only susceptible to the abuses of the direct democratic process but that direct democracy is not the best vehicle for enacting and imposing new taxes. The Note then presents a brief tax policy discussion in Part IV, focusing on the tax problems and policy issues raised by Proposition 63. The mental health, direct democracy, and tax issues come full circle in Part V, addressing the paradox of the Proposition: an initiative consisting of sound public policy funded by a short-sighted tax scheme. Part VI proposes some changes to the Proposition including a complete repeal, amending the current tax structure, and spreading the tax over a large segment of the population.

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