My California ballot measure endorsements for November 6th

A common issue I notice is that each fall election in California has a slew of ballot measures, many of which are confusing and most importantly, deceptive. The amendment, veto and initiative process dates to 1910 and the heyday of the Progressive Era. In the century since, over 1,200 proposals have made it on the ballot. This year has several substantial propositions, which could change not only California’s tax policy, but also how we treat criminals.

I won’t preface these endorsements with much, but I’ll pick out the two most important to me.

Prop 34 will eliminate the death penalty and commute sentences to life without parole. It is not only a moral imperative to do this, but also will have about $100 million a year, which will in part go to investigating unsolved rapes and murders- an outrageous proportion of terrible crimes are done by people who elude justice.

Prop 36 is a serious reform of the “three strikes” policy approved by voters in 1994. I assume some of you may have voted yes in that election, but it is now clear the it is a perversion of justice. It would stop people from serving life for a third, petty offense and adjust sentences of those that are in prison for a minor third strike. Many of the people that have come to define three strikes (who stole a crowbar, a few cookies, or a couple videotapes) would be freed under time served.

Our prison system is inhumane, overcrowded, and filled with people sentenced under mandatory minimums and other measures that fill our prisons and remove power from judges.

The endorsements are below the fold.

Prop 30: Governor wants this. Small sales tax increase as well as new tax brackets for wealthy (+250k). Money goes to general fund. Used to stop school cuts. Endorsement: Yes

Prop 31: Complicated. Changes how state and local government work. Local governments given more money and more responsibility. Also establishes a two-year budget- could improve situation in legislature. Dems No, Reps Yes. Endorsement: Lean Yes.

Prop 32: Bans corporate, gov. contractor and union donations using funds normally allocated for retirement etc. By its nature, probably hurts unions more. Super PACs and businesses that have other funding sources (i.e big) are exempted. Not an ideal government reform measure. Half of Yes’ funding comes from Koch brothers. Most of No’s is large state unions. Endorsement: No

Prop 33: Auto insurance adjustments- record of coverage lowers premiums, lapsed coverage or new drivers get higher ones. On ballot because it isn’t a fee adjustment approved by the state. Dumb idea, perhaps discriminatory. Endorsement: No

Prop 34: Eliminates death row and moves prisoners to life without parole. The savings by this action (over $100 million annually) will partly be reinvested reducing unsolved rapes and murders in California. Don’t believe the fear mongering- this is a prudent and humane idea. Endorsement: Yes

Prop 35: A whole slate of new laws and modifications to address sex trafficking. Sharply increases penalties, and adds some new (possibly excessive) conditions for sex offenders. No real opposition. Some concerns with whether criminal code adjustments may have collateral damage. Endorsement: No opinion

Prop 36: Comprehensive reform of the 1994 “Three Strikes” measure. With a couple exceptions, removes life terms if the third strike is not violent or serious. Changes sentences for people convicted that would not receive life under the new conditions. Endorsement: Yes

Prop 37: Requires labeling of food that contains genetically modified aspects. Bunch of exceptions (more or less, to have a direct and substantial GMO component). Not sure how this would work out if passed. Opposed by multinational agribusiness companies and the processed food industry. Some farmers also oppose it. Endorsement: Yes

Prop 38: Similar to 30. Directs money to mostly education for the first four years, then entirely for the last eight. Last longer than 30. Tax applies to all brackets on a sliding scale. Continues California’s issues with funding been sequestered and unusable for the general budget. Endorsement: No

Prop 39: Removes a tax loophole for companies that operate in multiple states. May increase revenue by $1 billion annually, and will be used to fund clean jobs and if any is left over, public education. Endorsement: Yes

Prop 40: A YES will keep state senate districts drawn by the citizen’s commission. A NO vote will discard them. Originally put on the ballot by the California Republican Party, which was looking for a no vote and a return to more favorable districts. They no longer support it, and the Republicans have endorsed the maps. Endorsement: Yes

Author: AJM

Writer, sociologist, Unitarian Universalist.

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