Monday, October 29, 2012

California propositions

For those who haven't had time to read through the lengthy and confusing pamphlet the state sends voters describing the flurry of propositions on the ballot this year, my friend Sabrina Kemeny has compiled this helpful summary. I have previously posted an analysis of proposition 30, which is probably the most important proposition on the ballot, and my only disagreement with Sabrina on that is that I am not suggesting that if people vote yes on proposition 30 (and we must vote yes on 30 to avoid disastrous cuts to education funding), they should vote no on the competing proposition 38. In my view, it's fine to vote yes on 38, or abstain on 38, just so long as voters vote yes on 30. Sabrina's other recommendations are generally in line with what most progressive organizations are suggesting: 




YES on Prop 30 Taxes earnings over $250,000 for 7 years and imposes 1/4 cent sales tax for 4 years raising ~ $6 billion/yr to mainly fund schools (89% to K-12, 11% to community colleges).
NO on Prop 31 Establishes 2 year budget.  Gives local gov't enormous powers to not comply with state laws.
NO on Prop 32 Stops payroll deductions for politics.  Actually an assault on unions cleverly disguised to seem even handed.          
NO on Prop 33 Allows insurance companies to set prices based on whether driver continuously had insurance for past 5 years. 
YES on Prop 34 Replaces death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole
NO on Prop 35 Increases prison sentences for trafficking, broadens definition of sex offenders and requires sex offenders to disclose all internet usernames (Note many organizations liberal or otherwise are Yes on 35).           
YES on Prop 36 Revises 3 strikes law to only impose life sentences if the third strike is a serious or violent felony conviction (with some exceptions).
YES on Prop 37 Requires genetically engineered foods to be labeled.
NO on Prop 38 Munger's  tax proposal uses sliding scale increases to raise ~ 10 billion/year.
YES on Prop 39 Requires multistate businesses to pay income taxes based on their percentage of sales in CA, as opposed to the current tax code where they pay the smaller of: either sales or a percentage based on number of employees, facilities etc. in state.
YES on Prop 40 Approves the recently drawn districts enacted by the Citizens Redistricting Commission.  The No on 40 has suspended their campaign.

YES on A This is an advisory vote (it's just looking for voter opinion) that indicates whether you would support changing the CA constitution and the LA County Charter to make the position of LA County Assessor an appointed position instead of an elected position. 
NO on B Requires adult films to obtain a public health permit, have performers use condoms, provide training courses and a written exposure control plan.
YES on J Extends the 1/2 cent sales tax that was approved by Measure R in 2008 for an additional 30 years, (from the current end in 2039 to ending in 2069).

 

Why I came to these decisions and some endorsements


YES on Prop 30 This is Governor Brown's tax proposal, most of which will go to fund schools  and the only one which will stop the 6 billion spending "trigger cuts" from being enacted later this year if this proposition does not pass.  (5.8 billion of the trigger cuts are to schools.)  Prop 38 won't kick in until 2013 which will be too late to offset the cuts.    Prop 30 will increase taxes on incomes between $250,000-$300,000 by 1%, $300,000-$500,000 by 2% and over $500,000 by 3% for 7 years, thereby affecting only the top 1% of voters.  It will impose a 1/4 cent sales tax for 4 years.  The money goes into the general fund and will increase the minimum guaranteed amount that goes to schools, however some of the money will not go to schools.  It also requires the State to pay local government for increased costs associated with implementing laws in 2011 but closes the wasteful State reimbursement to local governments for posting meeting notices.    Our schools have been decimated by 20 billion in cuts during the last 4 years.  We must pass this proposition.  Between prop 30 and 38, only the one with the most votes will go into effect.

YES on 30: Every progressive organization as well as most newspapers throughout the state (LA Times. San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News,  etc., ACCE Action, AFSCME Council 57, APEN (Asian Pacific Environmental Network), Bend the Arc:A Jewish Partnership for Justice, CA Democratic Party, CA Labor Federation, CA Partnership, CA Federation of Teachers, Courage Campaign, CREEDO Action, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of CA, PresentePAC+, Working Californians

NO on Prop 31 Totally misguided "reforms" that: establish 2 year budget cycle, prevent spending of more than $25 million unless offset by identified revenue or other cuts, requires performance reviews of all state programs and allows local governments to override state law.  Two of these "reforms" are especially problematic.  The first is the $25 million spending cap that would make it difficult to restore funding to programs decimated by previous budget cuts, for instance in education, and in general will make it more difficult for the legislature to pass anything.  The second is that it transfers authority to local counties and cities if they have approved plans  (as well as $200 million to develop those plans)  to administer state-funded programs.  This could lead to local governments overriding environmental laws with no effective way to prevent abuse.  Also the rebuttal argument points out that the proposition is so vague and contradictory, it will lead to years of expensive court battles instead of the reform it's looking for.

NO on 31: ACCE Action, AFSCME Council 57, Bend the Arc:A Jewish Partnership for Justice, CA Democratic Party, CA Labor Federation, CA Partnership, CA Federation of Teachers, Courage Campaign, PresentePAC+, Working Californians

NO on Prop 32 Stops payroll deductions for political purposes.  Since businesses do not collect payroll deductions for political use, this proposition primarily affects unions who do  collect dues from payroll deductions.  The unions would in essence no longer be able to contribute to candidates.  At the same time corporations can give as much as they want as long as the money doesn't come from payroll deductions.  This is an assault on the working class dressed up as finance reform.

NO on 32: League of Women Voters of CA, Common Cause, CA Clean Money Campaign, ACCE Action, AFSCME Council 57, APEN (Asian Pacific Environmental Network), Bend the Arc:A Jewish Partnership for Justice, CA Democratic Party, CA Labor Federation, CA Partnership, CA Federation of Teachers, Courage Campaign, CREEDO Action, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of CA, PresentePAC+, Working Californians

 NO on Prop 33 Allows insurance companies to set prices based on whether the driver has had continuous insurance for the last 5 years.  (Basically the same Mercury Insurance initiative that was rejected in 2008.)  This will end up raising insurance rates on drivers who have not had continuous insurance even if they are new drivers, haven't owned a car, were too sick and weren't driving for a while, etc.  It is 99% financed by Mercury Insurance chairman George Joseph who has spent $16 million on Prop 33.

NO on  33: almost all the papers including the San Jose Mercury News and LA Times, ACCE Action, Bend the Arc:A Jewish Partnership for Justice, CA Democratic Party, CA Labor Federation,  CA Federation of Teachers, Courage Campaign, CREEDO Action, PresentePAC+, Working Californians

YES on Prop 34 Replaces death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Applies retroactively to persons already sentenced to death.  Also requires convicted killers to work while in jail with earnings going to their victims and earmarks $100 million for police grants to solve rape and murder cases.  I am morally against the death penalty especially when we consider that innocent people are also killed.  Since 1973, 141 people have been released from death rows throughout the country due to evidence of their wrongful convictions. There were 3 exonerations in CA.  There is also tremendous racial disparity.  Even though blacks and whites are murder victims in nearly equal numbers of crimes, 80% of people executed have been for murders involving white victims.

Besides the moral issues, there are practical benefits.  The biggest is cost.  The measure would result in a cost savings to state and local governments of approximately $100 million/year growing to $130 million after a few years.  These result from lower court and litigation expenses as well as reducing prison costs. 

YES on 30: ACCE Action, AFSCME Council 57, APEN (Asian Pacific Environmental Network), Bend the Arc:A Jewish Partnership for Justice, CA Democratic Party, CA Labor Federation, CA Partnership, CA Federation of Teachers, Courage Campaign, CREEDO Action,  PresentePAC+, Working Californians

NO on Prop 35 Increases prison sentences and fines for trafficking, broadens definition of sex offenders and requires sex offenders to disclose all internet ISPs, usernames and screen names.  (NOTE that many groups on the right and left are yes on PROP 35). Although increasing prison sentences for labor and sex trafficking may seem fair, there are several major problems with this measure.  First, it broadens the definition of human trafficking to include crimes related to the creation and distribution of obscene materials depicting minors.  For example, an offender who is simply selling magazines could be considered a trafficker even if they had no contact with the minor depicted.  Someone receiving financial support from normal consensual prostitution such as a son, friend or landlord could be labeled a human trafficker. The measure also requires all sex offenders (which will now include any kind of trafficking) to provide the names of their internet providers, and identifiers (email addresses, usernames, screen names) to police.  Unlike other crimes in which you do the time and then regain a place in society, sex offenders are punished for life, having to register with their address, employer address and other information annually (or every 30 days if homeless).  Unfortunately some of these sex offenders are punished for very minor infractions or worse, innocent people have plea bargained to a lesser offense to avoid trial but still must register as sex offenders.  Rather than working with sex worker communities to stop real human traffickers , Prop 35 unjustly sweeps too many people into the criminal system. This is a great article http://www.psmag.com/legal-affairs/prop-35-case-act-undermines-victims-rights-48314 written by 3 legal experts who have worked with victims of human trafficking who argue that Prop 35, a laudable effort  to address sex slavery, will actually set back existing efforts to fight the trade.

No on 35:  LA Times, San Francisco Bay Guardian, Cindy Liou, a staff attorney at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, located in the Bay Area. Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach works with trafficking victims, Perla Flores, a program manager at Community Solutions in Morgan Hills, Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club,California Council of Churches, San Francisco Rising, Bernal Heights Democratic Club, California Association for Criminal Justice, Peace and Freedom Party 

YES on Prop 36: Modifies three strikes law such that if the third strike is a non serious, non-violent felony, then the prison term will be twice the usual term for the offense as opposed to the currently required 25-life sentence.  Allows judges to resentence existing felons if third strike not serious or violent. Maintains life sentence if prior strikes were for rape, murder or child molestation.  Other exceptions to the shorter sentence for some drug, sex and gun related felonies.  This measure is a step in the right direction to reverse the abuses that have happened since 1994 where people have received life sentences for possessing small amounts of drugs or petty theft.   Make the punishment fit the crime and save $90 million/year in prison and parole operations.  It will help unclog overcrowded prisons and reduce the number of severe cases of injustice.

Yes on 36:  Most newspapers such as Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, La Opinion, San Diego Union Tribune,etc., Most law enforcement officials such as Steve Cooley District Attorney of Los Angeles County, George Gascón District Attorney of San Francisco City and County, Charlie Beck Police Chief of Los Angeles, Jackie Lacy Chief Deputy District Attorney of Los Angeles County, Bill Bratton Fmr. Chief of Police of Los Angeles, Civil Rights Organizations, Labor Organizations  Progressive Organizations and Faith Based Leadership, just too numerous to list separately. (see http://www.yeson36.org/endorsements)

YES on Prop 37: Requires labeling on raw or processed genetically engineered (GE) foods.  Prohibits labeling of such food as "natural".  Exempts foods that are: organic, unintentionally produced with genetically modified organisms (GMO), made from animals that are fed with GMO food, restaurants and alcohol. Unfortunately some organic foods can contain GMO due to GM seeds and pollen blowing onto their farms, especially getting in to feed stock for organic diary.  Due to this, I wish that the measure did not exempt organic food.  However this is a good step in the right direction that will lead to the giant agro companies using less GMO foods and/or educating the public more about GMOs  and perhaps finally sponsoring some studies to look into their effects on humans.  In Europe which has required labeling since 1977, most companies prefer to not use GE ingredients rather than label.   The measure will not increase food prices per se because food suppliers routinely change their labels and there is a reasonable phase-in period.  However, the fact that they may start using non GMO ingredients may lead to higher prices (maybe up to $300 or $400 per family per year).   As expected, No on prop 37 is being financed by Monsanto, Dupont, and some of the large food corporations such as Kellog, PepsiCo, Nestlé, ConAgra Foods and Coca-Cola.

Yes on 37: California Nurses Association, California Democratic Party, California Labor Federation, United Farm Workers, American Public Health Association, Consumers Union, Sierra Club, Whole Foods Market, California Church IMPACT, Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Mercola Health Resources, Public Citizen, MoveOn and Food Democracy Now and over 3000 other organizations

NO on Prop 38: Prop 38, funded almost exclusively by its proponent, wealthy civil rights attorney Molly Munger is the alternate tax proposal to Prop 30.  It increases personal income taxes on a sliding scale from 0.4% for lowest earners to 2.2% for those earning >$2.5 million for a total revenue of ~$10 billion/year.  For the first 4 years, 60% of the revenue goes to K-12 schools, 10% to early childcare and 30% to pay down the debt. Thereafter 85% to schools and 15% to early childhood.  My main problem with this measure is that it will not prevent the $6 billion trigger cuts to our schools that are scheduled for later this year.  It also does not help the state community colleges.  Between Prop 30 and 38, only the one with more votes will be enacted.  Although I like many things in this proposition, particularly money for early childcare and education, I worry that its complexity could lead to unintended consequences.  It allocates funds based on number of students, what grades they are in and if they are low income and also specifies certain restricted uses on some of the funds.  The measure would shift spending decisions to local districts and make them more accountable which may or may not be helpful. It also requires the State to implement a rating system and training program to evaluate the early childhood programs. Anyway, I wish we could have some of the good things from this proposal but I think Gov. Brown has held us hostage and we need to support his Prop 30.

No on 38: Most newspapers such as Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News,  San Diego Union Tribune, ACCE Action,  APEN (Asian Pacific Environmental Network), , CA Democratic Party, CA Labor Federation,  Working Californians

YES on Prop 39 Requires multistate businesses to pay income taxes based on their percentage of sales in CA, as opposed to the current tax code which requires that they pay the smaller of: either their sales in CA, or a percentage based on number of employees, facilities etc. in state.  This closes a gigantic corporate tax loophole enacted at the end of 2009 which incentivizes companies to keep property and employees outside of CA since they can then get favorable tax treatment.  This also gives those multistate companies an unfair advantage over CA companies who pay full freight.  It would bring back ~ 1 billion in revenue/year and grow over time.  Of this amount, half of the revenue, capped at $550 million, would be spent to fund projects that create energy efficiency and clean energy jobs in CA for the first 5 years.  This measure would bring both dollars and jobs back to CA.

Yes on 39: Many newspapers such as Los Angeles Times,  Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, La Opinion, All environmental groups, Many social justice groups, Labor and even some business organizations.  See http://www.cleanenergyjobsact.com/about/coalition/

YES on Prop 40 Approves the recently drawn districts enacted by the Citizens Redistricting Commission (created by 2008's Prop 11).  This proposition had been sponsored by politicians unhappy with the redistricting.  However since they lost in the State Supreme Court, they have suspended their campaign and are no longer asking for a NO vote.


For other progressive voter guides and other info:


Los Angeles County Measures

YES on A This is an advisory vote (it's just looking for voter opinion) that indicates whether you would support changing the CA constitution and the LA County Charter to make the position of LA County Assessor an appointed position instead of an elected position.  A friend pointed out that both appointed and elected positions in government are prone to influence, either by those who give campaign money or by being indebted to those that appoint them.  This seems to be the case with the current LA Assessor, John Noguez, who is on an indefinite leave while the District Attorney’s Office looks into allegations that tax bills were slashed for the assessor’s campaign contributors. It would be better if this position was just a civil servant position for someone rising through the ranks.  That being said, I would rather have an appointed Assessor, as I think that is less susceptible to corruption, so I am Yes on A. 

NO on B Requires adult films to obtain a public health permit, have performers use condoms, provide training courses and a written exposure control plan. Violation of the ordinance would be subject to both civil fines and criminal misdemeanor charges.  This measure will drive porn either out of LA (at least part of the industry will go) with a huge economic toll or underground where there is no testing or industry regulations.  Currently porn actors are tested for HIV monthly.  This is a colossal waste of taxpayer money that will actually send health inspectors to porn shoots instead of dealing with actual health threats.  Here is a  No on B ad http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roTnYtd_l7E&feature=youtu.be and this is a Huff post article that contains a cute No on B spoof  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/19/porn-stars-jessica-drake-_n_1980663.html?1350658706

No on Measure B: LA Times

YES on J Extends the 1/2 cent sales tax that was approved by Measure R in 2008 for an additional 30 years, (from the current end in 2039 to ending in 2069).  This would allow transit managers to borrow money on the bond market in the near future to be repaid from anticipated tax revenues that would roll in after 2039, which should allow them to accelerate construction on at least some of the 15 projects that are already in the works.  It should also add local construction jobs now.

Yes on J: LA Times, Daily News, Pasadena Star News and other tiny papers



Sabrina and I also both suggest Jackie Lacey for LA County District Attorney. Oh yes, and for president, Barack Obama! You know he has earned a second term.

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