by Zainub Tayeb
On Wednesday October 19th, the Associated Students of Folsom Lake College (ASFLC) hosted a proposition informational panel. As the Director of legislative Affairs for ASFLC, I had asked the Sacramento chapter of the League of Women Voters to come out to the college's main campus and help both students and faculty understand the 17 Propositions on the November Ballot. The event was open to everyone and took place in the Peregrine room (located in the upper roost) from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. Suzanne, our lovely presenter from the League, brought voter registration forms and a much thinner proposition guide than the voters guide we generally all receive in the mail. The attendees were glad to have these handy as the voter guides are intimidating and complex. She suggested that we visit www.votersedge.org/ca to see who or what organizations support it and more importantly who funds it. The above mentioned website is a great resource for non-partisan information that will be on your local ballots (just enter your home address) and who supports or contributes to the propositions campaign. “Propositions are proposed laws presented to the public to vote on. Propositions can make new laws, change existing laws, and sometimes they change California’s Constitution. They can be placed on the ballot by people who collect enough voter signatures or by state lawmakers” (League 6).
This years ballot has ten “initiatives,” one referendum, and one “advisory question.” A referendum asks the voters to “decide on a law that has already been passed.” An advisory question is not a law, it “is designed to get voters’ opinions on a topic.”
Here is a Highlight of Suzanne’s forum:
Proposition 51 directly affects college students. Prop 51 would allow the state to sell $9 billion in new bonds for K-12 public schools ( $2 billion of those bonds would be marked for community colleges (since california community colleges are public and not considered universities, they are sanctioned as a K-12 educational facility). Essentially, this means that California Community Colleges will have $2 billion to pay for new construction, buying land or repairing old buildings (this money can not be used for anything else). The League of Women Voter’s Easy Voter Guide says, “the total cost to pay off the bonds plus interest would be $17.6 billion. Payments of about $500 million would be made each year for 35 years” (6). A “yes” on this proposition would be in favor of selling these bonds while a “no” vote would not allow the government to help Schools pay for new construction (it would have to be mostly paid for with the colleges’ or local funds instead).
Prop 57 would change sentencing procedures for adults who committed nonviolent crimes. Those adults who have served time for their main crimes would be eligible for parole. Additionally prop 57 would make sure that youth 14-17 could NOT be tried as adults (for some cases it is up to the prosecution whether they are tried as adults or not) unless a juvenile court judge allows it. Supporters say it would reduce overcrowding in prisons, thereby saving the state money, Opponents say it would fail to honor a judge's original sentencing (League 10).
Prop 58 proposes that schools should no longer be required to teach students who are English learners only in English. This law would allow schools to make adjustments based on the needs of the students instead of state mandated programs.
This year we have some interesting and opposing propositions on the ballot. Proposition 62 and 66 both deal with the death penalty but contradict each other. Whichever one gets the most “yes” votes passes. Remember that no matter which way you vote on one, you must vote the opposite on the other (otherwise you will negate your own vote). Prop 62 will repeal the death penalty in California (there are 748 inmates on death row but no one has been executed since 2006 due to the legal opposition to lethal injections) (League 12). This proposition also states that while prisoners are jailed for life without the possibility of parole they must work, and 70% of that income would go towards paying a life debt to the victims’ families (League 12). Opponents say that the law needs to be strict on those who commit first-degree murders, and money is not adequate restitution for a life lost. Currently, inmates on death row must be housed at specific prisons, but Prop 66 would allow these prisoners to be in any state prison. It will also limit the time that inmates have to appeal their cases to 5 years (some appeal processes have taken upwards of 10 years). Opponents of 66 claim that since courts and lawyers are always busy, restricting the timeline could allow for the state to execute an innocent person by mistakenly jumping to conclusions. Interestingly enough, this is not the first time the death penalty has been on the statewide ballot. In 1972 the California Supreme Court had ruled the death penalty unconstitutional but in 1978 proposition 7 reinstated it. In 2012 Proposition 34 again proposed abolishing the death penalty, but it did not pass (Beran).
Proposition 65 and 67 are about single use plastic grocery bags. Suzanne informed us that, interestingly enough, the plastic bag suppliers are proponents of 65, and that it was created to confuse voters about referendum 67. In 2014 state legislature passed a law that would prevent certain stores from handing out plastic bags and charge customers extra for paper bags. This law allows the stores to keep the money. The 2014 state law has not yet gone into effect. A yes vote on 67 would put this law into place. On the other hand, proposition 65 would allow grocers to use plastic bags, but change where the money would go (in this case a statewide environmental fund). So, BOTH of these propositions CAN pass. If they both do pass, there will be a statewide ban on plastic bags, and whichever proposition gets a higher number of “yes” votes will decide whether the extra money goes to the grocers or an environmental fund. If only prop 65 passes, plastic bags will be allowed (unless local law prohibits it), but that money will go into an environmental fund. If only prop 67 passes, stores will not be able to use single use plastic bags, but will get to keep the extra money made from selling paper and reusable bags (League 15). Plastic bag companies have incentivized voting yes 65 by allowing the money to be used toward the environment instead of the company’s pocket the way 67 does. Unfortunately for the plastic bag suppliers, it gives environmentalists the option to vote “yes” on both and have a win-win situation.
Last, but certainly not least, Proposition 64, the legalization of recreational Marijuana. Unsurprisingly it is on the ballot again as it was in 2010. It is still against federal law to use Marijuana both recreationally and for medicinal purposes, but here in California medicinal Marijuana has been legal since 1996. Prop 64 would legalize and tax the distribution of Marijuana for adults 21 and over. It would also allow those people serving time in prison for possession of marijuana to be eligible for resentencing. The heavy taxes on Marijuana would be used to fund research and prevention programs (Beran).
In just one and a half hours, Suzanne was able to give the attendees a condensed, but helpful insight to the November Ballot. Stuffed with cookies, coffee and tea students and faculty said they left more informed and more “confident about going into the voting booth” on November 8th. Copies of the condensed League of Women Voters’ Easy Voting Guide are available in the lower roost outside the Office of Student Life.
Beran, Jackie, and Ryan Byrne. "California Proposition 62, Repeal of the Death Penalty (2016)." California Proposition 62, Repeal of the Death Penalty (2016) - Ballotpedia. Web.
Beran, Jackie, and Ryan Byrne. "California Proposition 64, Marijuana Legalization." California Proposition 64, Marijuana Legalization (2016) - Ballotpedia. Web.
League of Women Voters of the California Education Fund. Easy Voter Guide. California State Library, 2016. Print.
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