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Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Editorial Board’s Proposition Endorsements

HANNAH LEE / AGGIE
HANNAH LEE / AGGIE

Your voter guide to all Nov. 8 ballot measures

Though California’s presidential choice in this consistently Democratic stronghold may be a forgone conclusion, the fight to pass 17 propositions — the most since 2000 — remains far more contentious, with measures on whether to legalize recreational marijuana and repeal the death penalty among the most notable choices voters will have to make this November.

In an effort to convince you, the student-voter, of the importance of these propositions to the state of California, the Editorial Board has compiled a short analysis and recommendation for each ballot measure. We hope that you will further research the propositions most likely to affect your own life so as to make the best decision possible.

Read below for information on all 17 propositions.

Prop 51: School Bonds

What it is:

If passed, Prop 51 would allow a total of $9 billion in general obligation bonds to be used for school construction and modernization of K-12 public schools, community colleges, charter schools and vocational education facilities. The bonds would cost an estimated $17.6 billion to be paid off by taxpayers over the next 35 years. Advocates argue that many educational institutions need to be maintained or upgraded to meet safety standards, that it would increase educational access, is financially prudent and would even help the economy. Opponents claim that local control should be given to the funds instead of state officials deciding the allocation of the bonds, that poorer districts are less likely to receive sorely needed money, that construction companies are disproportionately favored and that California cannot afford the extra debt.

Our recommendation: YES

Improving school facilities is essential to creating effective learning communities, and this proposition would help schools expand their influence to surrounding areas. For elementary schools, upgraded buildings and resources would lead to better educational opportunities for students, and for community colleges an improvement in facilities would ensure that post-high school education is available to more people, which would help to further their own careers and the California economy.

Prop 52: Hospital Fees

What it is:

Prop 52 would permanently extend the lifeline of a fee that hospitals pay to the state of California. This fee actually benefits hospitals, as the federal government matches all funding that the state directs to Medicare (Medi-Cal in California). The fee aims to create a safety net for the state in the case of an economic downturn that leads to increased enrollment in Medi-Cal. Nearly a third of all Californians are on Medi-Cal currently, and supporters of the initiative argue that it would significantly reduce hospital losses while extending the health care services provided to those on Medi-Cal. Prop 52 would also ensure that all funds are used properly.

Our recommendation: YES

The proposition has almost-universal support and no real organized opposition. Among its supporters are hundreds of hospitals, health care associations and clinics. The Editorial Board would like to join almost every major newspaper across the state in endorsing Prop 52.

Prop 53: Infrastructure

What it is:

Prop 53 would require voter approval for state “megaprojects” that cost over $2 billion in state revenue bonds. The California High-Speed Rail, for instance, might need voter approval before implementation in California. Proponents say that voters can hold politicians accountable and stop blank checks. However, this proposition could delay local infrastructure. There is also no exemption for emergencies and disasters.

Our recommendation: NO

Needing voter approval before using taxes on state projects seems like a good idea on paper, but it could limit local projects by requiring voter approval from faraway regions. California residents could also vote down key statewide projects. The stipulation that there is no exemption for emergencies or disasters seals the deal. Should an earthquake along the San Andreas fault take out half of the state, victims would be forced to wait for voters to approve rebuilding efforts.

Prop 54: Legislative Transparency

What it is:

Proposition 54 would mandate that the final versions of all bills before the California legislature be published online 72 hours prior to a vote. Public meetings would also be made readily available online for up to 20 years. Proponents argue that Prop 54 would help prevent last-minute deals from being brokered behind closed doors. But others say that the bill would do nothing to prevent special interests from influencing votes in the final moments before a vote is held.

Our recommendation: YES

Considering that the final language of many major bills is released only days before a vote — including a 1996 piece of legislation that deregulated California’s energy industry — Prop 54 is needed to give lawmakers and the public time to take a fair look at any consequential decision. Even though it may not prevent the back-wheeling tactics typical in Sacramento, the Editorial Board endorses Prop 54 for its promise to increase transparency in the capitol.

Prop 55: Income Tax

What it is:

Prop 55 would continue a proposition passed in 2012 that increased the income tax on small businesses, individual Californians who earned more than $263,000 and joint incomes totaling at least $526,000. Supporters of the proposition in 2012 billed it as a temporary fix to the recession. This is set to expire in 2018, and Prop 55 would continue the tax rate until 2030. This tax would bring in an estimated $4 to $9 billion annually from 2019 through 2030 that would be used for education and healthcare.

Our recommendation: YES

The state of California has experienced a $6 billion influx to revenue due to this tax, and we would like to see these funds continued. Prop 55 would neither raise nor lower the current tax rate for the wealthiest Californians and would continue to bring a significant amount of money to local schools and a smaller amount to healthcare in the state.

Prop 56: Tobacco Tax

What it is:

A “Yes” on Proposition 56 would favor an increase of $2 on the current $0.87 tax on tobacco products in the state of California. Currently, the $0.87 tax funds tobacco prevention programs, environmental protection, breast cancer research and screenings, as well as developing programs for children within the state. The $2.87 tax could further funding spent on reducing tobacco usage, training physicians and preventing dental illness and services within Medi-Cal, and the allocation of the original $0.87 tax revenue would not change.

Our recommendation: YES

The average tax on tobacco products in the United States is $1.65, meaning that 34 states have higher tobacco taxes than California, though it was the first to enforce a statewide smoking ban. The Editorial Board cannot argue against the allotment of additional funds to go towards medical research and children’s programs, and encourages its readers to think of the benefits a tax like this can have on our communities — the best of which would be fewer individuals purchasing and smoking cigarettes.

Prop 57: Prison Populations

What it is:

A yes on Prop 57 would increase the parole and “good behavior opportunities” of felons convicted of nonviolent crimes. It also allows judges (not prosecutors) to make the decision of whether some juveniles should be tried as adults in court. The proposition would serve as a way to reduce California’s overcrowded prison population, which saves taxpayers money and focuses on rehabilitation rather than incarceration for nonviolent offenders. However, this proposition comes with its fair share of complicated loopholes. Those in opposition cite the fact that this piece of legislation is poorly drafted and might allow criminals who have committed rape, “lewd acts” against children and human trafficking to be released early from prison since the phrase “nonviolent crimes” is not directly defined in Prop 57 or California state law.

Our recommendation: YES

There are currently over 129,300 people in custody in Calif., with crimes ranging from the possession of drugs to murder in the first degree. For certain individuals, a lifetime in prison is not the solution — it would benefit taxpayers, the system and the individuals if instead of overcrowding prisons, rehabilitation was made the focus for those people. Ideally, the proposition language regarding “nonviolent crimes” would be more clearly defined, to prevent any exempt crimes from finding a loophole.

Prop 58: Bilingual Education

What it is:

A yes on Prop 58 would reintegrate bilingual education into public schools and retract the need for parental waivers if a student wants to take a non-English-only class. Prop 58 is an attempt to repeal Prop 227, the “English in Public Schools” Statute of 1988 that eliminated bilingual classes for “Limited English Proficient” (LEP) students, and required them to take one-year of intensive English before merging into English-only education.

Our recommendation: YES

Those in favor argue that well-designed bilingual programs will serve as catalysts for the success and academic proficiency of non-English speaking students, while also giving English-speaking students a chance to learn a second language. Those opposed contend that passing Prop 58 would sacrifice policies that have enhanced language education. The Editorial Board stands by Prop 58. Vote YES and help support our public schools’ immigrant and nonnative English speaking students.

Prop 59: Citizens United

What it is:

Prop 59 asks whether California elected officials should use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution that would overturn the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commision, which ruled that it is unconstitutional to have laws that place certain limits on corporate and union political spending.

Our recommendation: YES

Voting yes on Prop 59 would not overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, but would “send a message” to officials that a majority of California residents believe it is constitutional to place limits on political spending by corporations and unions. While this may seem frivolous, a yes vote would show California officials that voters do not want politicians to be “bought” by corporations or unions.

Prop 60: Mandatory Condoms

What is it?

Prop 60 would make use of condoms mandatory in pornographic films and holds producers of pornographic media financially responsible for certain preventative and routine healthcare. Prop 60 also grants agency to private viewers, making it possible for them to sue any performers or industries they see breaching those measures.

Our recommendation: NO

The adult film industry already requires performers to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases every 14 days. The stringent rules Prop 60 would enforce may only serve to drive the industry underground, resulting in a devoid of regulations altogether. The vast majority of adult performers oppose Prop 60 in an attempt to fight off one more legal barrier of the myriad they already face. The Editorial Board sides with keeping the state from policing sex between consenting adults. Vote ‘NO’ on Prop 60 to support the community it most affects.

Prop 61: Drug Prices

What it is:

“Yes” on Prop 61 would support regulating drug prices in California by mandating that state agencies pay the same amount as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for pharmaceuticals.  This measure would apply when the state directly purchases drugs for state programs, covering about 12 percent of Californians. This proposition gives state agencies power to negotiate the prices of pharmaceuticals.

Our recommendation:  NO CONSENSUS

This proposition is a direct response to the failed measures on drug price transparency in the legislature, combating the 500 percent increase in EpiPen prices and Turing Pharmaceuticals’ 5,000 percent price hike on AIDS medication. It also has the possibility to save the state a large amount of money, and provide easier access to medications for those on state-funded health plans. However, this proposition could increase prices for veterans and put their federally mandated 24 percent discount for pharmaceuticals in jeopardy.

Prop 62 and Prop 66: Death Penalty

What it is:

Prop 62 would repeal the death penalty and make life in prison without the possibility of parole the maximum sentence available for murder. This change would also be retroactively effective, meaning that inmates who are currently on death row would have their sentence changed.

Prop 66 would keep the death penalty, but enforce stricter deadlines for appealing a death sentence, limiting appeals to a five-year period after sentencing.

Our recommendation: YES on 62 and NO on 66

The death penalty is a barbaric and ineffective method of doling out justice; it is state-sponsored murder. California has carried out 13 executions since 1978. Anyone who thinks the death penalty is merely fair punishment for those who have committed atrocious crimes is ignoring the fact that our criminal justice system disproportionately targets people of color. And in a report published by the NAACP, defendants were far more likely to receive a death sentence if his or her victim was white, as opposed to a person of color.

As of December 2012, more than 140 countries and 19 states have abolished the death penalty, either in law or practice. What’s California waiting for?

Prop 63: Gun Control

What it is:

If Prop 63 were to pass, large-capacity ammunition magazines would be prohibited, and more stringent regulations would be enforced when acquiring ammunition. The proposition also supports stricter legislation to ensure people who are prohibited from owning guns do not continue possessing or gain access to ammunition. Those in support believe it will, for the most part, keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people. However, the opposition claims Prop 63 does not address the issue of terrorists’ and violent criminals’ access to firearms, and that money used for the proposition might be diverted away from local law enforcement.

Our recommendation: YES

There have been over 46,300 shooting incidents since the beginning of 2016 in the United States, according to The Gun Violence Archive. To reiterate from a 2015 Aggie editorial, “no one living in the United States, excluding the military and law enforcement, needs an assault rifle or high-capacity ammunition.” Vote “YES” on Prop 63 to start trying to solve America’s gun violence problem.

Prop 64: Recreational Marijuana

What it is:

Prop 64 would legalize the recreational use and possession of marijuana, making it available for public sale to adults 21 years of age or older. Advocates say Prop 64 would create a safe and effective regulatory system for the sale and taxation of cannabis products. But potential downsides, critics charge, would include higher rates of DUI and crime — in addition to tougher business conditions for small marijuana farmers.

Our recommendation: YES

With a few minor caveats, The Aggie confidently endorsed Prop 64 in a previous, more detailed editorial. Legalizing marijuana would not just increase tax-revenue for drug-research and rehabilitation programs, but it would also be a step toward solving the more intractable problem of mass-incarceration — a form of modern-day slavery for people of color, who are arrested at far greater rates for drug possession than whites.

Prop 65 and 67: Bag Ban

What it is:

If passed, Prop 67 would validate the statewide plastic bag ban passed in 2014 by the state legislature. Under the current bag ban, grocers receive the money collected from the fee.

Prop 65 determines who would receive the $0.10 customers pay per bag. A “yes” would give the funds to the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Fund, while a “no” would allow grocers to continue receiving the money. If Prop 67 fails but Prop 65 passes, local bag bans would still exist, with local governments choosing who receives the money. If both Prop 67 and 65 fail to pass, nothing would change—local bag bans would continue, with grocers receiving the money from the bag fees.

Our recommendation: YES on 67, NO on 65

The Editorial Board endorses Prop 67. Every year, Californians use billions of plastic bags, which end up in landfills, sewers and nature. Our environment matters, and passing this proposition would be a major step in protecting it.

The Editorial Board encourages students to vote “no” on Prop 65. If Prop 65 passes, it will be difficult for grocers to implement Prop 67, as current bag bans are financed by the $0.10 customers pay per bag.

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