November 6 State Ballot Propositions
First In Series By The Long Beach Business Journal
By Joshua H. Silavent - Staff Writer
The other five propositions can be found here, in the Sept. 11th story.
August 28, 2012 – California voters will determine the fate of two ballot initiatives aimed at reducing both penalties for certain criminal convictions and statewide incarceration costs when they head to the polls this November. But a number of caveats, including opposition from statewide “victims rights” groups and law enforcement agencies, explain why the outcome of each proposition is uncertain.
Proposition 34 – Repealing The Death Penalty
The death penalty was on life support in California throughout much of the 1970s, caught in a back-and-forth of court rulings that held capital punishment unconstitutional, voter referendums that said otherwise and, finally, a legislative override of Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto powers that put the practice on the books for good.
However, in 2006, a statewide moratorium was placed on all executions. And come November, the death penalty might receive the final nail in the coffin.
Since 1978, 13 inmates in the California prison system have been executed, costing taxpayers an estimated $4 billion and leaving more than 700 death row cases unresolved, according to a 2011 study by Judge Arthur Alarcón and law professor Paula M. Mitchell titled, “Executing the will of voters?: A Roadmap to Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle.”
For opponents of capital punishment, who have long argued the moral merits of killing off the death penalty, the fiscal side of the debate has taken center stage. Incarceration costs for death row inmates tend to be higher than those for the average prison population because trials, appeals and security are more time consuming and expensive. According to Alarcón and Mitchell, abolishing the death penalty would save taxpayers an estimated $1 billion over a 5- to 6-year span by retroactively imposing life sentences for death row inmates. In predicting future savings, Proposition 34, known in legislative parlance as the Savings, Affordability and Future Enforcement for California Act, would create a one-time fund totaling $100 million to buttress homicide investigations throughout the state. A ‘yes’ vote would bring this to fruition.
However, the California District Attorneys Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California, State Sheriff's Association and the California Police Chiefs Association have challenged in court the language of the bill and the savings estimates.
In defending capital punishment, proponents argue that the death penalty is a deterrent to violent crime and provides closure to victims’ families. Moreover, proponents argue that states with the death penalty see a greater willingness from defendants to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison, saving taxpayers money.
Still, they face a mountainous disadvantage. According to MapLight, a nonprofit that tracks the influence of money in politics, supporters of Proposition 34 (those who want to repeal the death penalty) have raised nearly $4 million (as of mid-August) while their counterparts have taken in less than $150,000.
Proposition 36 – Revising The Three Strikes Law
California’s “three strikes and you’re out” law, which imposes mandatory life sentences for a third felony conviction, has been hailed for reducing crime by locking away repeat, violent offenders and hated because many believe it unfairly targets minorities and even non-violent, habitual offenders.
Voters will decide whether the punishment fits the crime this November when they consider revising the state’s Three Strikes law while proponents scrap mandatory life sentences in cases where a third felony committed does not involve violent crime. It also prescribes re-sentencing for current inmates, within a judge’s discretion, who meet this criterion. However, certain non-sexual and drug offenses will retain the life sentence stipulation. Moreover, anyone previously convicted of murder, rape or child molestation will receive a mandatory life sentence regardless of whether a third felony involves violence.
With enough ‘yes’ votes, the measure could save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, but would also cost several million dollars to implement in the first few years, according to the state finance office.
Proponents of Proposition 36 argue that small-time crooks and recreational drug users are unnecessarily swept up in the Three Strikes provision. According to a May 2011 report from the Legislative Analysts Office, more than 40 percent of California’s 8,700 third strikers are incarcerated for non-violent offenses.
Opponents, however, counter that the law has helped reduce all manner of crime. They say that the Three Strikes Law has not exacerbated costs nor been responsible for the state’s overcrowded prison population. Finally, opponents contend that jury safeguards and judicial discretion already exist to mitigate circumstances where a third felony offense unnecessarily warrants a life term.
Proposition 40 – State Senate Redistricting Plan
Every 10 years, when the latest U.S. Census figures are released, lawmakers in states across the country begin the partisan scramble to gerrymander voting districts based on new population counts. California voters, hoping to bring some fairness and transparency to the process, approved the creation of an independent commission to redraw the state’s senate and assembly voting districts.
But Republican lawmakers were unhappy when the new senate boundaries were released last year, charging that Democrats had benefited and might be able to pursue super-majorities in both houses of the state legislature.
Proposition 40 was crafted in the belief that the California Supreme Court would suspend the new boundaries and revert to the old lines prior to November’s election. That didn’t happen, and Republicans soon dropped their support of the measure.
So although no one seems to be arguing for a ‘no’ vote any longer, only a ‘yes’ vote will keep the voting districts unrevised – at least until 2020.
By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
Proposition 33 – Automobile Insurance Discounts
Similar to 2010’s Proposition 17, which was narrowly defeated, this year’s Proposition 33 would let auto insurance agents give discounts to new customers who prove that they have carried auto insurance continuously for the previous five years.
These markdowns, called “loyalty” or “persistency” discounts, can only be offered to existing customers with one company because of the passage of Proposition 103 in 1988. Since then, there has been an ongoing battle between consumers and the auto insurance industry on the subject of auto insurance persistency discounts.
Known as the 2012 Automobile Insurance Discount Act, Proposition 33 has the support of the California Republican Party, the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and more than 63,000 public safety members of the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC). “Proposition 33 will encourage more drivers to get insured and stay insured by increasing access to affordable insurance,” PORAC President Lt. Ron Cottingham said in a statement. “Proposition 33 will make the roads safer by giving an incentive for people to follow the law. PORAC believes if your family is not safe, then nothing else matters.”
Those who have not carried auto insurance for five consecutive years would be subject to higher prices or surcharges, unless there was a lapse in coverage due to military service, loss of employment or if the lapse was less than 90 days.
For this reason, the California Democratic Party, representatives of Consumer Watchdog and California Attorney General Kamala Harris all oppose Proposition 33. They say the initiative, which is heavily backed by Mercury Insurance, would give insurance companies the power to raise rates in a way that is currently illegal (Proposition 103).
Mercury Insurance Chairman George Joseph is the majority funder of Proposition 33. His company sponsored a nearly identical initiative – Proposition 17 – just two years ago. Most recently, Joseph and other Proposition 33 supporters filed a lawsuit in July to remove the criticism of the initiative from the official ballot arguments. The Sacramento Superior Court rejected the lawsuit, with Judge Timothy Frawley stating, “I don’t find anything false. . . . The quarrel the petitioners have with the argument comes down to a difference in opinion.”
Proposition 35 – Human Trafficking Penalties
Known as the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, this ballot initiative would change existing penalties for human traffickers and require them to register as sex offenders.
The terms of the initiative include: increasing prison terms for human traffickers; mandating human traffickers to register as sex offenders; requiring registered sex offenders to provide Internet protocol information to the state; using criminal fines paid by convicted human traffickers for victims; and training law enforcement on human trafficking.
There would be a cost associated with implementing this law, based on the increase in prison time, a need for additional government oversight and police training costs. Estimates are at a few million dollars to start up a program, and additional monies for ongoing training and administration.
Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project, Inc., is against Proposition 35 because it says there is a potential threat to innocent people. They claim that right-wing religious conservatives and far-left, anti-sex feminists are supporting a futile crusade against what is known as the world’s oldest profession – sex worker – by using the term “trafficking.”
Maxine Doogan, president of the project, wrote in the rebuttal to the argument for Proposition 35, “My son, who served our country in the U.S. military and now attends college, could be labeled a human trafficker and have to register as a sex offender if I support him with money I earned providing erotic services.”
Proposition 35 has received bipartisan support from the California Democratic Party, the California Republican Party, individual legislators from both parties and organizations like Planned Parenthood, KlassKids Foundation and several law enforcement associations. Chris Kelly, former chief of privacy for Facebook and a 2010 candidate for Attorney General of California, has contributed the most to the Yes on 35 effort: $1,860,000.
Proposition 35 – Taxing Multi-State Businesses
In an attempt to reverse tax legislation passed in 2009, proponents of Proposition 39 are looking to require businesses with multi-state operations to calculate their taxes owed to California based on the number of sales made in the Golden State.
Current law, passed as part of negotiations to get Republican votes for the state budget, allows such businesses to choose the tax liability formula that is most advantageous to the company. If passed by voters, about $1 billion in economic returns are expected annually, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. Of that, $550 million would be designated to creating clean energy projects and jobs annually from fiscal years 2013-2014 to 2017-2018 and roughly $225 million annually to increase Proposition 98 funding for K-14 schools from 2012-2013 to 2017-2018.
Venture capitalist Thomas Steyer, founder and co-senior managing partner of Farallon Capital Management, is the primary financial backer of this initiative, investing nearly $22 million as of July 14. According to the Yes on Proposition 39 website, www.cleanenergyjobsact.com, the existing law for multi-state businesses is an unfair loophole that goes against the mandatory single sales factor approach adopted by New York, Michigan, Colorado, Illinois, Wisconsin, Oregon, Iowa, Texas, Maine, South Carolina, Nebraska, Indiana and Maryland.
Those in opposition are the California Republican Party and a business coalition that includes Procter & Gamble Co., General Motors, Kimberly Clark and others. Neither the coalition nor the party has contributed funding in opposition of the initiative.
However, this initiative could become moot in the event Gov. Jerry Brown signs similar legislation currently before the California State Senate. Assembly Bill 1500, which passed the California State Assembly on August 13, would change the tax code in the same way Proposition 39 dictates, but would instead direct a portion of the tax code change revenues to middle-class higher education scholarships.