Proposition 31: Yes for political reforms
Prop. 31 packages a number of measures developed by the bipartisan California Forward political reform group. It will establish a two-year state budget, which will at the very least make the current annual state-budget crisis an every-other-year embarrassment. It will also require bills before the Legislature be made public three days prior to a vote — preventing laws from being rushed through before state-elected officials have a chance to digest what's really in them. It would also allow the governor to make "emergency" spending cuts if the Legislature fails to act.
Proposition 32: No on banning payroll deductions for political action
Prop. 32 would change campaign-finance rules in California to prohibit collecting voluntary union dues through payroll deductions for political purposes. It's touted as a political reform measure, but in fact is designed to severely limit union political activity. Both the League of Women Voters and Common Cause oppose it, based on the fact that free-flowing corporate and Super PAC money would continue to be allowed. Even if you don't like unions, this isn't reform and it's undemocratic.
Proposition 33: No on latest auto-insurance scheme
Prop. 33 is a virtual repeat of the attempt by Mercury Insurance in 2010 to overturn current law that prevents auto-insurance companies from discriminating against drivers who have had a lapse in their coverage, even in the absence of any claims or points on their driving record. The campaign for Prop. 33 is being financed almost entirely by Mercury chairman George Joseph.
Proposition 34: Yes to end death penalty
Prop. 34 would replace California's death penalty with life in prison with no chance of parole, and would convert the sentences of the 725 prisoners currently on death row to life in prison with no possibility of parole. It has cost the state a total of $4 billion to put to death 13 inmates, an absurd use of public funds. Whether due to the financial drain of the system or a belief that vengeance shouldn't be a part of our criminal-justice system, it's time to join the 17 other states and 135 nations that have banned the death penalty.
Proposition 35: Yes to increase penalties for human trafficking
Prop. 35 would establish longer prison sentences and larger fines for people convicted in California of human-trafficking crimes, and require them to register as sex offenders. Modeled after a New York law, it would address what law enforcement says is a rapidly growing problem in California, and especially in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
Proposition 36: Yes to revise Three Strikes
Prop. 36 would revise California's Three Strikes law to impose a life sentence only when the third felony is "serious or violent." It would also authorize re-sentencing for current Three Strikes lifers whose third conviction was not serious or violent. District attorneys currently have discretion about how to charge third-strike offenses so that minor drug or other offenses won't lead to life sentences, but that has led to inconsistent practices across the state and to many unfair results. Jeff Rosen, our district attorney in Santa Clara County, supports the measure.
Proposition 37: No on genetically engineered food labeling
Prop. 37 would require that genetically engineered foods sold in California be specifically labeled as such. Genetic engineering has been used for some 15 years to make plants grow bigger, stronger, faster and resist spoilage or insect damage. It is estimated that more than 40 percent of food products contain some genetically engineered ingredients. Although no studies have found any health impacts, the industry is too young to know with certainty. Labeling isn't a bad idea, but imposing it by initiative in California prior to further studies and absent any evidence of harmful effects seems premature, and better addressed on a national level by the FDA or Congress.
Proposition 38: Yes on school tax measure
Prop. 38 is presented as a more ambitious alternative to Prop. 30, but unfortunately it has created sufficient controversy to imperil both measures. And it is critical that at least one of these two propositions passes in order to maintain needed funding of schools. Prop. 38 raises income taxes for the next 12 years by increasing the marginal tax rates on a sliding scale up to 2.2 percent for those making over $2.5 million. It would raise about $10 billion a year and would support K-12 schools and early childhood programs. Prop. 38 has a number of flaws. It is overly complicated and proscriptive in how funds get distributed and spent (for example, no money can be spent on teacher salaries) and it moves us further away from needed reform of our entire public education financing system. Flaws and all, we recommend voting for both Prop. 30 and 38.
Proposition 39: Yes to fix tax loophole
Prop. 39 would generate an estimated $1 billion in new tax revenue by simply requiring companies located outside of California to pay income taxes based on their sales within the state. It corrects a loophole passed at the end of the 2009 legislative session, and it eliminates a horrible incentive for companies to not have a physical presence in the state. About half of the new revenues would go toward clean-energy programs for the first five years, after which all funding would go to the general fund, where it would primarily benefit public education.
Proposition 40: Yes to confirm redistricting
Prop. 40 challenges the redistricting of California's Senate districts, completed in 2011 by the independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The State Supreme Court has already ruled in favor of the new boundaries, which are the districts in place for this November's election for all state and federal legislative races in California. As a result, opponents have suspended their campaign, but too late for Prop. 40 to be removed from the ballot.
Palo Alto School Board
(See editorial published Oct. 12)
Melissa Baten Caswell (i)
Palo Alto City Council
(See editorial published Oct. 5)
Pat Burt (i)
Greg Schmid (i)
Foothill-DeAnza College Board
Joan Barram (i)
Betsy Bechtel (i)
Laura Casas Frier (i)
County Board of Education
Grace Mah (i)
Rich Gordon (D) (i)
Jerry Hill (D)
U. S. Congress
Anna Eshoo (D)
Palo Alto Measure C (marijuana dispensaries)
No (See editorial published Sept. 14)
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