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Making sense of the general ballot: 17 initiatives

 

 

Are you ready for the clutter on the upcoming general election ballot? It is graced with 17, count ‘em, 17, initiatives through which you can wade if you’re up to it. A few years back, the state Legislature voted that initiatives no longer could be placed on a primary election ballot; they would be placed only on general election ballots. This was in hope that a greater percentage of voters would be attracted to the polls in a presidential election year; thus, the deluge of initiatives with which we are challenged to decipher.

Registered voters by now will have received the Official Voter Information Guide¸ all 223 pages of it¸ detailing information about those 17 initiatives. that are labeled “propositions.” To many persons, the booklet may appear to be imposing and the first urge may be to discard it. But if you are to have any chance of gaining any semblance of what they’re all about, you should at least peruse the Quick- Reference Guide appearing in the first few pages of the booklet. Granted, the booklet can be confusing, especially when one tries to read the fine print of the text of the full law, with the overruled portions of the law in strike-out type, but still showing in the text.

Some voters will simply vote “no” on every proposition, perhaps out of frustration over the number of them on the ballot or because of the total lack of interest. Other voters will ignore the propositions completely, leaving blank the box in which to mark their choice. Others will vote only on those propositions in which they have some interest.

There are two “hot-button” issues on the ballot: eliminating the death penalty (Proposition 62) and legalizing marijuana (Proposition 64). Anybody paying attention most likely knows how he or she will vote without even reading those propositions. Each is apt to elicit verbal disputes – to put it mildly. Then, there is Prop. 66, which relates to the death penalty¸ and can create some confusion among voters.

Prop. 62 repeals the death penalty outright and replaces it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. It applies retroactively to existing death sentences. This is an issue — often emotional — that would seem to have no give-and-take by the avid supporters of either side. (Nineteen states currently prohibit the death penalty.) But, along comes Proposition 66, perhaps interjecting some confusion – thinking it is a companion issue to 62, when it is not. Prop. 66 would maintain the death penalty, but would shorten the time drastically for the legal challenges to death sentences.

If Prop. 66 receives more “yes” votes than Prop. 62, it would negate any affirmative vote on 62 and the death penalty would still be in effect.

Prop. 66 requires that the appeal process of a death sentence, which is now automatic and can take an unspecified number of years, must be completed within five years of the death sentence. It also says that any attorneys appointed by the court to represent the condemned person must file their petition of appeal within one year of appointment.

So, if you’re inclined to oppose the death penalty, you will vote “yes” on Prop. 62 and “no” on Prop. 66. If you support the death penalty, you will vote “no” on 62 and “yes” on 66. Are you still confused? Better read the information guide.

(As a point of information about the death penalty, the following was gleaned from the legislative analysis in the Voter Information Guide: Since 1978, 930 persons have been sentenced to death; 15 have been executed; 103 have died prior to execution; and 748 are in state prison, with the vast majority at some stage of the appeal process.)

Now, about marijuana: Prop. 64 would legalize the use and sale of marijuana under state law for use by adults 21 or older. It designates state agencies to license and regulate the marijuana industry. It imposes heavy taxes: 15 percent excise tax on retail sales; state cultivation taxes of $9.25 per ounce of flowers; and $2.75 per ounce of leaves. Marijuana dispensaries generally would not be permitted within 600 feet of a school, day-care center or youth center, unless allowed by a local government. Also, a business selling marijuana could not sell tobacco or alcohol. This could be one of those generational issues!

It can be expected that cigarette smokers will be out in force to vote against Proposition 56¸ that would impose a hefty increase in the cigarette tax. The initiative would raise the state excise tax (currently 87 cents) by $2 a pack, with an equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. Other taxes already collected per cigarette pack are a $1.01 federal excise tax and the prevailing state sales tax. Revenues from the new tax, if successful, would be used primarily to increase funding for existing healthcare programs.

Another proposition causing an uproar is 57, which basically would allow prisoners being confined for non-violent felonies to be considered for early parole after completing the term for their primary offense. It also authorizes the awarding of sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior or educational achievements. Juvenile court judges (not the prosecutor) would be authorized to determine whether juveniles age 14 and older should be prosecuted as adults for specified offenses.

There seems to be a minor stir over Proposition 58, labeled the “English Proficiency, Multilingual Education Initiative.” Under this proposal, schools no longer would be required to teach English learners in Englishonly programs. They could offer a bilingual program if the parent requested it. (An English-learner is considered to be a student not yet fluent in English.) The initiative also requires that parents and other community members be asked how the English learners should be taught, whether a bilingual program should be offered. A “no” vote means you would prefer that public schools still be required to teach English learners in English-only programs.

Gun enthusiasts most likely will be out to counteract Proposition 63, which requires background checks to purchase ammunition and prohibits possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines (defined as holding more than 10 rounds). Individuals would have to obtain authorization from the state Department of justice to purchase ammunition. Persons convicted of stealing a firearm would be prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Has anybody ever not carried out merchandise from a store in a plastic bag? Have you ever had an opinion on whether you preferred the use of plastic bags? Well, you have a choice through Proposition 67, which essentially bans the use of plastic bags.

A “yes” vote on 67 means that grocery and most other stores no longer can provide the customer with a single-use, plastic carry-out bag and would be required to charge a minimum of 10 cents for other carry-out bags. (These requirements would apply only to those cities that did not already have a carry-out bag law.)

A “no” vote on 67 means a store could continue to provide plastic carry out bags and other 65 bags free of charge unless it is covered by a local law that restricts the use of such bags.

A kind of companion initiative to Proposition 67 is Proposition 65, which decides who or what gets the 10 cents a bag that a merchant must charge if 67 is approved, banning plastic bags. If is approved, the 10 cents-per-bag cost would be placed in a new state fund – the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Fund. Meaning the store merchant could not keep the 10 cents, but would have to forward that money to the state. A “no” vote on 65 allows the merchant to keep the 10 cents for a bag for which he already has paid a wholesale price.

If both 65 and 67 are approved, the initiative receiving more votes prevails as far as allocation of the 10 cents.

Well, that was a brief summary of some complex issues on the November 8 ballot. If you are not a registered voter, it is not too late to register. The last day to do so is October 24. And, remember, if you are a registered voter – get out and vote!

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Ron Kenney was a reporter and editor for the former Daily Times-Advocate from 1952 to 1979 and was a copy editor on the pages of the San Diego Union-Tribune from 1985 to 1997.


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