The Local Perspective: A Closer Look at California Propositions


If you’re registered to vote in California, and feel like the Electoral College will throw your presidential vote into a sea of democratic blue, fear not.There are still reasons to get to the polls! There are 11 high-stakes propositions in November’s ballot that will be both define the future of our state and course of national dialogue.

Historically, many of these propositions are won or lost by extremely close margins, meaning every vote counts—including yours.

The California Initiative process, proposing laws through petitions, was designed to give citizens in the state the ability to sidestep their elected legislators and make governmental decisions themselves.
The initiative process, copied from Sweden’s system, was created by constitutional amendment in 1914 to counter the political powerhouse of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

Although today your ability to create petitions has been hindered by money from special interest groups, voting on these initiatives is still an empowering form of direct democracy.

Our U.S. Constitution has been amended only 22 times in the past 222 years, while the California constitution has changed over 540 times in 130 years, according to Reed Levine of the grassroots movement Vote No on Everything.Voter-driven change in California is not just tangible, it’s borderline excessive.

The state’s initiative process has shown to be the catalyst for a greater national dialogue. Californians, through their propositions, have brought issues like the death penalty, affirmative action, medical marijuana, stem-cell research, and assisted suicide to the dinner tables of Americans everywhere.

In 2008, Proposition 8 sparked a national discussion around same-sex marriage and today, Proposition 37 has started a serious discussion around genetically modified foods. We as youth voters have the opportunity to begin framing the debate for our future, depending the initiatives we vote for this November.

Here’s a breakdown of the 2012 California propositions:

Proposition 30: Temporary taxes to fund education
Increases taxes on earnings over $250,000 for seven years and sales taxes by ¼ a cent for four years, to fund schools.

Proposition 31: State budget cycle
Increases budget cycle from one year to two and gives the governor power to cut budget of one person or group during fiscal emergencies.

Proposition 32: Political contributions
Prohibits unions, corporations, or government contractors from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes, with exemptions.

Proposition 33: Car insurance
Changes law to allow insurance companies to set prices based on whether the driver previously carried auto insurance with any insurance company, and the driver’s history with other insurance companies.

Proposition 34: Death penalty
Statute to repeal the death penalty, applying retroactively to persons already sentenced to death. Statute requires that those found guilty of murder to work while in prison, with wages subject to deduction for victim restitution fees. Also directs $100 million from California’s General Fund to law enforcement agencies and homicide investigations (SAFE).

Proposition 35: Human trafficking
Increasing penalties for human trafficking. Including lengthened prison sentences, requirement of traffickers to register as sex offenders, requirement for sex offenders to provide Internet passwords for social media identities, and requires human trafficking training for police officers.

Proposition 36: Three Strikes Law revisions
Revises the Three Strikes Law to impose life sentence only when a new felony conviction is serious or violent. Continues to impose life sentence penalty if third strike law involved a firearm, or if previous charges were for rape, murder, or child molestation.

Proposition 37: Labeling genetically engineered foods
Requires labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if made from genetically modified plants or animals, with exemptions.

Proposition 38: Tax to fund education and early childhood programs
Increased personal income tax rates on annual earnings over $7,316, on a sliding scale based on total yearly income, for 12 years, to fund education.

Proposition 39: Tax treatment for multi-state businesses and clean energy efficiency funding
Requires multi-state business to calculate their income tax based on percentage of sales in California instead of getting to choose their own favorable formula. Also dedicates $550 million annually, from expected increase in revenue, to create energy efficient and clean energy jobs in the state.

For more prop info, go to voterguide.sos.ca.gov/propositions

3 thoughts on “The Local Perspective: A Closer Look at California Propositions”

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