The state Legislature in 1998 enacted a law requiring DNA sampling from people convicted of certain offenses. But in 2004, 62 percent of California voters approved Proposition 69, which expanded the law to require DNA collection from “any adult person arrested or charged with any felony offense … immediately following arrest or during the booking.”
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit appellate court had upheld that law in February, finding “that the government’s compelling interests far outweigh arrestees’ privacy concerns” because “DNA analysis is an extraordinarily effective tool for law enforcement officials to identify arrestees, solve past crimes, and exonerate innocent suspects.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation in March joined with the ACLU in calling for an en-banc rehearing, arguing that the warrantless seizure and repeated search of DNA taken from people who’ve merely been arrested – not convicted – is unconstitutional.
But in a brief filed in April arguing a rehearing, the state attorney general’s office noted that “(v)irtually every federal court to have considered the question agrees that the collection of a DNA sample for forensic identification, pursuant to a
lawful arrest and subject to statutory restrictions on collection, use and confidentiality, comports with the Fourth Amendment.”
California is one of 20 states without any law requiring voters to show identification at polling places, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. There’s a hot national debate afoot about whether there’s any significant fraud to merit enacting such laws, or whether the laws are intended to make it harder to vote and so suppress voter turnout – usually to Republican advantage.
Fund – national affairs columnist for the National Review, senior editor for the American Spectator, and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and Fox News – worked as a research analyst for the California Legislature in Sacramento before beginning his journalism career.
Del Beccaro said Fund’s new book “focuses on the problems that weaken our election processes, from voter fraud to a slipshod system of vote counting … And it proposes solutions.”
“While Americans frequently demand fair play in other countries’ elections, we often are blind to the need to scrutinize our own,” Del Beccaro said. “We may pay the consequences in November, if a close race leads to pitched partisan battles, and court fights that could dwarf the Bush-Gore recount wars.”
A measure that would make it considerably harder to amend California’s constitution passed its first big hurdle this week.
ACA 10 by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, was approved by the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting on a 4-1 vote; it now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Ultimately, two-thirds of the Assembly and state Senate would have to approve putting this to voters as a ballot measure.
The legislation would require that the signatures needed to put constitutional amendments on the ballot come from at least 27 of the state’s 40 state Senate districts, reducing the chance that a few population centers can change the whole state’s guiding document. It also would require a 55 percent majority to approve a new constitutional amendment at the ballot box, rather than the simple 50-percent-plus-one majority now required; however, a simple majority would still be enough to repeal constitutional amendments already enacted.
In a news release, Gatto noted the U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times in 223 years, whereas California’s Constitution has been amended 521 times in roughly half the time.
“I would submit that one of the reasons our country has not been torn apart by strife is that, to amend our governing document, you need consensus,” he said. “California’s Constitution has been treated by special interests as just another statute, subject to the temporary whims of the majority of voters who show up and vote in any given year.”
Of the 24 states that have an initiative process, half have geographic-distribution requirements; a few require that votes cast far surpass the simple majority mark; and six have actually forbidden amending their constitutions by initiative, Gatto said.
“A constitution should be a sacred, hallowed document that contains fundamental governing principles and rights. I expect to have the support of my colleagues, who believe in the sanctity of the federal Constitution and the wisdom of our founding fathers, to support taking these steps to ensure California’s Constitution is similarly protected,” he said. “No right is permanent, and no reform has any teeth, if it can be repealed at the very next election.”
Those wonderful folks at Berkeley-based MapLight.org have crunched numbers on who bankrolled the campaigns for and against Proposition 29, the measure on tomorrow’s ballot that would impose a $1-per-pack tobacco tax to fund cancer research. The data is as of this afternoon:
Grim news for Gov. Jerry Brown: Support for his proposed November ballot measure to hike California’s sales tax and income taxes on the wealthiest residents is slipping, even after news of a larger-than-expected budget deficit.
The margin narrows further when voters are given arguments for and against Brown’s proposal, along with information – first announced by Brown on May 14 – that California faces a budget deficit of $16 billion, much higher than the initial projection of $9 billion.
In the face of these new numbers, 51 percent of likely voters agreed it’s “more important than ever to support Governor Brown’s proposal to temporarily increase the income tax on high earners. No one wants higher taxes, but we need to make these tough choices to protect public schools, higher education and public safety.”
But in contrast, 41 percent of likely voters agreed “the increased budget deficit shows clearly that state government does not know how to balance a budget or spend taxpayer dollars. It’s more important than ever to oppose Governor Brown’s proposal to temporarily increase the state sales tax because the money will just be wasted again.”
“Governor Brown and his advisors have argued that the prospect of difficult spending cuts would lead to increased support for additional revenues, but the ongoing news coverage of the state’s budget problems may be creating an obstacle for his ballot initiative as well,” said Dan Schnur, who directs the poll as well as USC’s Unruh Institute of Politics. “Voters have indicated a willingness to pay more for public schools and public safety. But they are also getting skeptical about whether their elected representatives can be trusted to spend their money wisely.”
Here’s a video of Schnur and Times reporter Anthony York discussing the poll results:
Brown’s proposed measure for November’s ballot would raise the state’s sales tax by a quarter cent – from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent – for the next four years. It also would, for the next seven years, create three new high-income tax brackets for those making more than $250,000 per year, the top 3 percent of California taxpayers. Of these new revenues, which Brown estimates at $9 billion but the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s office pegs at $6.8 million, 89 percent would go to K-12 education and the rest to community colleges.
Brown’s job approval rating stands at 49 percent, virtually unchanged from the March poll, but his disapproval rating rose from 35 percent to 39 percent.
Brown’s May budget revision includes spending cuts such as reducing state employees’ workweek by 5 percent, from 40 hours a week to 38. The new poll shows voters support this by a two-to-one margin – 60 percent to 30 percent – so long as public safety workers aren’t affected, in order to save an estimated $400 million. Latino voters were much less likely than voters overall to support the state workweek cut: Only 44 percent favored this, with 45 percent opposed.
But when told this cut would mean state offices are open four days a week, overall support for reduced work hours for public employees declined to only 54 percent, with 39 percent opposed.
The poll’s full sample of 1,002 registered voters had a 3.5-percentage-point margin of error.
An initiative to increase the criminal penalties for human trafficking has qualified as the sixth statewide measure on California’s ballot this November, Secretary of State Debra Bowen announced today.
The Attorney General’s official title and summary of the initiative is:
HUMAN TRAFFICKING. PENALTIES. SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Increases criminal penalties for human trafficking, including prison sentences up to 15-years-to-life and fines up to $1,500,000. Fines collected to be used for victim services and law enforcement. Requires person convicted of trafficking to register as sex offender. Requires sex offenders to provide information regarding Internet access and identities they use in online activities. Prohibits evidence that victim engaged in sexual conduct from being used against victim in court proceedings. Requires human trafficking training for police officers. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Potential one-time local government costs of up to a few million dollars on a statewide basis, and lesser additional costs incurred each year, due to the new mandatory training requirements for certain law enforcement officers. Minor increase to state and local governments on the costs of incarcerating and supervising human trafficking offenders. Unknown amount of additional revenue from new criminal fees, likely not to exceed the low millions of dollars annually, which would fund services for human trafficking victims. (11-0059)
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said in the proponents’ news release that after decades of prosecuting human traffickers, “I can say with firsthand experience that the CASE Act will help protect our state’s most vulnerable women and children. Increasing penalties for human traffickers and online predators and strengthening victims services are much-needed steps in the fight against these crimes.”
Human trafficking survivor Leah Albright-Byrd said she ran away from her San Francisco home at age 14, and quickly was victimized. “For years, I was physically, sexually, and emotionally abused – all when I was still just a child,” she said. “As a survivor of these experiences, I’m asking Californians to take a stand against human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children in our state and pass the CASE Act.”
Bowen said the anti-trafficking initiative needed 504,760 valid petition signatures, a number equal to five percent of the total votes cast for governor in November 2010. A measure can qualify via random sampling of petition signatures if the sampling projects a number of valid signatures greater than 110 percent of the required number; in the anti-trafficking initiative’s, that threshold of at least 555,236 projected valid signatures was exceeded Thursday.
The five measures that already had qualified for November are a water bond measure placed on the ballot by the Legislature; a political contribution measure; an auto insurance measure; a measure to repeal the new state Senate district maps; and a measure to repeal the death penalty.
Activists say they’ll submit more than enough signatures tomorrow to put on November’s ballot California’s first measure to require labeling of genetically engineered food.
The California Right to Know campaign is planning victory rallies at 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 2 in San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego as mothers deliver the petitions in strollers, representing this issue’s importance to future generations.
A genetically engineered food is a plant or meat product that has had its DNA artificially altered by genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria; for example, much of the U.S. corn and soy crops are genetically engineered to produce their own pesticide or withstand high doses of weed killer. Europe plus Japan and China already have laws requiring labeling of foods containing GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
“Unlike the strict safety evaluations required for the approval of new drugs, the safety of genetically engineered foods for human consumption is not adequately tested,” the campaign’s website says. “Studies show that genetically engineering food can create new, unintended toxicants and increase allergens, and other health problems. Experts around the world agree that by labeling genetically engineered food, we can help identify any adverse health reactions that these foods may cause.”
“This measure isn’t about the ‘right to know’, it’s about the right to sue,” California Retailers Association President and CEO Bill Dombrowski said in a recent news release. “It creates a whole new category of lawsuits that will allow lawyers to get rich by suing small family farmers, grocers, retailers and other businesses. We’ll all pay for these frivolous lawsuits through higher costs at the checkout stand.”
Almost two-thirds of California’s likely voters favor raising income taxes for the state’s wealthiest residents to pay for public schools, but most oppose increasing the state sales tax for the same purpose, according to a new Public Policy Institute of California poll.
Both are elements of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed ballot measure for this November.
The PPIC poll found 65 percent of likely voters favor raising the top rate of state income tax paid by the wealthiest Californians, while 34 percent oppose it. But only 46 percent support raising the state sales tax while 52 percent oppose that.
When read the ballot title and a brief summary of Brown’s proposed measure, 54 percent of likely voters say they would vote for it while 39 percent would vote against it – about the same numbers as were found last month. Unsurprisingly, there’s a sharp partisan divide – 75 percent of Democrats support it, 65 percent of Republicans oppose it – but independents favor it 53 percent to 43 percent. Public school parents support it widely: 60 percent yes, 36 percent no.
Brown has said that if voters reject his measure, there’ll be automatic budget cuts for public schools; 78 percent of likely voters oppose such cuts.
Another proposed measure, bankrolled by Molly Munger, would raise income taxes on most Californians. The poll found 57 percent of likely voters oppose this, with 40 percent in support.
Brown’s own approval rating is holding steady, the poll shows: 47 percent of likely voters approve of his job performance, 40 percent disapprove and 12 percent don’t know, similar to one year ago (46 percent approval, 32 percent disapproval, 21 percent don’t know). And the Legislature remains unloved: Only 15 percent of likely voters approve of its job performance, while only 10 percent approve of its handling of K-12 education.
Former state Senate President Pro Tem and 2010 Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata, who helped conceive, introduce and raise money for the tobacco-tax ballot measure on this June’s ballot, has a lot of friends who are making money from the campaign, new reports show.
Perata’s “Hope 2012” ballot-measure committee began raising money for what’s now known as Proposition 29 way back in 2009, and has transferred $488,500 to Californians for a Cure – the primary committee backing the measure, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association and a group of cancer research doctors. Prop. 29 would impose a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes, and equivalent tax hikes on other tobacco products, to fund cancer research; Perata is a cancer survivor.
Now Perata himself has received $5,792.17 since July from Californians for a Cure, including $2,607.19 for “meetings and appearances” and $2,508.36 for travel expenses.
One of Perata’s current employees also has been paid by Californians for a Cure. Anne Willcoxon, 58, of Moraga, has been paid $27,760 since last May, with the lion’s share of that – $15,000 – paid in the first two months of this year under the designation “campaign consultants.”
Anne Willcoxon’s LinkedIn profile lists her position since January 2011 as “charges d’affaires” at Perata Consulting LLC – that’s a French term for a subordinate diplomat who substitutes for an absent ambassador or minister. She ranked high among Perata’s 2010 Oakland mayoral campaign staffers. And her husband, Michael Willcoxon, is general counsel for Dublin-based DeSilva Gates Construction; founder Ed DeSilva for years has been among Perata’s most generous political contributors.
The rest of Californians for a Cure’s expenditure list reads like a who’s-who of former Perata aides and consultants:
The Sacramento consulting business of former Perata staffer Sandi Polka has been paid $53,887.03 since the beginning of 2011.Chris Lehman, a former Perata staffer, has been paid $47,196.04 in the past year, mostly for campaign consulting, including more than $19,000 so far in 2012.Maurice Williams, another of Perata’s state Senate aides, has been paid $32,000 by Californians for a Cure since last June, including $7,000 in this year’s first two months, for campaign consulting and fundraising.Rhys Williams, who was Perata’s mayoral campaign press secretary, is now the ballot measure’s online campaign director; he has been paid $60,250 since last June, including $18,250 so far in 2012.Stephenie DeHerrera, who worked on Perata’s mayoral campaign while a fellow at The Organizing and Leadership Academy in Oakland, has been paid $13,073.34 since November for campaign consulting and fundraising.
TOLA is run by veteran political consultant Larry Tramutola, who helped run Perata’s 2010 mayoral campaign. Californians for a Cure has paid Tramutola $86,546.00 since last June, mostly for campaign consulting.
Polka, Lehman, Williams and other former Perata aides also were paid generously by Perata’s Hope 2012 committee as he got the initiative off the ground in 2009 and 2010.
Questions and eyebrows arose in 2010 when Perata’s Hope 2012 committee gave money to two nonprofits – neither of which had anything to do with cancer – led by his former campaign treasurer, a close confidante whom some said had been romantically involved with Perata. Earlier, Hope 2012 in 2009 had paid $25,000 for campaign consulting by Oakland Councilman Ignacio de la Fuente, a longtime Perata ally and political lieutenant.
And there were also questions in 2010 of whether Perata was thought to be leveraging the nascent tobacco-tax campaign to widen his name recognition as he also campaigned for mayor.
Perata and some of his political associates were the subjects of a five-year-long FBI corruption probe, which ended in 2009 without anyone ever charges ever filed.