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Initiative to fund higher ed cleared for circulation

The proponent of a proposed ballot initiative that would hike various taxes to fund California’s public universities and community colleges has been cleared to start collecting petition signatures, Secretary of State Debra Bowen said Monday.

Here’s the official title and summary prepared by the state attorney general’s office:

TAXES TO FUND CALIFORNIA PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES AND COMMUNITY COLLEGES. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE. Imposes new taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel ($0.025 per gallon), alcohol ($0.05-$1.65 per gallon), and cigarettes ($0.0125 each); raises vehicle license fees by 0.5% of vehicle market value. Allocates new revenues 80% to University of California and California State University, 20% to California Community Colleges. Maintains state funding for higher education at or above 2009-2010 levels and student financial aid at or above 2010-2011 levels. Caps student tuition and systemwide fees at 2009-2010 levels. Creates joint commission to recommend cost efficiencies in higher education. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Additional state tax revenues from increases in various taxes of about $2.2 billion annually that would be dedicated to public universities and colleges. Depending on whether the new state tax revenues are sufficient to replace lost tuition and fee revenues (due to lower student tuition and fee levels), unknown effect on total funding for public universities and colleges. Depending on whether the new state tax revenues are sufficient to satisfy increased state spending requirements on public universities and colleges, unknown effects on other parts of the state budget and the state General Fund. (12-0015.)

Proponent Jesse Lucas – the California State University-Los Angeles Associated Students’ Legislative Affairs Committee Student-at-Large – must collect at least 807,615 valid signatures from California registered voters by April 15 in order to qualify this for the ballot in November 2014.

Posted on Monday, November 19th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, education, taxes | 8 Comments »

Courage Campaign’s Koch/cokehead ad draws fire

The Courage Campaign’s new ad taking on the billionaire Koch brothers, who’ve sank money into the campaign for Proposition 32, is being panned by fellow progressives who are offended by the ad’s mocking and stereotyping of drug addicts.

Many of the comments on this ad’s YouTube page and on the Courage Campaign’s Facebook page are scathing – not in defense of the Koch brothers, but against the Courage Campaign’s characterization of “cokeheads.” Some examples:

“Please admit you’re in the wrong and take this video down. Not only is this extremely offensive to those of us who have experienced drug-addiction personally or know people who have, it’s effective in alienating a usually supportive demographic. This isn’t behavior I’d expect from a progressive org, do the right thing and take it down.”

…and…

Having had a brother who passed away from a drug addiction and living his stigmatization I am saddened by the destructive nature of this ad. I can joke with the best of folks, but as I taught my child it’s only funny when you are laughing with people, not at them.

The Courage Campaign responded last night:

Hey folks, thanks for your interest in our ad and your concern. Our goal in creating the Koch Brothers ad was (and is) to educate the public about who is behind Prop 32. To do that, we chose satire, and we stand by our ad as a piece of political satire. We pride ourselves on creating messages that cut through the noise and reach people who might not be aware of the critical issues at stake. We did know that some might have concerns about the use of the word “cokehead,” which is why we specifically included the text “Problems with drug or alcohol abuse? Visit AA.org.” in the ad.

We appreciate your feedback, and actually see it as an opportunity to educate the public about two important issues, Prop 32 and media portrayals of those struggling with drug abuse. We are not going to take down the ad, but we think this is a great opportunity to publicize studies, articles or other revealing investigations into the stigmatizing of addiction and recovery. Can you please share anything like that with us? You can post it here or email it to us at info@couragecampaign.org. Also, is there an organization that makes sense for us to collaborate with on this effort? Many of those who commented are connected to Students for A Sensible Drug Policy. The Courage community would appreciate learning more about your organization, and we’d love to partner with you in posting information in the coming weeks. Thanks again for your feedback. We’re always learning.

But the critics aren’t placated, and topday started a change.org petition urging the Courage Campaign to take down the video.

What do you think?

Posted on Thursday, October 11th, 2012
Under: ballot measures | 16 Comments »

Yes on Prop. 39 pulls ads as opposition fades

The Yes on Prop. 39 campaign sort of declared victory today, announcing it would pull its television and radio ads after hearing that the companies once opposing the measure will do so no longer.

Proposition 39 would close a loophole for multi-state companies, requiring them to pay taxes based on sales in California rather than allowing them to choose how they are taxed. The state would realize about $1 billion more per year in revenue if the measure passes. Thomas Steyer, founder and co-senior managing partner of Farallon Capital Management, has put up $21.9 million to bankroll the measure.

And it looks as if it worked. The committee backing Prop. 39 today said it has been informed by General Motors, International Paper and Kimberly-Clark that they won’t oppose the measure any further. Chrysler and Procter & Gamble, the two other companies that once were part of a coalition opposed to closing the loophole, also recently stated that they would not oppose Proposition 39.

The California Business Roundtable tracking poll‘s latest numbers show Prop. 39 now has 63.1 percent support, its highest level in two months.

Posted on Thursday, September 27th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, taxes | 1 Comment »

Cal researchers map political info via social media

Cal Berkeley researchers have launched a new website to explore how political knowledge can be spread rapidly across big populations using social media – and their test subject is one of this election season’s hottest issues.

The project, from UC’s CITRIS Data and Democracy Initiative, aims to develop a general-purpose system that can be used for a wide variety of issues, but for now it’s being tested on just one: Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax-hike ballot measure.

Ken Goldberg, an engineering professor, said that “although the outcome of this vote has an enormous potential impact on students, alumni, teachers, parents and employers, many are not aware of Proposition 30. The California Proposition 30 Awareness Project aims to change that.”

Visitors to the website can learn about the ballot measure – a four-year, quarter-cent sales tax hike and a seven-year income tax hike for those making more than $250,000 per year – and receive a custom web link to share with whomever they please using email, Facebook or Twitter. They can return to the site later to see a unique graphic representation of their influence, and track their “influence score;” after the election, the website will list the 50 most influential people.

Influence is computed using a variant of the Kleinberg and Raghavan algorithm, where each visitor’s influence increases by one point for each person he or she recruits, by half a point for every person those people recruit, and so on. This model has been applied in many contexts with financial incentives, but researchers believe this is the first time it’s being tested with intangible rewards.

The researchers say the project and website emphasize awareness and are unbiased; the site includes links to the California Voters Guide and to campaigns on both sides of the issue. Visitors can also indicate their position for or against the proposition, and join an online discussion afterward.

Posted on Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, Jerry Brown, Media, taxes | 2 Comments »

Latest poll numbers on November ballot measures

Labor Day usually marks the start of the traditional campaign season, when voters start tuning in more earnestly about the issues and candidates on November’s ballot. With that in mind, here are the latest polling numbers from the California Business Roundtable’s weekly survey:

Prop. 30 (Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase) – 54.4 % yes, 40.5 % no

Prop. 31 (two-year budget cycle, etc.) – 40.9 % yes, 36.2 % no

Prop. 32 (bans political contributions by payroll deduction) – 57.3 % yes, 33 % no

Prop. 33 (auto insurance) – 56.5 % yes, 31.8 % no

Prop. 34 (death penalty repeal) – 40.1 % yes, 49.5 % no

Prop. 35 (human trafficking) – 82.2 % yes, 10.8 % no

Prop. 36 (three strikes sentencing reform) – 74.1 % yes, 17.8 % no

Prop. 37 (labeling of GMO foods) – 65.4 % yes, 23.4 % no

Prop. 38 (Molly Munger’s tax increase) – 39.6 % yes, 49.4 % no

Prop. 39 (corporate tax loophole) – 59.2 % yes, 28.9 % no

Prop. 40 (state Senate redistricting) – 47.8 % yes, 25 % no

A lot of money will be spent in the next two months to move these numbers, so don’t read too much into them now. That said, a few thoughts:

    Voter support for any measure often declines as Election Day nears, so anything already polling under 60 percent “yes” has a tough road ahead.
    Jerry Brown’s tax measure is looking a lot stronger than Molly Munger’s, but neither looks like a powerhouse.
    California voters appear ready to save some prison-budget money by putting fewer people away for life (by requiring that a “third strike” be a serious or violent felony), but not by abolishing the astonishingly costly capital punishment process.
    Watch for an extremely well-funded ad blitz from the food industry to knock down Prop. 37’s numbers as soon as possible.

    Nobody’s campaigning for Prop. 40, yet it still has more support than opposition; go figure. It won’t for long.
    In my GOP-convention-inspired-haze, I forgot that a “no” vote on Prop. 40 supports killing the newly drawn district lines, so a “yes” vote preserves the status quo. Never mind, then.

Posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, polls | 3 Comments »

Prop. 37′s supporters launch first TV ad

The Yes on Proposition 37 California Right to Know Campaign launched its first television ad today in support of the ballot measure that would establish the nation’s first state law requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods.

The committee says it made a $150,000 ad buy to put the 30-second ad “in select online news venues and on broadcast and cable television stations in major California media markets for 10 days.”

“The same corporations that brought us DDT and Agent Orange are now bringing us the No on 37 campaign,” spokeswoman Malkan said in the news release. “In addition to their history of false health claims about DDT, Agent Orange and tobacco, the same corporations and political operatives are making false claims about the safety of genetically engineered food — even though numerous studies link these foods to allergies and other health risks, as well as to significant environmental problems. Californians have a right to know whether or not their baby formula, corn chips or soy milk contains genetically engineered ingredients that have not been proven safe.”

NO ON 37: Coalition Against the Deceptive Food Labeling Scheme issued a statement blasting the ad.

“Unable to win on the merits or to defend their seriously flawed measure, the Yes on 37 campaign continues to ignore scientific evidence and! b ase their campaign on fear-mongering and scare tactics,” No on 37 spokeswoman Kathy Fairbanks said. “Voters are smart and we’re confident they’ll see through and will evaluate Prop. 37 based on the facts, not hysteria.”

The measure’s backers “can’t justify why their measure was written to allow trial lawyers to file meritless claims. They can’t justify why they gave special-interest exemptions to two-thirds the foods we eat every day, foods that can have GE ingredients. They can’t justify why they are increasing state bureaucracy and why their measure will raise grocery bills for California families. And they can’t justify why their serious drafting flaws would prohibit California farmers from labeling processed foods as natural, even foods without GE ingredients,” Fairbanks said. “The overwhelming scientific evidence has proven that foods with genetically engineered ingredients are safe, and that requiring special labels are both unnecessary and misleading.”

Posted on Monday, August 27th, 2012
Under: ballot measures | 2 Comments »

Prop. 8 committee fined $49,000 for violations

California’s political watchdog agency today slapped the committee behind 2008’s Proposition 8 – the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage – with a $49,000 fine for campaign finance reporting violations involving more than $1.3 million in contributions.

According to the Fair Political Practices Commission, ProtectMarriage.com-Yes on 8 and its treasurer, David Bauer, “failed to file late contribution reports in a timely manner; failed to file in a timely manner, contributions of $1,000 or more received during the 90-day election cycle ending on November 4, 2008; failed to file contributions of $5,000 or more in a timely manner, in an online campaign report within ten business days of receipt; failed to properly dispose of an anonymous $10,000 contribution received on or about October 28, 2008; and failed to disclose occupation and/or employer information regarding persons who contributed $100 or more” – 18 distinct violations in all.

“The total amount of contributions not timely reported on these reports is approximately $654,424, which is approximately 2% of the total contributions received by Respondent Committee during the audit period,” commission staffers wrote of the late contribution reports, in an exhibit to the stipulation agreed to by ProtectMarriage.com. Staffers noted “there are no cases that are similar in size and amount of contributions received that have been considered by the Commission in the recent past.”

ProtectMarriage.com also “failed to disclose 188 contributions of $1,000 or more totaling $582,306 during 90-day period before the November 4, 2008 General Election within 24 hours of receipt in online campaign reports,” the exhibit said. It also failed to disclose contributions of $5,000 or more on or about July 21, 2008 and August 5, 2008, totaling $95,000.

Posted on Thursday, August 16th, 2012
Under: 2008 November election, ballot measures, campaign finance, same-sex marriage | 2 Comments »

9th Circuit to rehear challenge to state DNA law

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday to rehear a challenge to California’s law requiring law enforcement officers to collect DNA samples from all adults arrested for felonies.

The lawsuit was filed in 2009 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California; spokeswoman Rebecca Farmer said Wednesday that oral arguments will be heard by an 11-judge “en banc” panel during the week of Sept. 17.

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.”

Posted on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, Civil liberties, Public safety | 3 Comments »

California GOP to pursue a voter ID initiative

The California Republican Party is rolling out a push for a voter ID initiative in California, chairman Tom Del Beccaro announced this morning.

To kick off that push for the next election cycle, the party has added a new speaker to the schedule for its upcoming fall convention, Aug. 10-12 in Burbank: conservative columnist John Fund, co-author of the forthcoming book, “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk.”

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.”

Posted on Monday, July 23rd, 2012
Under: ballot measures, Republican Party, Republican politics, voter registration | 14 Comments »

Prop numbers assigned to November’s measures

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen today assigned proposition numbers to the 11 measures set to appear on the November 6 ballot:

    Proposition 30 – Temporary Taxes to Fund Education. Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding. (Jerry Brown’s tax measure) Initiative Constitutional Amendment.
    Proposition 31 – State Budget. State and Local Government. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.
    Proposition 32 – Prohibits Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Prohibitions on Contributions to Candidates. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 33 – Changes Law to Allow Auto Insurance Companies to Set Prices Based on a Driver’s History of Insurance Coverage. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 34 – Death Penalty Repeal. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 35 – Human Trafficking. Penalties. Sex Offender Registration. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 36 – Three Strikes Law. Sentencing for Repeat Felony Offenders. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 37 – Genetically Engineered Foods. Mandatory Labeling. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 38 – Tax for Education and Early Childhood Programs. (Molly Munger’s tax measure) Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 39 – Tax Treatment for Multistate Businesses. Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Funding. Initiative Statute.
    Proposition 40 – Redistricting. State Senate Districts. Referendum.

Posted on Monday, July 9th, 2012
Under: ballot measures | 9 Comments »