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California Propositions November 2008

by Tony Medley

Proposition 1A: Provides for a bond issue of $9.5 billion to fund pre-construction and construction of a California high speed rail system. The first phase would be for local trips, like LA-Riverside-San Diego. There would be no train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, for instance.

My recommendation: Yes. This is what government is supposed to do, make expenditures to improve transportation, which is woeful in California.

 Proposition 2: Treatment of Farm Animals. Statute. This requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.

 My recommendation: Yes. It won’t cost much and it’s a small price to pay to ensure that we live in a humane society that takes the welfare of animals into consideration, although I don't like the dishonest and misleading TV ads supporting the measure.

 Proposition 3:. Children’s Hospital Bond Act. Grant Program. Statute. Authorizes $980,000,000 in bonds, to be repaid from state’s General Fund, to fund the construction, expansion, remodeling, renovation, furnishing and equipping of children’s hospitals.

 My recommendation: No. Prop 61 in 2004 was approved that sold $750 million for this same purpose. California is choking in debt. Recipients of funds like the $750 million they were authorized four years ago must realize that the deep pockets don’t exist anymore and make do with what they have. Sure, it's hard to vote against bonds for children's hospitals. I've been through Children's Hospital in Los Angeles and it tugs on your heart strings. But they just got $750 million! This can’t just continue to go on and on forever.

 Proposition 4: Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy. Constitutional Amendment. Changes California Constitution to prohibit abortion for unemancipated minor until 48 hours after physician notifies minor’s parent or legal guardian.

 My recommendation: Yes. A minor needs her parents’ permission to have a tonsillectomy, or any other medical procedure. But the abortion industry wants no such requirement for an abortion, a far more serious operation than a tonsillectomy. Without this Amendment, California would have the ridiculous position that a minor needs parental permission for any medical procedure except an abortion. All this measure does is require that abortionists notify parents 48 hours before performing such an operation. Since it’s a Constitutional Amendment, it’s beyond the jurisdiction of the California Supreme Court to overturn. A yes vote on Proposition 2, along with a “no” vote here would say that the life of a farm animal is more important than that of an unborn infant.

 Proposition 5: Nonviolent Offenders. Sentencing, Parole and Rehabilitation. Statute.  Allocates $460,000,000 annually to improve and expand treatment programs for persons convicted of drug and other offenses.  It limits court authority to incarcerate offenders who commit certain drug crimes, break drug treatment rules or violate parole.

 My recommendation: Yes. When I was clerking for a federal district court judge we had the criminal calendar and time after time a defendant would plead guilty and when it came time for sentencing would plead to be put in a drug rehabilitation program because it was drugs that “made him do it.” Alas, there was no such thing in the federal system. It’s true that drug addiction causes a lot of California’s violent crime, but this measure seems to throw taxpayer money at a problem that cries for personal responsibility. This is a tough vote, but maybe this would be a worthwhile expenditure of taxpayer money if it will reduce recidivism in non violent crime. Despite California’s appalling deficit, I’m willing to give it a try.

 Proposition 6: Requires minimum of $965,000,000 each year to be allocated from state General Fund for police, sheriffs, district attorneys, adult probation, jails and juvenile probation facilities. Some of this funding will increase in following years according to California Consumer Price Index. Makes approximately 30 revisions to California criminal law, many of which cover gang-related offenses. Revisions create multiple new crimes and additional penalties, some with the potential for new life sentences. Increases penalties for violating a gang-related injunction and for felons carrying guns under certain conditions.

My recommendation: Yes. This is a lot of money, almost $1 billion in the first year alone, but just a couple of the measures show that it toughens our criminal law: 1.Prohibiting bail to illegal immigrants who are charged with violent or gang crimes; 2. Imposing a 10-year penalty increase on gang offenders who commit violent felonies. There are other measures, but criminals are out of control in California, and, like Prop. 1A, this is an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money, although I can't figure out why it would cost so much of it. On the flip side, a vote against it would be fiscally prudent and would require supporters to come up with a measure that was much less expensive.

 Proposition 7: Requires utilities, including government-owned utilities, to generate 20% of their power from renewable energy by 2010, a standard currently applicable only to private electrical corporations.

 My recommendation: No. Didn’t we learn our lesson when we scrapped a Public Utility system in 1996 that worked well for 100 years because of an irresponsible legislature, which passed a convoluted deregulation bill at midnight when only one legislator, Steve Peace (who was pushing for it), said he understood it, enabling Enron and unscrupulous deregulated traders to trash our electricity deliver system? This is another silly, unworkable idea and it should see the trash heap.

 Proposition 8: Changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California. Restores the law to what it was, that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

My recommendation: Yes. The people of the State of California have already voted on this once and passed it overwhelmingly with 61% in favor. The will of the people was overturned by four politically-motivated judges who arrogantly disregard the people and democratic process. This doesn’t “change” the law; it merely restores it to what the people wanted before four judges thought they knew better. The narrow decision of the California Supreme Court isn’t just about “live and let live.” State law may require teachers to instruct children as young as kindergarteners about marriage. (Education Code § 51890.) If the gay marriage ruling is not overturned, TEACHERS COULD BE REQUIRED to teach young children there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage. Gay couples already have all the rights given to married couples, so this won’t deprive them of any of those rights.

Proposition 9: Requires notification to victim and opportunity for input during phases of criminal justice process, including bail, pleas, sentencing and parole and establishes victim safety as consideration in determining bail or release on parole, among other victims’ rights measures.

My recommendation: Yes. Arrogant judges and parole boards with a political agenda don’t care about victims. This requires them to care about victims. Among the rights granted by this measure are: 1. Require that a victim and the victim’s family’s safety must be considered by judges making bail decisions for accused criminals; 2. Mandate that crime victims be notified if their offender is released; 3. Require victims be notified of parole hearings in advance to ensure they can attend and have a right to be heard, among many others. Victims should have more rights than a criminal who victimized them and this measure gives those rights to them.

 Proposition 10: Provides $3.425 billion to help consumers and others purchase certain high fuel economy or alternative fuel vehicles, including natural gas vehicles, and to fund research into alternative fuel technology.

 My recommendation: No. This is another lunatic idea involving government and taxpayer money (and a lot of taxpayer money) in an issue that should be solved by private industry. The market solves problems like this. Ford and GM ignored developing gas-efficient cars and they are both on the brink of bankruptcy. They will come to their senses and develop cars that will be able to complete with foreign makers who are developing such cars. Government should stay out of it and California can’t afford it anyway.

 Proposition 11: Changes authority for establishing Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization district boundaries from elected representatives to 14 member commission.

 My recommendation: Yes, but I don’t like it. Gerrymandering districts is the way Democrats have stayed in power in California and the way they dominated Congress from 1954-1994 and it has no place in a democratic republic. But appointing commissioners isn’t the answer, either, although it’s better than legislators picking their own district lines (but only slightly better; the commissioners would be appointed by politically connected “government auditors,” who would be almost as biased as a legislator). In order to placate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who wants to stay in power in Washington no matter what the people want, it excludes Congressional districts. My solution is simple and would be effective: Pass a law requiring that all districts be comprised of four boundary lines that are straight and meet at 90° right angles. That way nobody could gerrymander anything. But that makes too much sense.

 Proposition 12: This act provides for a bond issue of nine hundred million dollars ($900,000,000) to provide loans to California veterans to purchase farms and homes.

 My recommendation: No. These Cal Vet bond acts have been going on since 1922. With our all-volunteer armed forces, our veterans have been compensated appropriately, and taken care of medically. They should compete in the marketplace equally on their own without government support. Because of our all-volunteer armed forces now, this type of support is obsolete. We have to cut spending and this is one place to start because this is a benefit that is no longer appropriate.