Proposition 56: CIGARETTE TAX TO FUND HEALTHCARE, TOBACCO USE PREVENTION, RESEARCH, AND LAW ENFORCEMENT. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
This proposition adds a $2 excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Currently the tax on tobacco products is set at $.87 per pack, and this would raise it to $2.87 per pack. These is also a calculation that would apply this tax at a similar rate to “other tobacco products” like cigars, chewing tobacco and stuff like that. This would also apply this tax to the sale of e-cigarettes. Currently there is no excise tax on e-cigarettes, they only pay sales tax. This would classify e-cigarettes as “other tobacco products,” and apply the taxes to them. The bulk of the revenues from this tax are to be spend on healthcare, but some of the money will be spent on school programs to prevent smoking and other administrative things.
However, it is clear that the goal of this proposition is to get people to stop smoking, rather than to raise revenue.
This one is tough. On the one hand, this is a regressive tax. Smokers tend to be low income so punishing them by drastically increasing the cost of cigarettes seems unfair. However, the cigarette industry has been a sleazy industry for essentially its entire existence, so I don’t feel to bad about helping to put them out of business. Also I think that e-cigarettes should be considered cigarettes as well. All in all I think that the positives of this outweigh the negatives so I will be voting YES.
Proposition 57: CRIMINAL SENTENCES. PAROLE. JUVENILE CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS AND SENTENCING. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.
Some background on this. In 2011 there was a class action lawsuit brought against the state of California charging that the state's overcrowded prisons was a violation of the 8th Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment.) This case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled against the state of California and ordered that the state reform its prison system.
The state basically dragged its feet over this issue, requiring a revision of the court case forcing California to deal with this problem. Since then we have passed a number of propositions and other laws including a revision of the “three strikes” law, and another proposition encouraging rehabilitation for drug offenders rather than prison time.
This proposition continues this effort by streamlining the parole process and making it harder to charge juveniles as adults.
This proposition allows individuals who have committed nonviolent felonies to come up for parole easier. Sometimes individuals serve time in prison for multiple crimes committed at the same time, these crimes get designated the “primary offense” and the “secondary offense.” This would allow individual to come up for parole after serving the entirety of their time for the “primary offense.”
This also makes it more difficult to try a juvenile as an adult as it would require a hearing in juvenile court prior to transferring them to an adult court. Relatively few juveniles get tried in adult court a year (roughly 600) but this would make it more difficult to do.
The overcrowding of the California prison system has been a major problem in California for a long time. I will be voting YES on this proposition because I think the financial impacts are worth it, we spend almost $70,000 per year, per inmate in the state of California. Also, it is important to note that this proposition doesn’t make it any easier to get parole, it just makes it easier to come up for parole.
Proposition 58: ENGLISH PROFICIENCY. MULTILINGUAL EDUCATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
This proposition also needs some context. Currently bilingual education in the state is restricted. If a student wants to participate in bilingual education their parent needs to sign a specific waiver that allows them to do so. This would change this restriction so that a student can participate in bilingual education without such input. This is because in 1998 we passed a proposition (Prop 227) that required all non-English speakers to take a rudimentary English class before being enrolled in mainstream education. As KPCC reports, this means that students who could read and write at a 5th grade level in Spanish, were forced out of their classrooms for an entire year to learn kindergarten-level English. This happens because Spanish speaking parents are often hesitant to sign a waiver for their child to allow them into bilingual classes.
This proposition would get rid of this requirement and expand bilingual education.
I am going to be voting YES on this proposition. I think expanding access to bilingual education will have a positive effect on all children, not just the children that are learning English. Prop 227, which this repeals represents an outdated notion of language and how we should be embracing our diverse community.
Proposition 59: CORPORATIONS. POLITICAL SPENDING. FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS. LEGISLATIVE ADVISORY QUESTION.
This one is a bit odd. It is an advisory question, meaning that it does not require anyone to do anything. It basically encourages the state legislature of California to support a Federal Constitutional Amendment that would overturn the Citizen’s United Supreme Court Decision. This is the decision that famously declare that corporations were to be treated as individuals for the sake of political fundraising, essentially creating Super PACs. However, there is no Constitutional amendment that has been proposed and there is no indication that there will be. This is basically a poll to encourage members of the State Legislature to support efforts to overturn the decision.
While this proposition is essentially pointless, I don’t like the Citizen’s United decision and I think that it is one of the more harmful Supreme Court decisions in recent history, so if this proposition sends a message that the State of California is unhappy with this decision, I’m all for it. I’m voting YES.
Proposition 60:ADULT FILMS. CONDOMS. HEALTH REQUIREMENTS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Ah, now we are getting into the controversial ones. This bill requires adult film actors to use condoms in their films. It also involves some other minor requirements regarding testing and vaccinations for the prevention of STI’s, but the condom issue is the big one. There is a minor fiscal requirement that goes along with this that might cost the state $1 million per year for enforcement, but that cost might change.
I think passing this proposition would be a bad idea. What would happen if we passed this proposition is that the adult film industry would not comply and would simply move elsewhere. We have already seen this happen when LA County passed a similar proposition in 2014. The adult film industry simply moved inland to the San Fernando Valley. This would just drive a multi-billion dollar industry out of the state. It's a bad idea and wouldn’t even have the desired effect if it passed. I’m voting NO.