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Yes on Proposition 34
Proposition 34 would make California the 19th state in the country to abolish the death penalty. If passed, the proposition would eliminate the death penalty and replace it with life in prison with no chance of parole. The proposition's foundation is built on a 2011 study that found capital punishment to be cost-heavy, with few benefits. Supporters include Ron Briggs, the man who wrote the original 1977 initiative that toughened the death penalty, and Jeanne Woodford, executive director of Death Penalty Focus and a former San Quentin warden.
The opposition includes the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs' Association and, surprisingly, more than a few inmates on San Quentin's death row, who feel they'll lose opportunities to appeal their sentences. Keeping in mind the flaws in the judicial system that have led to convictions and executions of innocent people in the United States, as well as the costs of the death-row system itself during a time of huge fiscal crisis, we recommend a yes vote on Proposition 34.
No on Proposition 35
No one argues that stiffer fines and penalties for human traffickers aren't warranted. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details of this ballot measure. Ambiguous language and broad definitions would set up dangerous legal challenges to the rights of both victims and suspects, while at the same time putting burdensome new requirements on local law enforcement agencies that are already overwhelmed with tracking the state's 90,000-plus registered sex offenders. Consensual relationships between teenagers hovering just above and below the age of 18 could also fall into a legal gray area. Proposition 35 will likely pass, because its goal is noble, but the execution of the language leaves much to be desired.
Yes on Proposition 36
In 1994, California voters approved Proposition 184, widely known as the "three strikes law." Spearheaded by Mike Reynolds, father of 18-year-old Kimber Reynolds, who was murdered during a botched purse robbery, the goal of the law was to put violent career criminals behind bars for life. Unfortunately, far too many nonviolent offenders—who've received a third strike for crimes as innocuous as stealing a pizza—face life behind bars with little chance of parole.
Proposition 36 would reduce prison sentences for qualified third-strikers whose current offense is a nonserious, nonviolent felony. Those whose previous crimes involve sex offenses, drug trafficking, homicide, firearms or weapons of mass destruction would be excluded from the changes. The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates savings to the state of $70 million a year in the beginning, and $90 million yearly after that. With solutions needed to fix California's State Prison budget and address its huge rehabilitation crisis, Proposition 36 isn't just a logical step, it's also a fair one.
Yes on Proposition 37
This is a no-brainer. Proposition 37 would require labeling on food made from plants or animals changed by genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms, known on Volvo bumper stickers statewide as "GMOs." Who among us doesn't want to know what's in our food, especially when studies show that GMOs have created all sorts of health risks? Big ag, that's who. Monsanto, the world's largest producer of genetically engineered seed, has spent over $7 million to oppose Proposition 37, and one has to wonder why a company would spend so much not to advertise but to hide its product from the public. DuPont, Dow, Bayer and BASF round out the opposition's other top five donors, arguing that passage will increase food costs. Voters shouldn't fall for this threat from the chemical giants; the cost of a food label is a fraction of a cent. More than 40 countries already have laws requiring GMO labeling, and it's time Californians demanded the same.
Yes on Proposition 39
The state's current business tax code practically begs companies to locate their headquarters and employees outside of California while selling goods and services within its confines. Proposition 39 would level the playing field and make all businesses in the state pay taxes through a fair, across-the-board method. Right now, companies can choose between this option or decide to pay half their taxes on revenue made in-state and the other half on workforce and infrastructure within the state.
Proposition 39's consistent tax code has already sprung up in larger states across the country, including Texas, Illinois and New Jersey. Extra revenue from the ballot measure's passage would go toward improving energy efficiency in schools and government buildings the first five years, which would create jobs and set California on a more sustainable path. After that, the money would go into the state's depleted general fund. Don't be fooled— Proposition 39 will not kill jobs. If anything, it will protect them. If none of this convinces you, just ask yourself: What does New Jersey know that we don't?
Yes on Proposition 40
The Republican Party didn't get its way during the latest redrawing of district lines, and now it wants to confuse voters. Here's the deal: vote yes and the state saves an estimated $1 million by keeping the lines as they're currently constructed. It's really that simple.