Just For Fun Concerts EP 2016-39 (Episode 43)

Tales From The Drop Box Episode 43 continues where we left off after Episode 42 – a bunch of new tunes and part 3 of my thoughts on the 17 propositions on the November 8 ballot in California. For my friends outside the state and country, my apologies, but I feel compelled to comment on these because an uniformed electorate is a dangerous electorate. To that end, I am going to do my part to make sure some of the stupid ideas that pass for “legislation” don’t actually get passed because someone falls for the number of patently false ads that will start popping up like mushrooms in a shit house after a rain starting October 1.

Thus, this 3rd installment of my thoughts on the 17 propositions Californians must decide in the voting booth on November 8 deals with the remaining 7 propositions (as I have covered 10 previously in Episodes 41 and 42). So you don’t have to look back (even though I hope you do) , there is 1 general rule and 6 specific rules as to how I evaluate how to vote on a proposition:

The general rule for assessing whether to vote for a particular proposition is this:

If you don’t know about a particular piece of legislation for whatever reason, or if you are unsure of the consequences of voting in favor of a particular piece of legislation – then always vote NO.

The 6 specific rules, all subject to the general rule:

  1. If the government can’t predict the economic impact of the proposed legislation – vote no.
  2. If the proposed legislation is worded in such a manner so as to disguise its true objective (e.g. Prop 60 – the condom law) – vote no.
  3. If the proposed legislation is morally objectionable to you or you believe it will have a significant negative economic impact that will impact you personally – vote no.
  4. If the proposed legislation will accomplish the elimination of a specific societal ill that you personally find ethically/morally objectionable, and will not impose a significant cost on you personally, or you are willing to bear that economic cost – vote yes.
  5. If the proposed legislation will bring about positive change for a particular group of individuals, have no or little financial impact on your life, and is not ethically/morally objectionable to you – vote yes.
  6. If the legislation will bring about a positive change and the financial impact is one you, personally, are willing to bear – vote yes.

Like the previous episodes, I have provided links to the California Legislative Analyst Office (a nonpartisan fiscal and policy advisor) analysis each of the below described propositions so you can read the full analysis. You can also read the text of the proposed bills if you are so inclined here: Text of Proposed Laws. Finally, as in the previous editions, I have thrown in my two cents using the rules described above to tell you how I’m going to vote. Shouldn’t be any secrets about my twisted political leanings after this round, eh?

Proposition 56

Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, and Law Enforcement. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute. Increases cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack, with equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. Allocates revenues primarily to increase funding for existing healthcare programs; also for tobacco use prevention/control programs, tobacco-related disease research and law enforcement, University of California physician training, dental disease prevention programs, and administration. Excludes these revenues from Proposition 98 funding requirements. If tax causes decreased tobacco consumption, transfers tax revenues to offset decreases to existing tobacco-funded programs and sales tax revenues. Requires biennial audit. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Net increase in excise tax revenues in the range of $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion annually by 2017-18, with revenues decreasing slightly in subsequent years. The majority of funds would be used for payments to health care providers. The remaining funds would be used for a variety of specified purposes, including tobacco-related prevention and cessation programs, law enforcement programs, medical research on tobacco-related diseases, and early childhood development programs. (15-0081.)

A YES vote on this measure means: State excise tax on cigarettes would increase by $2 per pack—from 87 cents to $2.87. State excise tax on other tobacco products would increase by a similar amount. State excise tax also would be applied to electronic cigarettes. Revenue from these higher taxes would be used for many purposes, but primarily to augment spending on health care for low-income Californians. A NO vote on this measure means: No changes would be made to existing state taxes on cigarettes, other tobacco products, and electronic cigarettes.

This should be easy as the negative health impacts of smoking cigarettes are well known and the increased cost of healthcare as a consequence of tobacco use is also well known. Tobacco is already well taxed. (Note: Marijuana if passed will also likely be heavily taxed as well). These products are subject to excise taxes (which are levied on a particular product) and sales taxes (which are levied on a wide array of products). The excise tax is levied on distributors (such as wholesalers) while the sales tax is imposed at the time of purchase. Most tobacco users in California smoke cigarettes. According to the California Department of Public Health (DPH), California has one of the lowest adult cigarette smoking rates in the country. This is sneaky legislation. When I say sneaky, it is likely that the monies raised from the new excise tax will end up being utilized for other than preventing smoking which is why the government taxes the crap out of tobacco anyway in the sham policy argument that the money will be utilized to offset the healthcare costs of these users on the system.  Rather, the bulk of the money will be utilized to make up the gap in Medi-Cal funding. Again, my problem is with Medi-Cal. An increased sin tax will force smokers to purchase by mail their drug of choice and not fix either problem – stopping people from smoking or fixing Medi-Cal. I get that the opposition is financed by tobacco companies who are spending millions. But, politicians should fix problems, reduce costs of healthcare, and focus on the real problem with smoking: that smoking causes people to over utilize the healthcare system by treating the health issues (cancer) that smokers actually knew they were likely going to experience. Legislators should not put money band aids on a serious social issue and further delay taking action to fix Medi-Cal and prevent smoking. I’m voting NO.

Proposition 57

Criminal Sentences. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute. Allows parole consideration for persons convicted of nonviolent felonies upon completion of full prison term for primary offense, as defined. Authorizes Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to award sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, or educational achievements. Requires Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to adopt regulations to implement new parole and sentence credit provisions and certify they enhance public safety. Provides juvenile court judges shall make determination, upon prosecutor motion, whether juveniles age 14 and older should be prosecuted and sentenced as adults. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Net state savings that could range from the tens of millions of dollars to the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually primarily due to a reduction in the prison population from additional paroles granted and credits earned. Net county costs that could range from the millions to tens of millions of dollars annually, declining to a few million dollars after initial implementation of the measure. (15-0121.)

A YES vote on this measure means: Certain state prison inmates convicted of nonviolent felony offenses would be considered for release earlier than otherwise. The state prison system could award additional sentencing credits to inmates for good behavior and approved rehabilitative or educational achievements. Youths must have a hearing in juvenile court before they could be transferred to adult court. A NO vote on this measure means: There would be no change to the inmate release process. The state’s prison system could not award additional sentencing credits to inmates. Certain youths could continue to be tried in adult court without a hearing in juvenile court.

Big picture: Prisons are crowded in California. It costs money to house them. The proposal aims at reducing the numbers of juveniles being incarcerated in adult facilities by transferring the discretion of the prosecutor to determine whether the crime merits being tried as an adult to the court who can balance the interests, including the cost and likelihood of rehabilitation. Governor Brown put this measure on the ballot because his tough on crime campaign policy has backfired putting huge numbers of non-violent offenders in prison costing the taxpayers huge amounts of money. It doesn’t help that the U.S. Supreme Court told him the state must reduce its prison population and improve medical care to inmates. So, the answer is to give earlier parole to “nonviolent” offenders. This is likely good for drug users who commit nonviolent acts such as burglary and petty theft to finance their drug habits. The real problem with the legislation is that “non-violent” includes: arson, hostage taking, some rape and assault offenses in the definition. In short, the proposition fails to clearly identify which crimes would fall under its ambit and how an inmate’s criminal history would affect eligibility for parole. Thus, there is the potential that career criminals could get early parole, an unintended consequence of poorly written legislation. Until fixed, I’m voting NO.

Proposition 58

SB 1174, Lara. English language education. (1) Existing law, as added by Proposition 227, a measure approved by the voters at the June 2, 1998, statewide primary election, requires, among other things, that all children in California public schools be taught English by being taught in English. Proposition 227 specifies that English learner pupils, as defined, be educated through sheltered English immersion, as defined, during a temporary transition period not normally intended to exceed one year. Proposition 227 further provides that its requirements relating to sheltered English immersion instruction may be waived with the prior written consent of a pupil’s parent or legal guardian, as specified. Proposition 227 also encourages family members and others to provide personal English language tutoring to English learner pupils.

This bill would amend and repeal various provisions of Proposition 227. The bill would, among other things, delete the sheltered English immersion requirement and waiver provisions, and would instead provide that school districts and county offices of education shall, at a minimum, provide English learners with a structured English immersion program, as specified. The bill would authorize parents or legal guardians of pupils enrolled in the school to choose a language acquisition program that best suits their child, as provided.

(2) Existing law requires, on or before July 1, 2014, the governing board of each school district and each county board of education to adopt a local control and accountability plan and requires the governing board of each school district and each county board of education to update its plan on or before July 1 of each year. As part of the process for developing the local control and accountability plan, existing law requires the superintendent of the school district or the county superintendent of schools to both present the plan or annual update to the plan to a parent advisory committee and an English learner parent advisory committee for review and comment, and to respond, in writing, to comments received from the committees. Existing law also requires the superintendent of the school district and the county superintendent of schools to notify members of the public of the opportunity to submit written comments regarding the specific actions and expenditures proposed to be included in the local control and accountability plan or annual update to the plan.

This bill would, as part of the parent and community engagement process required for the development of a local control and accountability plan, require school districts and county offices of education to solicit input on, and provide to pupils, effective and appropriate instructional methods, including, but not limited to, establishing language acquisition programs, as defined.

(3) Proposition 227 also specifies that a pupil’s parent or legal guardian has standing to sue for enforcement of its provisions and, if successful, to receive normal and customary attorney’s fees and actual damages, but not punitive or consequential damages. Proposition 227 further provides that school board members, other elected officials, and public school teachers or administrators who willfully and repeatedly refuse to implement its provisions may be held personally liable for fees and actual damages by a pupil’s parent or legal guardian.

This bill would delete those provisions.

(4) Proposition 227 provides that its provisions may be amended by a statute to further its purpose passed by a 2/3 vote of each house of the Legislature and signed by the Governor.

This bill would delete the requirement that the amendment further the purpose of Proposition 227, and would revise the vote threshold to a majority vote in each house of the Legislature.

(5) This bill would make these provisions operative on July 1, 2017.

(6) The California Constitution authorizes the Legislature to amend or repeal an initiative statute by another statute that becomes effective when approved by the electors.

This bill would provide that it would become effective only upon approval of the voters, and would require the Secretary of State to submit this measure to the voters for approval at the November 2016 statewide general election.

A YES vote on this measure means: Public schools could more easily choose how to teach English learners, whether in English-only, bilingual, or other types of programs. A NO vote on this measure means: Public schools would still be required to teach most English learners in English-only programs.

Wow, that is a ton of reading. Prop. 58 would remove restrictions voters put in place in 1998 with Prop. 227. Prop 227 implemented English-only immersion requirements and waiver provisions. In English-only programs, students learn subjects from teachers who speak only in English. Proposition 227 required English learners to take one year of intensive English instruction before transitioning to English-only classes.

Under Proposition 227, parents of English learners can opt their children into bilingual programs by signing a waiver. The waiver is approved if one of three conditions are met. First, the student must have “attended an English-only classroom for at least 30 days and whose teachers, principal, and district superintendent all agree would learn better in a bilingual program.” Second, the student must be at least 10 years old. Third, the student is already a fluent English speaker.

The stated goal is to provide more bilingual education options for students, which is a good thing. The measure would allow public schools to decide how to teach English learners – choosing among English-only, bilingual, or other types of programs. It would also open the door for native English speakers to learn a second language. All good so far, but hold on.

Unless you are actually working in the California school system this proposition makes good sense. The real issue for Californians is that the measure if passed will make it easier for school districts and parents to track their children into Spanish speaking only programs, particularly in high school districts where Spanish language predominates. The impact on college admissions will be noticeable. Under the existing English Language Only statute the pressure of English only instruction has placed all second language speakers on equal footing and the English Immersion is working. For the past 18 years, since the enactment of Prop. 227 there has been demonstrably and measurable progress of 2nd language learners attending Cal State and UC schools with increasing numbers of college graduates.

The real danger of Prop 58 being implemented is that school districts will eliminate low performing and English language assistance for Asian minorities who currently get the short end of the assistance stick with school districts almost entirely focused on low performing Latino and African American students. Further, as many will now notice, it is difficult to find qualified bilingual teachers for certain subject areas such as math and science, particularly Chemistry, Physics, and Computer Science. I also note that the proposed legislation also removes the 2/3 majority requirement to further amendments replacing it with a simple majority. I am a strong proponent for bilingual education. However, I have little faith that school districts will implement bilingual language instruction in a non-discriminatory manner (all of these schools will be Spanish-English only)  or even if that could be accomplished, in a manner that would provide true bilingual education. Thus, I’m voting NO.

Proposition 59

SB 254, Allen. Campaign finance: voter instruction. This bill would call a special election to be consolidated with the November 8, 2016, statewide general election. The bill would require the Secretary of State to submit to the voters at the November 8, 2016, consolidated election a voter instruction asking whether California’s elected officials should use all of their constitutional authority, including proposing and ratifying one or more amendments to the United States Constitution, to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) 558 U.S. 310, and other applicable judicial precedents, as specified. The bill would require the Secretary of State to communicate the results of this election to the Congress of the United States. The bill would require the Secretary of State, if prohibited by court order from submitting the voter instruction to the voters at the November 8, 2016, statewide general election, as specified, to submit the voter instruction to the voters at the next occurring election.

This bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an act calling an election.

A YES vote on this measure means: Voters would be asking their elected officials to use their constitutional authority to seek increased regulation of campaign spending and contributions. As an advisory measure, Proposition 59 does not require any particular action by the Congress or California Legislature. A NO vote on this measure means: Voters would not be asking their elected officials to seek certain changes in the regulation of campaign spending and contributions.

Huh? This measure accomplishes absolutely nothing. Really. This is an advisory bill – The measure asks if voters want California’s elected officials to take steps to amend the U.S. Constitution to overturn Citizens United a U.S. Supreme Court decision that dealt with campaign financing. As noted by the LAO:

Many people, corporations, labor unions, and other groups spend money to influence voters’ decisions in political campaigns. This spending includes:

  • Direct Contributions. People can give money directly to candidates, political parties, and committees. These direct contributions are subject to federal, state, and local limits. In some cases, federal law does not allow direct contributions. For example, corporations and labor unions may not give money directly to a candidate for a federal office.
  • Independent Expenditures. A person makes an “independent expenditure” if he or she spends money to influence voters with no coordination with a candidate or campaign. For example, a person producing a radio commercial urging people to vote for a candidate is making an independent expenditure if the commercial is made without the involvement of the candidate’s campaign.

Independent Expenditures Protected by U.S. Constitution. Before 2010, federal law limited corporations and labor unions’ abilities to make independent expenditures in federal elections. Some California local governments had similar laws for local elections. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in the Citizens United case that independent expenditures made by corporations and labor unions are a form of speech protected under the Constitution. Based on this determination and related court decisions, government may not limit the right of corporations and labor unions to make independent expenditures. This ruling applies to federal, state, and local governments.

So, this proposition requests essentially an advisory opinion from the People of the State of California to amend the constitution should an opportunity appear. Amending the Constitution is a lengthy process that generally requires, among other things, support from at least 38 states nationwide. This is a stupid proposition and a reason why there should be higher numbers of ballot signatures to qualify for the ballot. I’m Voting NO.

Proposition 65

Carry-Out Bags. Charges. Initiative Statute. Redirects money collected by grocery and certain other retail stores through sale of carry-out bags, whenever any state law bans free distribution of a particular kind of carry-out bag and mandates the sale of any other kind of carry-out bag. Requires stores to deposit bag sale proceeds into a special fund administered by the Wildlife Conservation Board to support specified categories of environmental projects. Provides for Board to develop regulations implementing law. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: If voters uphold the state’s current carryout bag law, redirected revenues from retailers to the state, potentially in the several tens of millions of dollars annually. Revenues would be used for grants for certain environmental and natural resources purposes. If voters reject the state’s current carryout bag law, likely minor fiscal effects. (15-0074.)

A YES vote on this measure means: If state law (1) prohibits giving customers certain carryout bags for free and (2) requires a charge for other types of carryout bags, the resulting revenue would be deposited in a new state fund to support certain environmental programs.

A NO vote on this measure means: If charges on carryout bags are required by a state law, that law could direct the use of the resulting revenue toward any purpose.

I have covered both of these plastic bag propositions below because they have a slight conflict designed to confuse the voter. Read on!

Proposition 67

Referendum to Overturn Ban on Single-Use Plastic BagsIf signed by the required number of registered voters and timely filed with the Secretary of State, this petition will place on the statewide ballot a challenge to a state law previously approved by the Legislature and the Governor. The challenged law must then be approved by a majority of voters at the next statewide election to go into effect. The law prohibits grocery and certain other retail stores from providing single-use bags but permits sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags. (14-0011.)

A YES vote on this measure means: Most grocery stores, convenience stores, large pharmacies, and liquor stores would be prohibited from providing single-use plastic carryout bags. Stores generally would be required to charge at least 10 cents for any other carryout bag provided to customers at checkout. Stores would keep the resulting revenue for specified purposes. A NO vote on this measure means: Stores could continue to provide single-use plastic carryout bags and other bags free of charge unless a local law restricts the use of such bags.

Prop. 67 supports the 2014 ban signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, and authorizes retailers to charge shoppers 10 cents for other carryout bags—a fee the stores get to keep. Prop. 65 would redirect the bag fee money to an environmental fund administered by the state Wildlife Conservation Board. If both measures pass, Prop. 65 would only be enacted if it receives more votes than Prop. 67. If voters reject Prop. 67, then Prop 65 does not apply.

Paired ballot measures are a recurring theme for propositions because there are tactical reasons for getting a competing proposition on the ballot. This election, there are 2 paired ballot measures. Proposition 62 repeals the death penalty and Proposition 66 arguably would speed the carrying out of the death sentences by eliminating opportunities for appeal. More on this later. In short, if your political opponent puts forth a measure which will impact your position on a sensitive issue ( death penalty, plastic bags, etc.) , you can get enough signatures to put your own competing proposition on the ballot with the hope that when it comes time to vote that the confused voter will just say ahhh… F- it. I’m going to vote no on both.

So, here is the analysis: In a clearly non-pc move, I am A-OK with plastic bags in any county that chooses not to restrict them. I dislike paying for my bags – paper or plastic. Millions of us utilized our free plastic and paper bags for trash. Now, we have to scrape together the bags for the messy stuff and place the non-biologicals loose in the garbage, or we just purchase bigger plastic bags. My position on these two propositions is bolstered by the fact that there are larger plastic based environmental hazards, such as the use of these bigger more expensive plastic trash bags, that are not subject to the same restrictions as contemplated by California’s bag ban. While here is significant evidence that single use plastic bags have a negative impact on the environment and any small step is likely a good step (See California’s Plastic Bag Ban: Myths And Facts.) there is competing evidence that suggests that in the face of a plastic bag ban that people just purchase bigger and thicker plastic bags. See Environmental Effects of the Single Use Bag Ordinance in Austin, Texas.

So, where do I stand? I’m okay with a bag ban imposed by the State. I’m okay with stores keeping the money since they pay for the bags. I don’t like paying for my bags, but I get the environmental concern. Something small is better than nothing. I’m voting NO on 65 and YES on 67.

Proposition 66

Death Penalty. Procedures. Initiative Statute. Changes procedures governing state court appeals and petitions challenging death penalty convictions and sentences. Designates superior court for initial petitions and limits successive petitions. Imposes time limits on state court death penalty review. Requires appointed attorneys who take noncapital appeals to accept death penalty appeals. Exempts prison officials from existing regulation process for developing execution methods. Authorizes death row inmate transfers among California state prisons. States death row inmates must work and pay victim restitution. States other voter approved measures related to death penalty are null and void if this measure receives more affirmative votes. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Increased state costs that could be in the tens of millions of dollars annually for several years related to direct appeals and habeas corpus proceedings, with the fiscal impact on such costs being unknown in the longer run. Potential state correctional savings that could be in the tens of millions of dollars annually. (15-0096.)

A YES vote on this measure means: Court procedures for legal challenges to death sentences would be subject to various changes, such as time limits on those challenges and revised rules to increase the number of available attorneys for those challenges. Condemned inmates could be housed at any state prison. A NO vote on this measure means: There would be no changes to the state’s current court procedures for legal challenges to death sentences. The state would still be limited to housing condemned inmates only at certain state prisons.

So, here is the second half of the death penalty propositions. The first, Proposition 62, is to repeal the death penalty. I’ve already told you I’m Voting YES on 62 because the death penalty is ineffective (no one dies from lethal injection in California), costly, is not a deterrent to murder even in states that actually carry out the sentences ( Texas) and as I’ll put forth here, I do not believe that the system is capable of being reformed precisely because of the constitutional protections afforded defendants who are sentenced to death. Further, in an article that addresses the significant issues with Prop 66: Proposition 66, The “Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016,” is Fool’s Gold for Californians, the reforms proposed simply won’t work because (a) it will not be applied retroactively; (b) forces attorneys to take death penalty cases (which is always a bad idea). Why? Because there are “not enough willing and qualified lawyers in California to take these kinds of cases—the most difficult, emotional, time-intensive, resource-draining cases our legal system has”; and (c) arbitrarily speeds up the timetable for death row appeals in a state, California, that in 2012 led the nation in exoneration of wrongfully convicted citizens. Consequently, I’m voting NO.

And there you have it. A complete analysis of the 17 propositions on November’s ballot! Here is my scorecard for these 7 propositions:

  • Proposition 56: NO
  • Proposition 57: NO
  • Proposition 58: NO
  • Proposition 59: NO
  • Proposition 65: NO
  • Proposition 66: NO
  • Proposition 67: YES

So in the aftermath of all that analysis for which you have likely spent less than 15 minutes spread over three episodes of Tales From The Dropbox reading while enjoying some amazing tunes, here is a summary of where I stand: I am voting NO on 14 and YES on 3 Propositions (62, 63 and 67).

The last day to register to vote in the November 8 General Election is October 24. Californians can register to vote online at: http://registertovote.ca.gov/

Here is what you’ll find in Episode #43:

  1. Frigs – “Ringworm” (Slush EP)
  2. Bad Suns – “Even in My Dreams, I Can’t Win” (Disappear Here)
  3. Cocoon – “I Can’t Wait” (Welcome Home)
  4. Graveyard Club – “No Heart” (Cellar Door)
  5. Twin Atlantic – “Over Thinking” (GLA)
  6. The High Dials – “Impossible Things” (In The A.M. Wilds)
  7. Rebel Flesh – “Evangelista” ( Holds You Tight)
  8. The Wedding Present – “Bells” (Going, Going…)
  9. Die Antwoord  “Alien” (Mount Ninja and Da Nice Time Kid)
  10. Jeff The Brotherhood – “Toasted” (Zone)
  11. Wvnder – “Character Blur” (Precipice)
  12. Womps – “Cavity” (Our Fertile Flower)
  13. Venice Sunlight – “Random Walk” (vs. The Swingers & The Saints)
  14. X – “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene” (Los Angeles)
  15. Teeth & Tongue – “Do Harm” (Give Up On Your Health)

I am an alien no matter how hard I try I don’t fit in . . . I can’t wait to see the summer turn to gold.


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