Top 5 Initiatives to Watch Ahead of California’s November Election

Feb. 21, 2012 / By

New America Media, News Report, Rene Ciria-Cruz, Posted: Feb 18, 2012

Editor’s Note: Thus far, voters will have two ballot initiatives to decide on in the June primary and three in November. (Read about them here, on our blog.) However, deadlines are looming to get other initiatives on the ballot and people are quickly gathering signatures for the 65 petitions so far in circulation. Below are five contentious petitions that would have far-reaching impacts on ethnic communities if they make it onto the November ballot: 

1. Death Penalty Repeal
The proposed Death Penalty Repeal initiative would abolish execution as the maximum punishment for murder and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole—with retroactive application to those already on death row.

Under the initiative, inmates must work in prison with their wages going to victim restitution and fines. It also creates a $100 million fund to help law enforcement solve more cases of homicide and rape.

If placed on the ballot, debate over Death Penalty Repeal is sure to be contentious. If approved by voters, the measure could have an impact on minorities as studies have shown that racial minorities are prosecuted under death penalty laws far beyond their proportion in the general population.

Proponent: The proponent for the initiative is Jeanne Woodford, executive director of Death Penalty Focus, and a Senior Distinguished Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. She was previously warden of San Quentin State Prison, and then served as head of the California Department of Corrections.

Deadline for signatures: March 19, 2012

2. Three Strikes Law
The petition for the Three Strikes Law-Sentencing for Repeat Felony Offenders would mete life sentences on third felony convictions only for serious or violent crimes, or for non-violent crimes involving sex and drug offenses and firearms, or if the previous convictions were for rape, murder, or child molestation.

Of current third-strikers, 45 percent are African American and 32.6 percent are Latino, according to the Justice Policy Institute’s analysis of Department of Corrections data. Current inmates with life sentences whose third offense was not serious or violent will be re-sentenced if the judge determines there’s no danger to the public.

Proponent: This measure by a coalition of Stanford University lawyers, including the Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project, is backed in part by David Mills, an investment banker and Stanford Law professor.

Deadline for signatures: May 14, 2012

3. Arizona-Style Crackdown
Of obvious interest to immigrant communities is a petition that would bring controversial, Arizona-style immigration policing to California. Titled Undocumented Immigrants-Requires State Law Enforcement Officers to Enforce Federal Immigration Law-Denies Driver’s Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants, the petition commits local police as arms of federal immigration authorities in arresting, holding and transferring undocumented aliens.

Proponents: The initiative proponents are Tirso del Junco, ex president of the California Republican Party, Ted Hilton, a real estate businessman from San Diego, and Bill Siler, a Republican representative from Concord.

Deadline for signatures: June 28, 2012

4. Governor Brown’s Tax Increase 
Governor Jerry Brown is circulating Temporary Taxes to Fund Education-Guaranteed Public Safety Funding, a constitutional amendment that would raise personal income tax on yearly earnings over $250,000 for five years.

Brown’s initiative also raises sales taxes by half a cent for four years. Most of the $5 billion to $7 billion in revenue will go to K-12 schools, 11 percent to community colleges. It guarantees financing for public safety services that have been shifted from state to local governments.

The governor’s office, however, is reportedly worried that other petitions to increase taxes are competing for signatures and could alienate potential signatories from all tax-increase proposals.

Proponent: California Governor Jerry Brown.

Deadline for signatures: June 21, 2012

5. Education Tax Initiative
With the cost of college education continually rising even in the state’s public institutions, the Tax to Pay Tuition and Fees at California Public Universities constitutional amendment would add .7 percent to personal income over $250,000 ($342,465 for a head of household), and 1.7 percent to income over $500,000 ($684,930 for head of household).

The tax would fund up to four years’ tuition and fees for full-time undergraduate state residents in the UC and Cal State systems, who can maintain at least a 2.7 GPA or perform 70 hours of community service a year.

Proponents: The measure was written by Oakland high school teacher Kara Duros, with the help of teachers Suneal Kolluri and Richard Boettner.

Deadline for signatures: June 21, 2012

Read a full report on other initiatives that could potentially make the November ballot here.





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