Groups and Professors Give Propositions Local Flavor
Although law prohibits the University of California from endorsing propositions, the University may “objectively evaluate a ballot measure’s impact on UC, higher education, health and the quality of life of all Californians,” According to the University of California’s Web site for information on Proposition 3.
Dr. David Bailey, vice chancellor for health affairs at UC Irvine, shared his general belief on funding children’s healthcare, a key aspect of state funding in Proposition 3.
“I think it’s critical for the people of California to commit more resources to children’s health care,” Dr. Bailey said. “Many hospitals dedicated to treating children and training new pediatricians are old and should be expanded to keep pace with the state’s growing population.”
According to the UC’s Prop 3 Web site, “Approximately 20 percent of Proposition 3 funding – about $39 million for each hospital over the next 10 years – would go to expand and renovate these UC medical facilities, make seismic upgrades and add life-saving medical equipment.”
The state legislative analyst’s fiscal analysis of the cost of these bonds to the state is about $2 billion over 30 years to pay off both the principal and interest costs of the bonds, and payments of about $64 million per year (about $1.75 a year for each Californian).
Proposition 5 is intended to reduce the California prison population and cost of supporting prisons by sending more minor and non-violent drug offenders into rehabilitation clinics instead of prison.
“Generally I favor it,” said Ronald Huff, dean and professor of social ecology. “But it’s a very complex proposition. It should, in theory, reduce the amount of money needed by the prison system, which is a huge drain on the California budget.”
Huff stated that the real cost in the prison system is in the “life cycle cost,” or how much it costs to staff and stock the prisons.
“As high as the cost is to build the prisons, it’s dwarfed by the cost to keep them running,” Huff said.
These costs drain the state budget, and the money doesn’t come out of mandated programs such as K-12 public education or welfare – it comes from public higher education.
“Many states see higher education as a luxury and find money for other programs in the higher education system,” Huff said.
Huff would have preferred the movement to be run through the typical legislative process, which would “allow for a more serious, informed decision” by the public.
“It would be better if we had time to sort it out, but California legislation is gridlocked,” Huff said.
The proposition form with a voting deadline allows for the possibility of a misinformed public voting on the issue, which would cost taxpayers $460 million annually to improve and expand drug treatment programs and centers. The prison system could potentially save an excess of $2.5 billion.
Proposition 6, on the other hand, will increase funds to a minimum of $965 million annually for police, sheriffs, district attorneys, adult probation, prisons and juvenile probation facilities, as well as make revisions to California law to create new crimes and penalties. If passed, the proposition will annually increase state costs due to increases in the prison population from the increase in criminal convictions.
The problem, Huff said, is that should this proposition pass, some stipulations for admitting evidence will include types of hearsay that could be allegations of association between the party and criminal conduct.
“How would it be determined that the party had in fact engaged in such conduct? Would that not be a matter of dispute?” Huff said.
Furthermore, some of this convicting-hearsay could come from “prison snitches,” prisoners who make deals with authorities in exchange for incriminating information. Their testimony could be considered legitimate with the passing of this proposition, but these “snitches” are at times unreliable as Huff points out in his latest book “Wrongful Conviction: International Perspectives on Miscarriages of Justice.”
“[Informers are] often willing to shape their stories to fit whatever is needed, in return, of course, for favorable considerations of various kinds (or, sometimes, simply because they do not like the defendant or the nature of the crime with which he or she has been charged,” Huff wrote.
One of the most popular propositions publicized by the media, Proposition 8, will constitutionally redefine marriage to be solely between a man and a woman, which restores a similar measure passed back in 2000. Jon Wong, a fourth-year political science major and president of SAME (Student Alliance for Marriage Equality) at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) resource center stated that this proposition will take away tax privileges, such as domicile and filing rules, from married gay couples.
“There’s a same house rule for domestic partnerships,” Wong said.
Married couples can live separately and file taxes, which is not the case for domestic partnerships where the couple must live in the same home. If the proposition passes, the workplace must carry out the rules regarding marital status of their employees, which may make gay couples’ lives difficult.
“I remember going to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., when I interned there and noticed a plaque with the words ‘equal justice under the law.’ How can we take rights away?” Wong asked.
On Oct. 15, the Vote Down Proposition 4 and 8 campaign held public speeches in Anteater Plaza featuring UCI Professor Tony Smith and actor Rob Schneider.
“Statistics say most people are heterosexual. We have LGBT friends. Don’t we need to give them the life we want?” Wong ended.
In a follow-up e-mail, Wong added that Proposition 8 will cause small businesses (those who cater to the LGBT community) to lose millions of dollars in revenue and lose employees.
For Proposition 11, redistricting powers will be diverted from the legislature to a 14-member independent commission, with the exception that the state would still determine congressional House of Representatives districts.
“One of the failings in the current redistricting plan is the near total absence of competition,” said Political Science Associate Professor and Department Chair Mark P. Petracca. “An independent commission not elected by voters will not guarantee political competition.”
Bernie Grofman, political science professor and director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, was a consultant in 2002 for the Federal District Court in the state of New York to draw up a redistricting plan. Grofman has written four books on the topic of redistricting and gerrymandering. He stated that Gov. Schwarzenegger put a similar initiative on the ballot, which was defeated in 2006. Grofman noted that Proposition 11 has good ideas behind it to change the current system for redistricting.
However, he added that there are four problems with the initiative: the political divide between Democrats and Republicans, political competition only exists in the first election after the census, “sweetheart” deals between the two parties ensuring incumbents their reelection and the proposed law has no requirement for political competition.
“Republicans change redistricting rules in a Democratic state and Democrats change redistricting rules in Republican states,” Grofman said.
There will be a deadlock because at least three Democrats, Republicans and Independents, totaling nine, must agree on a redistricting plan to pass.
California’s legislature unanimously passed a bond initiative to put Proposition 12 on the ballot. This proposition will pay participating veterans via the Cal-Vet program to purchase farms and homes through the sale of bonds. If participating veterans are unable to pay the amount owed, taxpayer money will cover the difference.
“There is a social contract between the legislature, people and veterans,” said Thomas Sim, a fourth-year political science major and president of the Veterans Student Union (VSU) who served in the United States Marine Corps for four years.
By providing funds to help veterans adjust to civilian life, this proposition is the best action the state can muster. Sim thinks the home loan is a good thing. “It is comforting to note that it’s there,” Sim said.