2012 Election: California Ballot Measures-The No-brainers

Garen Yegparian

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

Californians face eleven decisions beyond the candidates standing for office they must choose. That’s how many propositions will appear on the November ballot. In this piece, I’ll address the five that are simple.

Prop 35 increases penalties for human trafficking and requires anyone convicted of this crime to register as sex offenders. The increased monetary penalties will be used to help the victims. This is so easy a decision that both major parties, which lately seem unable to agree on much else, are supporting the ballot measure! There’s even an Armenian angle to this. Unfortunately, this reprehensible crime of taking women and children away for use as slaves or sex also has some practitioners based in Armenia. Recently, I heard some vague discussion about a possible case involving an Armenian in the San Fernando Valley. Vote yes on 35.

Prop 36 fixes up California’s draconian three strikes law— you know, the one that puts people in jail for life if they have committed three felonies, no matter what they are. So we now have a lot of people serving life sentences for not much more than stealing a slice of pizza. The proposed change allows non-life sentences on third strikes that are like the stealing pizza example— if the judge finds that the crime was not serious or violent and no risk is posed to public safety. But, if the first two strikes were rape, murder, or child molestation, then the violator would still be sentenced to life imprisonment. This change would also allow resentencing, i.e. reducing the life sentences, of people currently serving life terms for crimes that qualify under the new rules. Not only is this a fairer, saner, and more humane approach, but it would also decrease costs to the state. Vote yes on 36.

Prop 37 mandates that foods be labeled if they contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms)— that’s fancy talk for stuff that has been genetically engineered, in some circles referred to as “frankenfoods.” This is a common sense, simple measure. We should know what it is we’re eating. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable drinking raw, unpasteurized milk, would we force them to risk buying it by not properly labeling it? Why should be any different for any other foodstuffs, especially ones whose genes have been tinkered with. They may or may not be safe. Those who want to should be able to knowingly consume these products, and those that don’t want to, should be able to choose other products. It’s just a label. It’s simple. Vote yes on 37.

Prop 39 closes a tax loophole that costs California approximately $1 billion annually. Referred to as the “single sales factor” formula, the new law would oblige companies operating in multiple states including California to calculate the taxes they owe to California based on the percentage of their sales that occur in the state. Many other states use this system. Under current California law, such companies can choose from a few different bases to calculate the tax they owe, and obviously choose the one that costs them the least, meaning everyone else in California is left to bear more of the burden. It’s a matter of fairness to all companies operating in California that they should all pay taxes based on the same set of rules. Vote yes of 39.

Prop 40 is confusing to explain, but simple to decide on. After the 2010 Census, California, like all other states went through redistricting to account for the population growth and shifting that had occurred since the 2000 Census. For the first time, a Citizens Redistricting Commission was constituted and drew the new lines delimiting the State Senatorial, Assembly, Congressional, and Board of Equalization districts. The California Republican party thought the State Senate districts were unfair and sued to have them redrawn. They lost in court, and proceeded to gather signatures on this ballot measure, and succeeded in qualifying it for the ballot. But for whatever reason(s), they seem to have changed their minds. Here’s the confusing part. Because of how it’s written, if this ballot measure fails, then the state would have to go back and redo the state senate redistricting process, costing millions of dollars. Because of their change of heart, now the Republicans agree with the Democrats that this proposition should pass, even though initially they wanted it to fail so the lines would be redrawn. Basically, it’s simple, we have to make sure this measure passes, since no one opposes it. Vote yes on 40.

Up next week, Greg Krikorian, the most important candidate for the Armenian community in the United States.

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