Local, state measures up for ballot
Following are brief descriptions of local and state ballot measures and how the Madera Tribune analyzes and recommends them:
• Measure K — This would add an additional 1/2 cent to the general sales tax that its supporters say will raise approximately $3.5 million annually. City leaders promise the money will be used to improve certain city services, and assert that mandatory annual audits will ensure that funds are spent properly and used locally. These uses include adding officers to the police force to increase response times to calls for service, adding services to reduce gang activity and drug-related crimes, repairing potholes and maintaining local streets, parks and other infrastructure. This tax would be in force until ended by voters.
(Analysis and recommendation: While a general tax can always be repurposed for something other than what it was meant to be used, this particular measure’s provision for an annual audit would probably reduce that likelihood. The needs for the funding are clear. The state has put new law-enforcement burdens on local communities, and Madera has not been spared. Also, the city’s infrastructure is experiencing problems that will only get bigger as the years go on unless money is made available for general and preventative maintenance for streets and parks. The Madera Tribune recommends a YES vote.) State Measures
• Measure 51 — School Bonds: Would authorize $9 billion in general obligation school bonds for new construction and modernization of K-12 public schools, charter schools, vocational education facilities and community college facilities. Total cost after payoff would be $17.6 billion.
(Analysis and Recommendation: Madera would benefit from this bond issue, which would provide money for expansion and repair of various local school facilities. The Madera Tribune recommends a YES vote.)
• Measure 52 — Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program (Constitutional Amendment and Statute): Would make permanent a fee paid by hospitals to fund Medi-Cal health care services for uninsured patients. Those fees, however, wind up being paid by insured patients, the fees for whom become higher to provide revenue for the hospitals to pay Medi-Cal.
(Analysis and recommendation: The only reason this is being presented as a constitutional amendment is that the legislators don’t have the guts to keep renewing it. Don’t tie this to the Constitution unless you want to keep paying for it forever. The Madera Tribune recommends a NO vote.)
• Measure 53 — Revenue Bonds. Statewide Voter Approval. Initiative Constitutional Amendment: Requires statewide voter approval before any revenue bond can be issued or sold by the state for certain projects if the bond amount exceeds $2 billion.
(Analysis and recommendation: This is well intentioned but would create bureaucratic spaghetti any time a local agency would want to indebt itself for a bond in excess of $2 billion. That could make it impossible, for example, to build the Temperance Flats Dam without statewide approval. The Madera Tribune recommends a NO vote.)
• Measure 54 — Legislature. Legislation and Proceedings. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute. This would prohibit the Legislature from passing any bill unless published on the Internet at least 72 hours before a vote. (Analysis and recommendation: This bill is needed to stop legislators from the longstanding practice of sneaking bills through at the last minute. The Madera Tribune recommends a YES vote.)
• Measure 55 — Tax Extension to Education and Healthcare. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. Would extend by 12 years the temporary personal income tax increases enacted in 2012 on earnings over $250,000 with revenues allocated to K-12 schools, community colleges and healthcare in certain years.
(Analysis and recommendation: This is another sock-it-to-the-rich tax which is neither fair nor good public policy. The only reason it’s being forced as a constitutional amendment is that legislators don’t have the courage to renew it. This is a $140 billion transfer of money from families and businesses to government. Will government use that money wisely? The Madera Tribune recommends a NO vote.)
• Measure 56 — Cigarette Tax to fund healthcare, tobacco use prevention, research and law enforcement. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statue. Would increase cigarette tax by $2 per pack, with equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. Revenues would be used primarily to augment spending on healthcare for low-income Californians.
(Analysis and recommendation: The eventual net effect of this tax would be to engender a tax-free black market on cigarettes. Cigarettes and other tobacco products already are heavily taxed. You can’t blame smokers for getting tired of paying healthcare bills for low-income Californians, many of whom smoke. The tax on tobacco products is already high enough. The Madera Tribune recommends a NO vote.)
• Measure 57 — This is the measure by Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce determinant sentences. Current law mandates determinant sentences for various categories of crime. Prop. 57 would allow a politically appointed Parole Board to decide that if an inmate takes classes, visits the clergy and works with others they are allowed an early release — if convicted of a “non-violent” crime. Under Prop. 57 the rape of an unconscious women would be considered a non-violent crime. This measure could put women in danger. Determinant sentencing works by keeping criminals off the streets. The Madera Tribune recommends a NO vote.)
• Measure 58 — English Proficiency. Multilingual Education. Initiative Statute. Preserves requirement that public schools ensure students obtain English language proficiency. Among other things, authorizes school districts to establish dual-language immersion programs for both native and non-native English speakers.
(Analysis and recommendation: In other words, this measure would require all students to be taught English. The question is, why does so simple a requirement need to be voted upon? The answer is that other programs will be slipped in the back door. The Madera Tribune recommends a NO vote.)
• Measure 59 — A stupid initiative and would-be constitutional amendment on whether corporations may spend money on political campaigns (of course, unions are exempted).
(Analysis and recommendation: A meddlesome attempt to try to overturn a U.S. Supreme Court decision, namely Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. Even if this measure passes, it would have no practical effect. The Madera Tribune recommends a NO vote.)
• Measure 60 — Adult Films. This would require adult film performers to use condoms during the filming of scenes of sexual intercourse.
(Analysis and recommendation: We blush even printing this language. This is unbelievable, an insult to the intelligence of the electorate. Let these actors and porn workers worry about themselves, like the rest of the population does. The Madera Tribune recommends a NO vote, and then go wash your hands.)
• Measure 61 — Control of state prescription drug pricing. A complicated method of controlling prices, a scheme that probably would not work.
(Analysis and recommendation: Price-fixing usually results in higher prices and higher enforcement costs. The Madera Tribune recommends a NO vote.)
• Measure 63 — Firearms, ammunition sales. Initiative Statute. (Analysis and recommendation: This complex and largely worthless measure is being pushed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is trying to raise his profile in order to run for governor two years from now. He is, of course, kept safe to engage in this mischief by armed guards. Nuff said. The Madera Tribune recommends a NO vote.)
• Measure 64 — Marijuana Legalization. This initiative would legalize the use of marijuana under state law for adults 21 and older. Imposes taxes. Provides for industry licensing and establishes standards for marijuana products. Allows local regulation and taxation. Backers estimate a tax income of more than $1 billion the first year.
(Analysis and recommendation — This probably will pass, but it remains to be seen what effect it will have on California, which already is awash in marijuana products supplied by gangs and freelance crooks. The big question is whether it will discourage illegal cultivation and sales that have been such a large part of the drug culture of the state, largely under the dominance of foreign gangsters. Marijuana is widely available now, untaxed. If taxes are added, how will that affect the anticipated tax income flowing into state coffers, and the balance of drug commerce, and how will it affect law enforcement? You know the law-enforcement agencies will have to work harder just to maintain the status quo. The Madera Tribune makes no recommendation, but don’t believe anything the backers tell you about this measure. There really are no winning positions because of the history of marijuana and other drugs in California. If you want to be able to get high legally, vote yes, but expect to pay for the privilege in new taxes. If you want to continue the futile war on drugs, vote no.)
• Measures 62 and 66 — Death Penalty changes. Prop. 62 would end the death penalty and replace it with sentences of life without parole. Prop. 66 would re-jigger the way the way the death penalty is administered.
(Analysis and Recommendation: Both these measures are meant to fix California’s totally broken death penalty system, but neither would succeed. Prop 62, which would replace the death penalty with sentences of life without the possibility of parole, would be the best of the two measures, because it would leave us with what we have now: Almost 750 felons spending their lives in cells and dying of natural causes. Prop. 66 would needlessly complicate how the death penalty is administered and put a lot of the expense on local jurisdictions. Until the state suddenly starts executing people, and you take issue with that, there is no need for change. Vote NO on both.)
• Measures 65 and 67 — Plastic bag initiatives.
(Analysis and recommendations: The Madera Tribune recommends a NO vote no on Prop 65, because it just throws money around. The newspaper also recommends a NO vote on Prop. 67 primarily because plastic bag bans are matters that should be locally governed and not ones controlled by the state.)