California Ballot 2016: Pros and Cons of Props 57-61
by Stephen T. Holzer
This is the second post in our California Ballot 2016 series – providing the “nutshell” versions of each of the 17 state-wide measures voters must decide in November. Please refer to our first post in the series: Props 51-56, for information about those measures.
Proposition 57: The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act
Individuals convicted of nonviolent felonies may be eligible for parole after completing sentence for the primary offense under this initiative. Additionally, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will be allowed to award credits for good behavior (including rehab and education), and juvenile court judges (instead of district attorneys) will be able to determine if persons aged 14-17 should be prosecuted and sentenced as adults under specific conditions.
This measure is highly controversial.
Who’s Voting Yes on Prop 57?
Supporters for Governor Jerry Brown’s initiative complain that about 10 percent of the state’s general fund is spent on jails, and that a court-ordered prison population cap will mean an arbitrary release of inmates, which will be dangerous. California’s money will be better spent on rehabilitating non-violent prisoners; and judges will more carefully review juvenile history and the circumstances of the crime before deciding to try a youth as an adult.
The Yes on 57 initiative is endorsed by the California Democratic Party, State Law Enforcement Association, Catholic Bishops of California, Chief Probation Officers of California, among others.
Who’s Voting No on Prop 57?
The Stop Early Release of Violent Criminals (SERVC) coalition is comprised of various district attorneys throughout California, police officers’ associations, county sheriffs and political officials.
SERVC claims Prop 57 will allow certain dangerous criminals, including those convicted of rape, human trafficking, kidnappings, drive-by-shootings, and others, to be released from prison early; disregards sentencing by judges; and overturns aspects of previous voter-approved laws (such as the Victims’ Bill of Rights, Marsy’s Law, etc.) made to keep the public safer.
Proposition 58: English Language Education
As of 1998, California teachers were required to teach Limited English Proficient (LEP) students predominantly in English – bilingual classes were kept to a minimum. Proposition 58 seeks to repeal provisions of the 1998 law (then numbered Prop 227) and require schools to provide structured English language immersion programs.
Who’s Voting Yes on Prop 58?
Supporters of Prop 58 say the old law is too restrictive. Under Prop 58, school districts will be required to identify a plan for teaching English proficiency to LEP students as rapidly as possible, to provide structured immersion programs, and to allow educators, parents and community members to offer input. Schools will be able to adopt other teaching methods as needed. Additionally, the students who are already proficient in English will have increased opportunity to learn a second language.
Those endorsing Prop 58 include the Asian Law Alliance; California Latino School Boards Association; the California Democratic Party, Labor Federation, Teachers Association, and SEIU California, among others.
Who’s Voting No on Prop 58?
The primary opponent of Prop 58 at this time seems to be Ron Unz, the author of 1998’s Prop 227, which he claims was judged an “enormous educational triumph by nearly all observers.”
A Los Angeles Times opinion piece seems to argue both sides of the coin. Some of the warnings re Prop 58 include:
- Expense of bilingual education programs;
- California’s lack of qualified bilingual teachers;
- Dual immersion programs have proven track records for success, but the participating teachers, students and parents are highly motivated.
Proposition 59: Overturn Citizens United Act
Prop 59 is an advisory question. It doesn’t change laws in any way, or overrule Supreme Court decisions – it primarily serves as a barometer of public feeling.
In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission that the government cannot restrict political expenditures by nonprofits, as such actions would violate freedom of speech. (Citizens United is a non-profit Political Action Committee (PAC) that promotes corporate interests, socially conservative ideals, and political candidates upholding those same beliefs.)
The proposed 2016 Overturn Citizens United Act seeks to live up to its name, in philosophy. Prop 59 asks voters to show support for:
- Requiring state officials to propose and ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution overturning the 2010 court decision and similar precedents;
- Allowing regulation of campaign contributions;
- Ensuring all citizens are able to communicate their views to each other regardless of wealth; and
- Ensuring corporations do not have the constitutional rights of human beings.
Who’s Voting Yes on Prop 59?
The Money Out Voters In (MOVI) coalition claims our Congressional leaders spend 30-70 percent of their time fundraising rather than serving the people; that in 2010 about 93 percent of income gains went to the top one percent (in terms of wealth) of the population; and that after the U.S. Supreme Court decision for Citizens United v. FEC, corporate spending for election ads skyrocketed to 1,139 percent.
Support for Prop 59 comes from the California Democratic Party, Consumer Watchdog, California Labor Federation and a host of elected officials in the state senate and assembly. (This movement is not limited to California – organizations across the nation are calling to Overturn Citizens United.)
Who’s Voting No on Prop 59?
In 2014 the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit to strike the Overturn Citizens United measure (then called Prop 49) from the ballot. They succeeded, but the California Supreme Court reversed in January with a 6-1 ruling. The primary argument seems to be that this initiative just crowds the ballot, and is a waste of voter time.
Proposition 60: California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry
This is the initiative that keeps on giving – the legislative gift that keeps on spreading. In 2012, Measure B started as a Los Angeles City measure, but was later put on the county ballot. When it passed, adult film production companies threatened to leave, and one porn company filed a federal suit to overturn it.
The state’s Prop 60 for 2016 voters is similar to Los Angeles County’s Measure B. It will:
- Require performers to use condoms when sexual intercourse is filmed;
- Require porn producers to foot the bill for vaccinations and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), obtain California health licenses; and post condom use requirements on location;
- Impose liability on those with monetary interests in an adult film, including the producers, performers, and talent agents who refer their clients to producers who don’t comply to the condom law;
- Specify that anyone involved in the adult film or living in California can enforce the law, if passed.
Who’s Voting Yes on Prop 60?
Proposition 60 supporters say that condoms have already been required for pornographic films in California since 1993 – Prop 60 will just improve enforcement. Since 2004, over two dozen adult film actors and actresses were infected with HIV on the job, which costs California taxpayers millions of dollars in care. Additionally, the threats of adult film producers to leave the state are not reliable: California and New Hampshire are the only states where the adult film industry is legal, and Nevada, which legalizes prostitution in some areas, also has condom laws.
Prop 60 endorsers include the Aids Healthcare Foundation, the American Sexual Health Association, the California State Association of Occupational Health Nurses, among others.
Who’s Voting No on Prop 60?
Opposition to Prop 60 is primarily headed by the Free Speech Coalition, which claims a new condom law will affect more than adult film studios, but also smaller business endeavors and hobbyists: individuals with cams, performer websites, and clips and content trades. Additionally, Prop 60 will open the door to private citizens wanting to sue anyone in the adult film industry; and that anyone involved in porn production, down to the crew members could be held liable in lawsuits.
A Mercury News editorial states Prop 60 is dangerous for another reason: As written, the measure sets up the CEO of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation as a state porn “czar”, with seemingly unlimited powers. And a writer for The Advocate expresses another concern re Prop 60: in the adult entertainment industry, many performers are also film producers and have their own, independent, adult websites. Under Prop 60 they too are liable to be sued by anyone, and thus have real names, addresses and other information provided to stalkers, vigilantes and the public in general.
Proposition 61: California Drug Price Relief Act
The aim is to ensure state agencies don’t pay more for prescription drugs than the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Prop 61 would apply to any health program in which the California government pays for a drug, regardless of whether or not the state actually bought the drug directly from the drug maker or not. It gives the state the power to negotiate, and exempts drugs provided by programs funded through Medi-Cal (which already negotiates with the pharmaceuticals).
Who’s Voting Yes on 61?
Those who endorse Prop 61 claim the VA pays 40 percent less than Medicare Part D (the federal drug program for seniors) for medications because the VA has the power to negotiate with the pharmaceuticals. The savings to the state of California would total billions, which could be better used to fund other health programs. Supporters also claim the pharmaceuticals spend 19 times as much money on advertising than they do on research and development of new products – any arguments regarding fewer new cures are just a scare tactic.
This measure is endorsed by AARP California, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, California Nurses Association, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, and various elected officials at the state, county and local levels.
Who’s Voting No on 61?
Most Californians would be excluded from the purported benefits, say the Prop 61 opposition. Additionally, armed forces veterans could be hurt by the measure, as the pharmaceutical discounts are given by drug makers in honor of military service – if the pharmaceuticals must apply the same discount to government agencies they may have to increase prices across the board, affecting not just veterans but all prescription drug buyers. Finally, the opponents complain the initiative is vague and red-tape laden.
Veteran’s organizations across the state are opposed, as well as the California Medical Association, California Psychiatric Association, the California Taxpayers Association, several labor associations, the California Chamber of Commerce, California NAACP, and others.
Next in our voting guide series: the death penalty; guns & ammo; marijuana; and plastic bags – Prop 62 through Prop 67.
Stephen T. Holzer is the Chairman of our Environmental Practice Group
and a business litigation attorney.