Oct 252010
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The midterm election is now about a week away, and being a political junkie, I’ve of course got my ducks in a row. While you may still want to take this with a grain of salt, I have read all of the 9 propositions on the California ballot and carefully considered the arguments both for and against each. I’ve also had many people ask me how I was going to vote on specific issues, so this then is my first installment on an answer.

Proposition 19: The legalization of marijuana under California law.

This is a big 10-4. Marijuana should never have been illegal in the first place. It’s sad to see that Senator Feinstein is behind the Argument Against Prop-19. She and Laura Dean-Mooney of MADD are in opposition for the same unsupportable reason. They claim that the legislation will lead to bus drivers and the like being stoned on the job. They even assert that jobs could be lost and schools could lose federal money, all because employers will not be able stop employees from being high at work.

Of course, this is all complete nonsense. There is really no change in the present situation, except that employers would no longer be able to terminate employment based solely on the fact that an employee had tested positive for marijuana, which can remain in a person’s system for as much as 30 days. The new legislation expresses the strict prohibition on impairment while driving or partaking of other potentially dangerous activities and also stipulates that employers have the right to address impairment of job performance.

Those opposing the reform on the grounds stated are simply attempting to create a legitimate sounding argument to support their underlying position against legalization.

For those not hampered by emotional belief systems on the matter, the facts are clear. Marijuana is a drug that’s far less dangerous than alcohol and should be regulated and controlled instead of criminalized. This proposition will put an end to the massive number of Californians arrested for marijuana each year — 61,000 in 2008, and it will free law enforcement officers to focus where they’re really needed — working on violent crimes.

Legalization will reduce law enforcement costs and help address prison overcrowding. It will remove the black market and strike a blow on the cartels while also removing the profit motive on American streets. Legalization will, in short, cut crime. This is the primary reason that police organizations throughout the state support Prop-19.

And as if this were not enough, the legalization of marijuana will establish a new revenue source for our cash-strapped state. The Board of Equalization estimates that tax revenues will start out at around $1.4 billion, and that’s on top of the cost savings.

Incidentally, the other popularly surfaced argument against legalization is the “Gateway Theory.” While not specifically mentioned by those opposing Prop-19, it should be understood that study after study has refuted any statistically significant linkage between marijuana use and the abuse of more dangerous drugs. In fact, there’s a much stronger correlation to alcohol use, and even where direct correlation was evidenced, the studies found other more significant links.

Proposition 20: Redistricting of congressional districts.

The question here is really a case of not only who do you trust to configure California’s congressional districts, but whether or not you feel that you should have some recourse if you disagree with the districts they define.

Under current law, there is a 14-member redistricting commission that will define districts for the state legislature, but their authority does not extend to congressional districts, which are presently under the purview of the state legislature. Prop-20 will expand the authority of the Citizens Redistricting Commission to include congressional redistricting.

Those in favor of the proposition assert that the legislature can’t be trusted to serve anyone’s interest but their own and therefore an independent authority is needed. Those opposed claim that the redistricting commission is a waste of taxpayer money — that it creates a new bureaucracy, and that most importantly — taxpayers will have no recourse to hold the commission responsible for its actions.

It is interesting to know that the entire Yes on Prop-20 campaign has been funded by Charles Munger, Jr., son of Wall Street billionaire Charles Munger.

In the end, although proponents are undoubtedly right that the politicians will carve out the districts in their best interest, and that such action typically results in more incumbents being reelected, there’s really nothing to prove that an independent commission will net any better results. Incumbents win because they typically get more campaign financing and the electorate votes for them.

There are far more effective measures that can be put in place to address the incumbent issue than a redistricting bureaucracy that answers to nobody. If we’re serious about effective change and holding politicians accountable, we should instead move for public campaign finance, preferential voting and term limits. And in the meantime, if you don’t like what the legislature does with redistricting, you can vote them out. A NO vote seems in order for Prop-20.

Proposition 21: The $18 annual vehicle fee to help fund state parks.

This initiative is simple. It adds an $18 fee to the vehicle registration for all non-commercial vehicles, except trailers and trailer coaches, and the proceeds are earmarked to go to state parks and wildlife programs. In return, all subject vehicles are allowed access to state parks without further charges.

Proponents of the proposition argue that state parks are in peril from poor maintenance and many are in danger of closing. Opponents claim that the initiative is a “cynical budget shell game that could still leave our parks dilapidated.”

Of course, even in their argument, the opposition admits that the parks need the funding. Their game is to color the initiative in the worst possible light, labeling it the “Car Tax.” These people are none other than the same folk who oppose any taxation, regardless of the intent. And their claim that the parks could remain dilapidated completely ignores the fact that 85% of the proceeds are dedicated to the operation and maintenance of our state parks.

Those who don’t understand or appreciate the process through which a society of free people fund the services that are important to them will never support taxes or fees of any sort. These people don’t seem to understand that the state economy has suffered and that parks are already closing and are in serious need of maintenance as a result.

The real question here is whether or not you believe that the preservation of the California state parks is worth $18 per year. And if you ever visit them, the real cost is closer to zero. Sometimes people just need to stand up and say, “Yes, I’m willing to pay for that.” Oddly, it’s usually those who can afford it least who are willing to make the sacrifice, and those with deep pockets who complain about every penny they pay.

If you care about the state parks, vote YES. It’s a small amount to pay.

And if you’re interested, stay tuned each day this week for further installments of my 2 cents on the California election.

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