Your Primer on 11 California Ballot Initiatives

large_vote_button-transparentBY KAREN OCAMB  |  First some good news for advocates of strong gun safety measures. A San Diego-based group crying “gun-maggedon” over gun safety laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown has failed to collect enough signatures for a proposed initiative on the 2018 ballot to overturn those laws.

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But while the state has a high bar to qualify ballot initiatives—365,880 valid signatures in 90 days—Californians do love their direct democracy. This year there are 17 propositions on the November 8 ballot. To assist California’s diverse population in better understanding the issues, the Secretary of State has posted the General Election Voter Guide  in nine languages, besides English. There is also a Quick Reference Guide to all the propositions so you can read them yourselves with an objective summary and Yes and No arguments clearly stated. Both the CaliforniaDemocratic and Republican parties have also posted their positions on the propositions.

Equality California, the statewide organization that lobbies to advance LGBT civil rights and social justice, has also issued its recommended positions on 10 of the initiatives.

“LGBT people are still far from equal compared to the general public when it comes to measures of community health and wellbeing in many areas,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “LGBT people havelower rates of healthcare coverage, higher rates of smoking and substance abuse, higher rates of arrest and conviction in the criminal justice system, and lower success rates in school.  Some of these ballot measures impede LGBT equality and social justice while others improve the lives of LGBT people, and our positions are meant to assist voters as they make their decisions in November.”

Such assists are useful in world where stereotypes often shape common thinking. The notion that the LGBT community is “affluent,” for instance, belies the truth of how many LGBT people suffer from poverty. “To envision the LGBT poor, you only have to think about the young gay man who is kicked out of his home and ends up at the Greyhound bus station in Hollywood; the transgender woman being turned down in job interview after job interview for entry level jobs; or an elderly lesbian whose partner’s death means less social security income and possibly the loss of her home,” Williams Institute experts Brad Sears and Lee Badgett wrote in June 2012.

And that’s why Proposition 52: CA Medi-Cal Hospital Reimbursementmatters. EQCA saysSUPPORT – VOTE YES.
EQCA explains: “Proposition 52 would help make healthcare more accessible by extending fees on California hospitals to help fund Medi-Cal, as well as healthcare services for uninsured patients, children and undocumented people. Healthcare access is a key LGBT priority. LGBT people report worse overall health and are more likely to suffer from depression than non-LGBT people, with lesbians and bisexual women less likely to receive mammograms and other essential care. LGBT people are more likely than non-LGBT people to live in poverty, and the transgender community is four times more likely to have a household income under $10,000 a year. Children of same-sex couples are twice as likely to be poor as children of opposite-sex couples. Proposition 52 will provide and improve healthcare for the most marginalized members of the LGBT community, many of whom rely on Medi-Cal for life-saving services.”

Proposition 55: California Children’s Education and Health Care Protection Act of 2016 EQCA says: SUPPORT – VOTE YES.
Remember the “It Gets Better” campaign? The web-based effort, along withThe Trevor Project and the Tyler Clementi Foundation, was created to fight anti-LGBT bullying and the depression and suicidal thoughts that are too often the mental health results of such emotional and psychological abuse. California has responded with a slew of laws, policies and education codes, but they often do little good if healthcare providers and school authorities don’t know about them. Prop 55 extends an existing law to furnish funding to make sure the information gets to the folks who need it.

EQCA explains: “Proposition 55 would extend an income tax increase, imposed by voters in 2010 through Proposition 30, on couples earning more than $500,000 a year. The estimated $8-11 billion dollars raised would fund schools, as well as healthcare programs for seniors and low-income children, helping to protect both LGBT and non-LGBT youth. LGBT youth frequently face bullying in schools, leading to depression, suicide attempts and high dropout rates. Extending Proposition 30 will help give our public schools the resources they need to support LGBT students in California.”

Proposition 56: CA HealthCare, Research & Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016 EQCA says: SUPPORT – VOTE YES.
EQCA explains: “Proposition 56 would increase taxes on a pack of cigarettes by two dollars. It would raise $1.5 billion dollars annually for smoking prevention and cessation programs, as well as address healthcare costs currently borne by Medi-Cal. LGBT people are up to 2.5 times more likely to smoke than their non-LGBT counterparts. The use of tobacco products is a serious public health problem for members of the LGBT community. With tobacco companies focused on luring LGBT teens into addiction, this initiative is an opportunity to help save lives, reduce smoking and improve health care for members of the LGBT community and for all of California.”

LGBT HealthLink has developed a whole LGBT tobacco prevention and control “best practices” initiative, in light of growing evidence that tobacco companies spend $9.6 billion a year in targeted marketing to women, youth, African Americans, servicemembers and the LGBT community. Prop 56 is a way to fight back.

Proposition 57: The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 – EQCA says: SUPPORT – VOTE YES.
 EQCA explains: ”Proposition 57 would increase parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of non-violent crimes and would allow judges, rather than prosecutors, to determine whether to try certain juveniles as adults. Members of the LGBT community are more likely to be arrested, and convicted upon arrest than the general public. As a result of bias and unequal enforcement of our laws, LGBT people of color experience racial profiling, discriminatory policing and higher rates of incarceration for non-violent crimes. Equality California supports Prop 57 because it creates greater opportunities for rehabilitation and for bringing LGBT people and all who have been convicted of non-violent crimes back into our communities and to productive lives.”

Proposition 58: LEARN Initiative – EQCA says: SUPPORT – VOTE YES.
This one’s a no-brainer. Not all LGBT people are Caucasians who speak English. As I mentioned earlier, even the Secretary of State recognizes that.

EQCA explains: “This initiative would repeal Proposition 227, passed in 1998 to prohibit public instruction in languages other than English. It would remove a key provision of the ban on bilingual education in California, and allow local decisions on English- and dual-language teaching methods. Equality California is committed to social justice for all the communities of which LGBT people are a part. Proposition 58 would create more inclusive schools and better prepare all students to compete in a global economy.”

Proposition 60: The California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act – EQCA says: OPPOSE VOTE NO.
Prop 60, requiring the use of condoms in adult films, is controversial. The initiative’s sponsor, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, frames the issue as one of work safety. However, the measure would also allow any member of the public to sue anyone involved in a film production for a perceived violation of the law. Equality California joins a number of other LGBT organizations in opposing the measure.

EQCA explains: “Proposition 60 would require use of condoms in adult film production and allow lawsuits for any perceived violation. Equality California believes this measure ignores current advances in HIV prevention, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis regimens (PrEP), and would in fact be counterproductive by forcing film production underground or out of state. Equality California supports safer sex practices in the adult film industry.  However, the Condoms in Pornographic Films Initiative, by driving production away from California regulations that encourage these practices, will exacerbate the very problem it purports to solve. Equality California joins HIV service providers and other organizations statewide, including AIDS Project Los Angeles, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the California Democratic and Republican parties, in opposing this ballot measure.”

Proposition 62: The Justice that Works Act of 2016 – EQCA says: SUPPORT – VOTE YES.
This one is basic: if you want to repeal the death penalty in California, vote “yes.” If you want to keep it, vote “no.” Equality California wants it repealed.

EQCA explains: “Proposition 62 would repeal California’s death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole. As a civil rights organization dedicated to social justice for all communities of which LGBT people are a part, Equality California opposes the death penalty on moral and ethical grounds. It violates the Constitution’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment and is far more likely to impact low-income communities and people of color.”

Proposition 63: Safety for All Act of 2016 – EQCA says:  SUPPORT – VOTE YES.
Equality California has taken a strong and principled stand to strengthen gun safety measures  – something many LGBT people started to truly understand after the massacre at the LGBT Latino nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, Florida. Proposition 63 is another way they are exercising that conviction.

EQCA explains: “Proposition 63 would further strengthen California’s gun safety laws, which are already among the strongest in the country. It would provide a clear process to keep guns out of the hands of those convicted of felonies or violent misdemeanors; require notification of law enforcement when guns are lost or stolen; share background check data with the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System; require licensing of ammunition vendors and background checks for purchasers; and prohibit possession of large capacity magazine clips. LGBT people are more likely to suffer violence than the general population, with violence up sharply in the past two years against gay men. Transgender women of color continue to be targeted by epidemic levels of homicide. Because of this, advancing tough, commonsense gun safety laws is one of Equality California’s highest priorities. Strengthening gun safety laws is critical to keeping LGBT people and everyone safe.”

Proposition 64: Control, Regulate, and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act – EQCA says: SUPPORT – VOTE YES.
California already passed a law legalizing the medical use of marijuana in 1996.  This one’s for recreational use.

EQCA explains: “Proposition 64 would legalize recreational marijuana use in California and authorize state agencies to regulate and tax its cultivation and sale. Current marijuana laws send thousands of young, non-violent offenders to prison every year. These laws are deeply discriminatory, and are applied far more often to low-income and communities of color and members of the LGBT community. Equality California supports Proposition 64 because it is important to reform drug laws which have a disparate impact on communities of color and LGBT people.”

Proposition 66: Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016 – EQCA says:  OPPOSE – VOTE NO.
This is a proposition intended to confuse voters who want to repeal the death penalty.

EQCA explains: “Proposition 66 puts California trial courts, rather than the state Supreme Court, in charge of initial challenges to death sentence convictions. The judge hearing the original conviction also would hear the challenge. Equality California opposes Proposition 66 as part of its opposition to the unconstitutional and discriminatory death penalty. The measure is poorly written, confusing and would remove important legal safeguards, increasing the risk of executing an innocent person.”

Equality California has not – as of yet – taken a position on the remaining propositions. But there is one you might want to check out.

Prop 61 – State Prescription Drug Purchases. Pricing Standards. Initiative Statute This measure is sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has been fighting over pricing by drug companies for the decades I’ve been covering AHF, originally as kind of an off-shoot of ACT UP. But while most Americans think drug pricing reform is needed, especially after Martin Shkreli’s arrogant jacking up of prices at Turing Pharmaceuticals and the recent jaw-dropping increase of the lifesaving EpiPen device, it is not clear if Prop 61 is the way to do it.

Here’s Ballotpedia’s presentation of both sides, and here’s CalMatters’ take, explaining what would it do: “Prop. 61 would cap the amount the state pays for prescription drugs—generally prohibiting the state from paying any more for drugs than the lowest price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which pays the lowest prices in the nation.”

CalMatters goes into other concerns and concludes thusly: Would Prop. 61 cut drug costs? The answer, we found, is that nobody knows.” And without that public information to evaluate what price the VA indeed pays, Equality California and a majority of other LGBT and HIV organizations worry that mandating prices thusly could result in some specialty drugs being withdrawn from the market altogether, and so have declined to take a position on the measure.

Hope this helps. But the key is to VOTE! REGISTRATION online, by mail and in person ENDS OCT. 24. Register or check your registration status at the Sec. of State website. http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections

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