The Tuesday Count: Fourth and final citizen referred measure certified for 2014 California ballot
Edited by Ryan ByrneCalifornia Proposition 47, also known as the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative, was certified for the November 4, 2014 ballot by the California Secretary of State on June 26, 2014.
The initiative was proposed by George Gascón, the San Francisco District Attorney, and William Lansdowne, a former San Diego Police Chief. Gascón was a supporter of the successful 2012 Proposition 36, a similar measure to 2014's Proposition 47.
Referred to by proponents as the Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act, the initiative would reduce the penalty for most "non-serious, nonviolence crimes," such as petty theft and drug possession, from a felony to a misdemeanor. Secondly, the measure would permit re-sentencing - after a "thorough review" - for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the offenses that the initiative lists as misdemeanors. About 10,000 inmates would be eligible for re-sentencing, according to Lenore Anderson of Californians for Safety and Justice. Another notable aspect of the measure is the creation of a "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund." The fund would receive appropriations based on savings accrued by the state during the fiscal year, as compared to the previous fiscal year, due to the initiative’s implementation. Estimates range from $150 million to $250 million per year.
The funds from the "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund" would be distributed as follows:
- 25 percent to the Department of Education,
- 10 percent to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board and
- 65 percent to the Board of State and Community Correction.
The initiative would require these public institutions to use the funds for mental health and drug treatment programs, crime prevention in schools and for crime victim services.
Leading the campaign in support of the initiative is the organization Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools. Financially backed by the Atlantic Advocacy Fund, Open Society Policy Center, businessman B. Wayne Hughes, Jr. and others, Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools has raised $1,300,017 in contributions. Proponents spent $937,836 to get the initiative on the ballot. That is about $1.86 per required signature. While 504,760 valid signatures were required for qualification purposes, 587,806 signatures were reported as valid for the initiative. That's 14 percent more valid signatures than were required. Proposition 74 is the last certified initiative for the 2014 ballot. All citizen's initiatives approved for the ballot after June 26, 2014 will appear on the 2016 ballot.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón (D) argues that current sentencing policies are expensive to the public and don't actually decrease crime. He stated, "I think, increasingly, the public is more aware of the failures of the last 2 1/2 decades of our criminal justice system. The question is: Do we want to make communities safer or just punish people? If we really care about public safety, what we are proposing is a much better model." Businessman B. Wayne Hughes Jr. echoed Gascón, saying,
|“||I am not an apologist for people who break the law... (but) folks are coming out of prison better criminals than when they came in, and that is not helping to get the state where we need to be. When a mom or dad or kid goes to prison, a grenade goes off and the shrapnel hits everybody, and when enough homes experience this, we lose whole communities, and that's what we have here. Twelve to 14 cents of every dollar spent in California is on incarceration, and meanwhile our infrastructure is falling down... This is a situation where the walls of partisanship ought to come down immediately.||”|
—B. Wayne Hughes Jr., 
|States:||Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming|
- Oregon marijuana legalization advocates submit a surplus of signatures: On June 26, 2014, New Approach Oregon submitted 145,030 signatures to the secretary of state's office in hopes of placing their initiated state statute to legalize marijuana on the ballot. While the signatures have not yet been verified by the office, the number of unverified signatures surpasses the required amount by 57,817. As long as the signatures have a validity rate of at least 61 percent, the measure should be certified for the November 4, 2014 statewide ballot. New Approach Oregon expressed strong optimism, saying, "We’re confident that we have turned in more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. It’s truly exciting that Oregonians will have the opportunity to vote 'Yes' to a smarter and more sensible approach to marijuana this November." The campaign for a second marijuana measure that would amend the state constitution has not yet submitted signatures. The deadline for submissions is July 3, 2014.
- Two Illinois ballot measures struck down by court: Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary L. Mikva invalidated two initiated constitutional amendments on June 27, 2014. Judge Mikva found the measures did not meet constitutional requirements. The supporters of one of the measures, which would establish term limits for state legislators, stated their intent to appeal the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court this week. Meanwhile, proponents of the other measure, which would create an independent redistricting commission, have decided to end their efforts for the 2014 ballot.
- 10th Circuit Court knocks out multiple same-sex marriage ban measures: On June 25, 2014, a three-member panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the 2013 decision of the U.S. District Court for Utah which struck down the state's ban on gay marriage. This was the first ruling made by a federal appeals court on this issue, which sets a historic precedent that voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment rights of same-sex couples to equal protection and due process. The level of the appeal also means the decision affects legal precedent in all of the states under the jurisdiction of the 10th Circuit Court, which are Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Utah and Oklahoma. However, implementation of the decision was immediately stayed pending anticipated appeals to either the full appeals panel or the United States Supreme Court. Attorney General of Utah Sean D. Reyes (R) announced that he will challenge the decision, although he had not decided whether to seek review by the appeals court or the Supreme Court.
"Shaka Movement" video
The Shaka Movement, a group of activists seeking sustainable and organic farming practices, is behind the first citizen initiative ever attempted in Maui County, which seeks to put a stop to any cultivation or testing of genetically engineered products until each process is proved environmentally and medically harmless. On June 6, 2014, the Shaka Movement learned that it had submitted a sufficient number of valid signatures to force its initiative onto the November ballot. Although the clerk initially announced on May 21, 2014, that the group was several thousand signatures short, the Maui charter allowed for a second submission, after which the Shaka movement ended up with a total of 9,062 valid signatures. The group needed signatures equaling twenty percent of the votes cast in the last general mayoral election, which amounted to 8,465.
Now that the initiative is scheduled for the ballot, a battle between Monsanto, as well as other producers of bio-engineered products and their customers, and the Shaka Movement supporters is expected to ensue. Supporters of the initiative claim that biotech companies have used Maui County as a site for large amounts of biological engineering and chemical testing. Proponents claim that, because of the recent discovery of certain strains of "super weeds" and "super bugs" that are resistant to the herbicides currently in use, these agro-chemical companies are testing even more powerful herbicides, as well as genetically modified plants to go along with them. Alika Atay, one of the chief petitioners for this initiative, said, "They've turned us into guinea pigs for their experiments. We say: ‘Nuff Already. If there’s a doubt, vote it out, until we’re absolutely sure it’s safe."
Monsanto, among other national agriculture businesses, was a huge contributor to the campaign in opposition to a GMO ban in Jackson County, Oregon. Monsanto has a much larger presence in Hawaii than in Oregon and, with a higher stake in the outcome, is expected to put up even more of a fight against the Maui County initiative than Jackson County Measure 15-119. Monsanto employees and other opponents are afraid of the economical fallout from banning genetic engineering. Many see Monsanto as an important job-creating presence in the county. Monsanto employee Lowella Oasay said, "I think the initiative will threaten not only agriculture, but a lot of great jobs for the people of Maui." Moreover, pro-GMO spokespersons argue that there are many safeguards in place to keep genetic engineering safe for residents. Monsanto representatives claim that they have submitted a large volume of research, studies and tests showing their products to be safe and free of harmful side effects.
In a battleground much closer to that of Measures 15-119 and 17-58, activists that are part of GMO-Free Humboldt County celebrated on May 15, 2014, when they heard from the county elections office that their initiative had sailed through certification with more than an adequate number of valid signatures. This gave the county supervisors the option of enacting the ordinance outright or putting it before voters. On the same night Jackson County electors approved their anti-GMO initiative, Humboldt County Supervisors a few hundred miles south unanimously voted to allow voters to decide the issue under the name Measure P.
The county supervisors meeting featured arguments from both sides. There were supporters who wanted the supervisors to simply enact the ordinance, saving the county an expensive election and saving initiative proponents an expensive campaign battle. While some supporters were confident they would have the support of voters, others were also concerned that huge spending from corporate interests might convince voters to reject the measure. Opponents of the initiative argued that the supervisors should let the voters decide the issue since it was such a contentious topic that divided even the local farmers. John Vevoda, a dairy operator, complained that activists such as the ones behind the anti-GMO initiative were responsible for crippling the farming industry through misinformation, bad science and emotional manipulation. Blaming these activists, he said, “My toolbox keeps shrinking." Yana Valachovic of the University of California Cooperative Extension told supervisors that the ban could prevent scientific advances that would be extremely valuable to the farming and agriculture industry in Humboldt County. Specifically, Valachovic said that genetic engineering could help solve the problem of Sudden Oak Death. Valachovic asked, “Are people more concerned about the risks or are they more hopeful about the opportunities?" She ultimately stated, "Our office’s advice is to put that question to the voters.”
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- The Tribune, "Capitol Alert: Measure to reduce sentences for theft, drugs on California ballot," June 26, 2014
- The San Francisco Appeal, "CA Voters Will Decide On DA Gascon-Backed Plan To Reduce Sentences For Low-Level Crimes," June 27, 2014
- California Attorney General, "Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act," accessed July 1, 2014
- Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools, "Homepage," accessed July 1, 2014
- California Secretary of State, "Campaign Finance," accessed June 27, 2014
- California Secretary of State, "Signature Count for 13-0060," accessed July 1, 2014
- San Francisco Gate, "Nonviolent crimes measure collects 800,000-plus signatures," May 6, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- KTVU, "'The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act' gets green light for ballot," June 27, 2014
- New Approach Oregon, "145,000+ signatures turned in! Thank you!," June 27, 2014
- Associated Press, "Judge strikes ballot initiatives," June 27, 2014
- Chicago Tribune, "Remap group pulls plug after judge's ruling," June 27, 2014
- Salt Lake Tribune, "10th Circuit Court upholds same-sex marriage," June 25, 2014
- ABC News, "Appeals Court: States Can't Ban Gay Marriage," June 25, 2014
- The Wichita Eagle, "Decision could invalidate Kansas ban on gay marriage," June 26, 2014
- Maui County Elections Office, "Press Release: GMO moratorium petition gets required number of signatures," June 6, 2014
- CT Post, "Over 11,000 Maui County Citizens Stand Up and Say "Nuff Already" to Biotech Experimentation with a History Making Social Action," April 14, 2014
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- Mad River Union, "Supes Let Voters Decide GMO Crop Ban," May 30, 2014