SANTA CRUZ > Although Election Day is still months away, local residents are beginning to get educated on the issues that may land on ballots come November. On Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Santa Cruz chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) co-sponsered a meeting with the Santa Cruz chapter of the ACLU and Health Care for All, an organization dedicated to bringing universal healthcare to California.
A group of about 60 people met to discuss six possible ballot measures regarding the death penalty, campaign finance reform, and universalized healthcare, among others. Because many of the attendees were in agreement with one another, the meeting largely focused on efforts to promote the prospective measures and to secure their place on November’s ballot.
Here’s a brief round-up of the proposed ballot initiatives at Tuesday night’s meeting:
California DISCLOSE Act (AB 1148)
This act, authored by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, would change the face of California’s political ads in a major way. The DISCLOSE act would require that all political advertisements—whether they be on television, radio, print media or the web—would have to clearly identify the three largest funders of the ads. This applies to corporations, unions and private individuals. It would also require state candidates to appear and say that they “approve this message,” just as federal candidates are required to do.
SAFE California Act (SB 490)
Supported by former Santa Cruz Mayor Mike Rotkin, this act would, if passed, do away with California’s death penalty. The maximum sentence an individual could receive would be life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“There’s a moral issue about whether it’s appropriate for the state to kill people,” says Rotkin. “But more importantly, the death penalty does result in innocent people being put to death. And it’s something you can’t take back once you’ve taken somebody’s life.”
But proponents of the measure believe that the SAFE Act is not only a moral issue, but also a financial one. According a recent study by U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcon and Loyola Law School professor Paula M. Mitchell, a death penalty prosecution is 20 times more expensive than a life-without-parole case.
California Universal Health Care Act (SB 810)
Approved by the Senate Health Committee in May, this bill would provide every California resident with healthcare, regardless of income or pre-existing conditions. Known as “single-payer healthcare,” Californians medical care would be financed through government funding, as well as contributions from employers and employees. Proponents of the bill claim that it will reduce overall healthcare costs, while ensuring that all residents have access to high-quality healthcare.
Tax Oil to Fund Education Initiative (Proposition 1481)
Spearheaded by Rescue Education California, this proposed measure would place a 15 percent tax on crude oil and natural gas extracted within the state, totaling about $3 billion annually. The funds would be used to finance the state’s public education system, from kindergarten through the college level. In addition, oil companies would be prohibited from passing the cost on to consumers by raising gas prices.
Oil and Gas Production: Hydraulic Fracturing (AB 591)
More commonly known as fracking, hydraulic fracturing is the process of pumping large quantities of water at extremely high pressures underground to crack open rock formations, thereby releasing pockets of oil and natural gas.
“Fracking has become my new favorite expletive, as in: Get those fracking dishes done!” jokes WILPF member Randa Solick.
The pressurized water is commonly combined with a number of chemicals, which the measure’s proponents fear may contaminate ground water and cause considerable health problems. The proposed measure aims to regulate hydraulic fracturing by requiring operators to provide information about the chemicals used, as well as the quantity and source of the water.
Human Right to Water (AB 685)
This measure aims to strengthen the current language already on the books in the Public Utilities Code by declaring that all California residents must have “access to clean, affordable water.” The bill was originally packaged with four other bills that concerned safe drinking water, all of which were signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October. AB 685, however, has been held up in the Senate Appropriations Committee since August due to budget concerns. Detractors of the measure claim that it is costly and unnecessary, while proponents maintain that it is essential to ensure the safety of California’s families.