Inside USD

Proposition Forum Educates Voters

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On October 28, professors from the department of Political Science and International Relations discussed the propositions that will be on California’s ballot this November. Casey Dominguez, Ph.D., organized the ballot proposition review with Pi Sigma Alpha, the USD Political Science honor society. With both students and faculty in attendance, four political science professors weighed the pros and cons of each of the 12 propositions that could amend state law.

Gary Grey, Ph.D., detailed California Proposition 1A, calling it “fairly straight forward” when compared to the other 11. The measure proposes a bond issue of $9.95 billion to create a high speed train service from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The train, scheduled to be completed in 2030, would take a passenger from the bay to southern California in about two and a half hours. Bonds, a common tool of public financing, allow governments to borrow money from investors.

This year, given the gyrating stock market, bond financing faces an uphill battle. Opponents fear that the funding for bond propositions 1A, 3 and 12 may fall on the tax payers’ back. “Given the economic crisis and the State of California’s budget problems, it will be hard for Californian’s to raise bonds and also pay for infrastructures” explained Dominguez.

California Proposition 4 has stirred much controversy this year. This proposition would require doctors to notify the parents of minors seeking abortions, creating a 48-hour “waiting period..” Currently, minors do not need parental approval to obtain an abortion in California. Proponents have named the proposition after the Texas teenage who died from a botched abortion, calling it “Sarah’s Law.” Advocates hail the law as a way to stop child predators that remain hidden from parental view. The ACLU, California Teachers Association, and other opponents warn that the law would scare minors into dangerous “back-alley” abortions.

Proposition 5 seeks to lessen sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Del Dickson , J.D., Ph.D., explained that this measure would limit court authority to incarcerate offenders who commit certain drug crimes. Proposition 5 also would substantially shorten parole for certain drug offences. Marijuana would further be decimalized. An offender charged with possessing less than 28 grams of marijuana would receive an infraction similar to a traffic ticket.

Proposition 8, one of the most controversial on the ballot, would amend the California state constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. Noelle Norton, Ph.D., traced the history of the proposition.

“In 2000 Californians approved a law that recognized only a marriage between a man and woman as valid,” said Norton. “But in 2004 the courts declared the law unconstitutional.” If passed, Proposition 8 could affect court decisions around the nation. “Laws on gay marriage always have national implications” said Dominguez.

Less controversial is Proposition 11’s proposal to create a non-partisan board to redraw legislative districts. Currently, the California State Legislature changes district boundaries every ten years, after the federal census, but critics have often said this encourages gerrymandering. Supporters of the proposition claim it would make state representative races more competitive. They cite the past two elections in which not one of the 120 seats has changed party hands. If passed, Proposition 11 could encourage other states to adopt similar measures.

To help voters make educated decisions, the panel gave some suggestions on how to evaluate the ballot propositions and stressed the value of researching the sponsors and the opponents of each of the ballot initiatives. “Anyone who is going to vote needs to do it responsibly” Dominguez stated. “These propositions are never as they seem on TV.”

For a description of all 12 propositions on the California state ballot this year, go to http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/California.

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