Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pot legalization proposal most potent among 10 measures on November ballot

Besides choosing a U.S. senator, a governor and various state and local representatives, Californians will go to the polls this November to vote on 10 new ballot measures.

Proposition 19 carries the biggest buzz because it calls for the legalization of marijuana.

The initiative would have the state regulate the drug—as it does with alcohol and tobacco— by permitting taxed sales to anyone who is 21 or older.

According to the Board of Equalization, the state’s marijuana crop is worth $14 billion a year and could generate some $1 billion in taxes if sales are made legal. A similar measure to decriminalize pot, also called Prop. 19, made the ballot in 1972, but failed by a wide margin.

The measure would provide much-needed revenue for the cash-strapped state and save millions in judicial costs, proponents say. But James Bozajian, a Calabasas City Council member, said the decriminalization of pot would not reduce prosecution and incarceration costs because few people go to jail for breaking marijuana laws.

Bozajian, a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County, opposes the new measure and said it is unlikely to pass because of heavy opposition from the state’s public safety agencies.

Capt. Joe Stephen of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station said the law enforcement community opposes legalization because of the dangers associated with impaired driving.

Also, the sheriff said, “It would change the way we do business. Right now we can go into cars if we smell the presence of marijuana, but it would take away that right for us.”

While Moorpark City Councilmember Roseann Mikos is hesitant about legalizing pot, she said the measure might help rid the state of dangerous drug cartels and protect natural resources.

“We have a serious problem in state parks and national forests with illegal marijuana being grown in those areas. I would like to think that if this were to pass, it would reduce such illegal activity,” Mikos said.

Mary Ficalora, a teacher who lives in Agoura Hills, said she supports Prop. 19 because legalization would give young people a renewed deference for the law.

“I don’t endorse marijuana smoking for young people, but I do endorse a rational legal system that understands personal choices,” she said.

“We need to clarify the law to respect the rights of individuals because right now it takes away our right to choose for ourselves,” Ficalora said.

Herbert Gooch, a professor at California Lutheran University, favors the notion of tolerance but says he won’t endorse the measure because it might encourage new marijuana use.

“Given our free enterprise economy, the results would likely be a new and growing industry dedicated to creating ever greater demand,” Gooch said.

Proposition 22

Prop. 22 is an initiative placed on the ballot by an alliance of local government groups to forbid the state from taking local government, transit and transportation funds.

“We felt this initiative is necessary to close the loophole so the state can’t steal from us anymore,” said Simi Councilmember Glen Becerra, who pointed out that Simi Valley lost more than $6.8 million to the state this year.

Most of the money taken from local cities came out of redevelopment funds that had been set aside to create jobs and rebuild the infrastructure, he said.

Propositions 25 and 26

Hoping to reduce the annual gridlock in Sacramento, Prop. 25 would allow the Legislature to pass the state budget with a simple majority rather than the existing two-thirds majority requirement.

Under the proposal, if state officials fail to pass a budget by June 15, representatives would have to forfeit their salaries and expenses until a package is passed.

Gooch said he supports the amendment because it would pressure legislators to reach an agreement on the budget, while keeping in place the supermajority (two-thirds vote) needed to raise taxes.

Becerra said the two-thirds majority for the state budget should stay in effect because it forces elected officials to compromise.

“If left unchecked, the Democratic majority would put the burden back on businesses and individuals who are already overtaxed with high taxes and fees,” Becerra said.

Prop. 26 increases the vote requirement to two-thirds for certain fees, levies, charges and taxes that can be enacted by a simple majority vote under existing rules.

Water, cars, environment

and redistricting

Proposition 18 would allow the state to borrow $11.1 billion to overhaul its aging water delivery system. Opponents worry about plunging the state further into debt.

Proposition 21 proposes to raise the vehicle license fee by $18 to provide steady income for California’s state parks.

Proposition 23—aimed at putting strict environmental laws on the sideline until the economy improves— would suspend new air pollution laws that require major polluters to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions until unemployment drops below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters.

Proposition 24 would repeal a series of corporate tax breaks approved by the Legislature in 2009.

The ballot also includes two measures affecting reapportionment and the redrawing of political boundaries.

Proposition 20 would take the power to craft new Congressional districts away from the Legislature and give it to an independent commission. The 14-member commission was created in 2008 to craft boundary maps for state Assembly and Senate seats.

Proposition 27 is the flip side of Prop. 20. It would abolish the independent commission and return authority to the Legislature.

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