Posted by 10 July 2019
In the wake of controversy over the shooting of unarmed suspects by police, California legislators have passed a law that would make a big change to the law governing when law enforcement officers may fire their guns.
Around the nation, there has been increasing attention to police shooting and killing unarmed suspects. In California, protests erupted when Sacramento police shot and killed Stephon Clark. He was unarmed but was holding a cell phone that officers said looked like a gun.
Current law allows police leeway to shoot suspects if they think they have a reasonable fear of imminent danger. This standard has led to few police officers being charged and convicted in these types of shootings.
Under a bill that passed both houses of the California legislature by large margins, police would only be able to shoot someone if it is necessary to defend themselves from imminent harm. This would make it easier to prosecute officers for killing unarmed suspects.
Some critics say that this legislation would make it more difficult for police to do their jobs. They say that it will put them in harm’s way since officers will be worried about using their firearms for fear of being prosecuted if they make a mistake. Supporters counter that it would end the situation where officers can kill unarmed people with no chance of accountability.
Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign this legislation.
Should there be stricter standards for when police can use deadly force? Should it be easier to prosecute police who shoot unarmed suspects?
Posted by 18 June 2019
New York is experiencing its worst measles outbreak in decades. In response, the state will no longer allow parents to cite their religious beliefs to refuse meeting vaccination requirements for school enrollment.
Under a bill signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, parents wishing to enroll their children in school can no longer say their religious beliefs preclude them from vaccination in order to gain an exemption from the mandate. Children who have medical conditions that do not allow them to be vaccinated could still receive an exemption. Children who are home schooled do not have to be vaccinated.
Many of the measles cases in New York are centered in the Orthodox Jewish community, many of whose members shun vaccinations. Some Orthodox Jewish leaders protested this new law, saying it will infringe upon their religious beliefs. Backers of the bill said that there is no religious right to spread diseases to others.
Public health advocates have been pushing to make it more difficult for parents to opt out of the vaccination schedule. They point to the rising cases of measles and other diseases that can be stopped by vaccines, saying that parents are using loopholes to avoid proven ways to stop these outbreaks. Some parents are pushing back, citing health or moral concerns as reasons to avoid vaccinating their children.
In recent years, both California and Maine have revoked their religious exemptions to vaccine mandates, joining Mississippi and West Virginia – and now New York – as the only states without this exemption.
Do you think that parents should be able to claim religious reasons to avoid vaccinating their children prior to school enrollment?
Posted by 05 June 2019
Smokers in Beverly Hills will soon have to go outside the city limits to buy tobacco. The city council recently voted to prohibit the sale of tobacco and vaping products in most retail establishments.
In a unanimous vote, the council passed a law banning the sale of cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products as well as electronic cigarettes. Hotels and cigar lounges are exempt from the law, which affects all other retail establishments in the city limits. This ban takes effect in 2021.
Backers of this measure say that it is necessary to protect public health. The ordinance states that it is a way to promote the city’s healthy image. Opponents counter that tobacco users will merely go to retailers outside the city limits to buy their products. This, they argue, will hurt businesses in Beverly Hills but do nothing to decrease tobacco use in the city.
This action by Beverly Hills is the first time that a city has banned almost all tobacco sales. Some other California cities are also considering a similar ban.
Do you think that the government should prohibit the sale of tobacco products?
Posted by 22 May 2019
The Trump Administration stopped federal funding for California’s high-speed rail project. Now the state is suing to get that money back.
Earlier this decade, California voters approved $10 billion in funding for a statewide high-speed rail system. In the intervening years, the price tag for this system has skyrocketed to over $75 billion. The Obama Administration had promised $3.5 billion in federal stimulus funding for this project. Last week, the Trump Administration revoked over $900 million that has been unspent, citing what it called mismanagement by the state.
Today California filed suit, seeking an injunction to prevent the federal government from revoking these funds. The state says it is being punished by the Trump Administration because state officials have taken stances opposing the president on issues such as immigration. Critics of the state say, however, that there is clear evidence that California has indeed mismanaged these funds and that the rail project is a boondoggle.
Should the government build high-speed rail projects? Do you think the Trump Administration removed high-speed rail funds to punish California officials for opposing the president on other issues?
Posted by 13 March 2019
Governor Gavin Newsom of California has issued an executive order granting a reprieve to death row inmates and closing the state’s execution chamber. While the death penalty is still the law of the land in California, no executions will happen under this governor.
Although no executions have taken place in California since 2006, there was the possibility that Gov. Newsom would be asked to approve a new capital punishment protocol soon. This would then allow executions to resume.
In 2016, California voters rejected a ballot measure that would have abolished capital punishment in that state while also approving a ballot measure to expedite the execution process. Governors do not have the power to alter state law, but they can refuse to sign execution warrants and can commute death sentences to life in prison without parole.
There are 737 people on death row in California.
Do you support capital punishment?
Posted by 13 February 2019
A high-speed rail system was supposed to connect the state’s two major cities and places in between. But with the cost skyrocketing and prospects for completion years in the future, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he was scaling back the state’s efforts to build an expansive high-speed rail network.
In 2008, voters approved an initiative that set aside $10 billion dollars for a network of high-speed trains that run from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Promised federal money largely failed to materialized, and the cost of the system rose to $77 billion (with projections that it could possibly cost more). Completion of the total system would not occur until 2029.
Governor Newsom announced that the state should focus on the section connecting Bakersfield and Merced, which has already been started. He made vague promises of continuing to look at completing the rest of the project, but he has criticized the plan in the past for being too expensive.
Supporters of this high-speed rail network say that it is necessary to provide affordable public transit for people in California. They say the state could serve as a model for a more environmentally-friendly mode of transportation. Critics point out that high-speed rail lines are very expensive to build and are unlikely to attract the projected number of users. They also say that these would have to be heavily subsidized to continue operation.
California’s experience with high-speed rail resonated nationally because proponents of the “Green New Deal” have touted this mode of transportation as a way to reduce air travel.
Do you think that high-speed rail lines should be built in the U.S.? Are the high costs of high-speed rail worth it? Is rail a more environmentally-friendly way to get around the U.S.?
Posted by 22 January 2019
Senator Kamala Harris is the latest entrant into the 2020 presidential field. The California senator is running on a platform aimed at appealing to the liberal wing of the party, with a platform that calls for bail reform, single-payer health care, and lower-income tax cuts. But she is also championing an issue that may make her stand out in what will surely be a crowded field – rental assistance.
Under Sen. Harris’s plan, renters whose income is less than $100,000 and spend more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities would receive a tax credit. This tax credit would vary based on income, with lower-income individuals receiving a larger credit than those with higher incomes. The credit would also be refundable, meaning that someone who owed no income tax would still receive money from the government. Estimates put the price tag on this program at $76 billion.
According to Sen. Harris and those who support this idea, this is a way to help millions of Americans who struggle with high rent. They say that this will allow people to be more mobile, moving to areas that have jobs but also high rent.
Critics point out that the problem of high rent is often due to the lack of housing in an area. They say that increasing the housing supply by relaxing government restrictions is the best way to help both renters and home buyers. They argue that by subsidizing rent, Harris’s plan will actually increase the cost of rent, with landlords receiving the ultimate benefit.
Do you think the government should subsidize rent in areas with high-cost housing?
Posted by 14 January 2019
Health centers at state universities may be required to offer medication that induces abortions under a bill filed in the California State Senate.
Sen. Connie Leyva’s legislation would mandate that health centers at all of the state’s universities must offer such a drug. She says that this bill is necessary to ensure that college students have access to abortion and are not deterred by distance or cost. Supporters of the legislation argue that in order for women to have the ability to exercise their reproductive rights, they should have easy access to this medication.
The legislature passed a similar bill last year, but Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it. In his veto message, he argued that abortion services in the state are prevalent, especially around universities. He said there was no need to mandate that schools offer abortion-inducing medication.
With a new governor in the state, it remains to be seen what the fate of such legislation will be this year.
Do you think that California should mandate that all public universities offer abortion-inducing drugs?
Posted by 02 November 2018
It’s time to change the clocks back this weekend as Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday morning. But Tuesday is Election Day, and California voters will have a chance to send a message about whether they want to keep switching time in the future.
Proposition 7 would allow the California legislature to adopt permanent Daylight Saving Time if federal law is changed to permit it. Currently, the federal government allows states to adopt Daylight Saving Time between March and November or stay on Standard Time year-round. If voters approve Proposition 7, California’s congressional delegation could push to change federal law knowing that their state would like to adopt year-round Daylight Saving Time.
The idea to change clocks between Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time dates back to World War I. Initially the idea was that it would save energy by aligning the clocks with natural sunlight. It was imposed by the federal government during both world wars, but then was up to state and local preference until 1966. That year, President Lyndon Johnson signed the law giving states either the option of choosing Standard Time or Daylight Saving Time during a uniform period of time.
Those who favor instituting permanent Daylight Saving Time point to evidence that the twice-a-year ritual of changing clocks has adverse effects on health and the economy. They say that in order to stop the changing of clocks, it is necessary to pass this initiative empowering the legislature to debate the issue. Those opposed to a change note that it would mean darker mornings in the winter, with children going to school before the sun comes up. They also note that year-round Daylight Saving Time would put California out of sync with other states, making it more difficult to do business.
California voters voted in favor of a ballot proposition in 1949 that allowed the state to adopt Daylight Saving Time for part of the year. The California constitution prohibits the legislature from repealing initiatives unless voters approve. So the only way to change what the 1949 initiative put in place is to pass another initiative, such as Proposition 7.
Do you favor permanent Daylight Saving Time?
Posted by 09 October 2018
Thanks to a law signed by California Governor Jerry Brown in 2017, Californians are paying the second-highest gas tax rate in the nation. In November, voters will have a chance to roll that 2017 tax increase back. If they approve Proposition 6, they will also take decisions about future gas tax increases out of the hands of elected officials and put them into the hands of voters.
Proposition 6 is a reaction against a 2017 bill that raised the gas tax by twelve cents, increased the tax on diesel, and imposed other vehicle fees. The proposition would mandate that any fuel tax increase or vehicle fee increase must not only be approved by two-thirds of the legislature and the governor (the current requirement), but must also be approved by voters. It makes such approval retroactive to the beginning of 2017, thus effectively repealing that year’s tax and fee increases.
Supporters of Proposition 6 say that a gas tax hits poor Californians harder than those with more income. They point out that the revenue from the gas tax and vehicle fees is not earmarked for road improvement, but can be spent on things such as bike lanes. They say that voters, not politicians, should decide if such taxes and fees should be increased.
Those opposing Proposition 6 counter that it would deprive the state of billions of dollars needed to improve roads and rail projects. They argue that if people want better roads, then they need to pay higher taxes. They also say that there is nothing in the proposition that would guarantee that gas prices would drop.
Do you support higher gas taxes?
Posted by 08 October 2018
President Trump has made no secret of his dislike for cities and states that do not cooperate with the federal government on immigration law. One of his priorities once elected was finding a way to punish these governments. Now a federal judge has made it more difficult for him to cut off federal funding for these cities and states.
Sanctuary cities, or sanctuary states, are places where the local government has a policy forbidding local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. The federal government sets and enforces immigration laws, but it often works with local law enforcement on situations like when illegal immigrants are in local jails. Areas with sanctuary policies, however, adopt policies that do not allow local law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants for the federal government or cooperate with the federal government on immigration detainers.
These laws do not conflict with federal law, since they do not interfere with federal agents doing their duty. Instead, they limit local government agents’ cooperation with federal agents. The federal government cannot mandate that state or local agents enforce federal law.
In an attempt to discourage such policies, Attorney General Jeff Sessions mandated that some types of grants could not be disbursed to governments that did not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. California sued the federal government over these restrictions. Last week, a federal judge agreed that the restrictions were illegal.
Supporters of cutting some funding for sanctuary cities and states say that these policies endanger public safety. They contend that cities and states should cooperate with the federal government to enforce immigration law to keep criminal immigrants out of the U.S. Those opposing restrictions on federal funds for sanctuary cities and states argue that these restrictions could hamper law enforcement activity. They also point out that the restrictions were not enacted by Congress, so the Justice Department has no authority to unilaterally decide to put them in place.
The federal government is expected to appeal this decision.
Do you think that the federal government should cut some funding for sanctuary cities and sanctuary states?
Posted by 26 September 2018
Buying an electric car in California may soon get you a $4,500 subsidy from the state.
The California Air Resources Board is meeting this week to consider boosting the state rebate for purchasing an electric car from $2,500 to $4,500. This money comes from credits purchased by businesses in order to comply with the state’s cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
Currently the federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for electric car purchases. However, this subsidy is designed to decrease once the manufacturers of electric cars grow large enough to sell 200,000 cars per company. As the companies reach this threshold (Tesla has already done so), the tax credit decreases in increments.
Supporters of increasing the electric car subsidy say these zero-emission vehicles are essential to combatting climate change. They say that these companies need government help to gain a market foothold and compete with conventional vehicles. Those who oppose the subsidies say the government should not be picking winners and losers in the automotive marketplace. They contend that if people want to buy electric vehicles, they should do so without government assistance.
The electric car credit is only one issue being considered by the Air Resources Board. The board members may also require fewer carbon emissions by oil companies, bigger subsidies for electric-charging stations, and a requirement that some mass transit systems in the state must buy only hydrogen- or battery-powered buses by 2030.
Do you support subsidies for people who purchase electric vehicles?
Posted by 21 August 2018
California is the third-largest state in the U.S. Some residents think it is too big; they want it divided into three states. This proposal obtained enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, but the state Supreme Court removed it. This does not end the fight to divide California, but makes it more difficult for proponents to see their dream of two new states joining the union.
Under the Proposition 9, California would be split into California, Northern California, and Southern California. Tim Draper, a venture capitalist, proposed the idea and was the main backer of the initiative. He helped collect the necessary signatures to place it on the ballot, with over 460,000 valid signatures being submitted to the state.
That led to a court challenge on the grounds that this ballot initiative violated the state constitution’s ban on initiatives making a major change to the constitution. Draper argued that this would not be a change to the constitution but a nullification of it. The state Supreme Court did not agree with Draper, and pulled the measure from the ballot.
Those supporting this initiative say that breaking the state up would lead to more responsive government. They contend that California is too large and too diverse to be governed by one state government. They also note that this would lead to lead to six U.S. senators representing a population that has two senators currently. Opponents countered that there is power in being a large state. They also noted that there have been past efforts to divide the state that have never been popular with Californians.
The U.S. Constitution allows new states to be formed from existing states with the consent of the existing state’s legislature and the U.S. Congress. There is some question whether or not a ballot initiative can provide this consent instead of a legislature.
Draper, who previously supported a proposal to break California into six states, will continue pursuing this issue after the 2018 election.
Do you support splitting California into three states?