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Newsom Signs California Gun Control Bills into Law

There has been a national push by some for Congress to enact new restrictions on gun possession and sales. This national gun violence strategy has not worked for these activists, but they are enjoying success at the state level. This week California Governor Gavin Newsom signed two bills into law that achieve key goals of gun control advocates.

 

In one of the bills signed by Gov. Newsom, Californians would be restricted to buying only one long gun a month. This is an expansion of current California law that limits the purchases of handguns to one a month. Advocates say that this helps stop traffickers from buying multiple guns to re-sell illegally. Opponents view this as merely another restriction on law-abiding gun owners which does little or nothing to stop the illegal sale of firearms.

 

So-called “red flag” protective orders are the subject of the other bill that Gov. Newsom signed. This legislation would allow coworkers, business employees, and school faculty to ask a court to issue an order removing guns from someone that these individuals think may pose a threat to himself or the community. This is an expansion of the current law that allows family members to petition courts to do this. Those in favor of this bill argue that it gives law enforcement a vital tool to stop shootings before they occur. Opponents say that this removes someone’s right to bear arms without due process of law.

 

These are two successes for the gun control movement, something that has eluded these advocates at a national level. Congress has so far resisted calls to pass new legislation that enacts more federal laws restricting gun sales or possession.

 

Do you think that people should only be able to purchase one gun a month? Should co-workers or teachers be able to petition courts to remove guns from someone they think may be a threat?

California Bans Fur Sales

Governor Gavin Newsom of California has signed a first-in-the-nation bill that outlaws the sale of fur products across the state, beginning in 2023.

 

AB 44 prohibits the sale or trade of any fur product in California or the manufacture of fur products in the state. Leather goods and taxidermy are exempt from the ban.

 

Advocates for this prohibition argue that raising animals for fur is cruel. They say that the sale of fur products perpetuates this cruelty, and that this law is a good way to end this type of animal mistreatment. Opponents argued that this will put California businesses at a disadvantage, since fur sales are still legal both in the U.S. and around the world.

 

No other state has a similar ban on the sale or manufacture of fur products. Advocates for this ban say that they will try to convince legislators across the nation to enact this type of law now that California has done so.

 

Should states ban the sale or manufacture of fur products?

Judge Blocks Law Mandating Release of Candidates’ Tax Returns

A federal judge has put a stop, at least for now, to California’s attempt to force President Trump and other candidates for office in that state to release their tax returns.

 

A district judge in the state has issued an injunction to stop the law from taking effect until its legal merits can be decided. He said that the law is likely unconstitutional and that allowing it to proceed would harm candidates in the 2020 election.

 

Earlier this year California passed a law mandating that candidates seeking a spot on the state’s ballot must disclose their tax returns for the past 5 years. This came in response to the refusal of then-candidate Donald Trump to release his tax returns. Such a disclosure is not mandated by law, but has been customary for decades.

 

California officials argue that the law is necessary so voters can see if candidates have conflicts of interest that may impair their judgment in office. They say that candidates should be willing to subject their financial details to public scrutiny. Lawyers challenging the law contend that it is unconstitutional. They note that the Constitution sets a few requirements for president and that states cannot add to them.

 

The federal judge seems to agree with the latter argument. However, his action was not a final determination of the law’s constitutionality; instead, the court case against the law will continue but the law can only go into effect if it is ultimately found to be constitutional.

 

Do you think that states should be able to force candidates to release their tax returns?

California Will Let College Athletes Get Paid

 

Some student athletes bring in big money to the colleges for which they play. Now California is on the verge of letting them benefit financially from their athletic prowess.

 

Under a bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, college athletes could receive compensation through endorsement deals, sponsorships, or autograph signings. Schools are not forced to share their sports income with these athletes, but they could no longer punish them for independent deals. However, students would be prohibited from signing a deal that conflicts with any contract signed by their schools.

 

The National College Athletics Association (NCAA) has long fought any attempts to give compensation to college athletes. Its stance is that these are amateur athletes, and compensation destroys that status. The organization specifically objects to the California statute, saying that it will give an unfair advantage to schools in that state when it comes to athlete recruitment. According to the NCAA, top high school athletes will want to go to California over other states since they can strike compensation deals there.

 

Many former student athletes have been pushing for changes to the system that bars college athletes from sharing in the money that their activity generates. They note that some sports are huge revenue generator for schools, but that the athletes playing the games do not share in the revenue. They say it is only fair for athletes to be able to make money off of their skills.

 

The new legislation will go into effect in 2023.

 

Do you think that college athletes should receive compensation?

Trump Administration Takes Aim at Homelessness

President Trump has long criticized how Democratic politicians in California treat homelessness. Now his administration is looking into how the federal government can intervene to treat what the president sees as a crisis in that state.

 

Members of the Trump White House staff and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are meeting with California officials this week to discuss the issue. President Trump has highlighted what he sees as a growing homeless population in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles and attacked the Democratic politicians that he says are failing to deal with it.

 

The Trump Administration is reportedly considering using the federal government to remove the homeless from the streets and house them in federal facilities. Dealing with homeless individuals has long been under the authority of local and state governments. It is unclear what authority the federal government has to intervene in a widespread way on this issue. Nevertheless, President Trump has said that he is considering what he could order done to reduce the number of people living on the street.

 

The homeless population of California is rising. Some state officials blame this on rising rent rates, and are embracing rent control as a potential solution. Others observers say that state regulatory barriers is driving up the cost to build housing, so the solution is to relax these restrictions. They also note that many homeless people have substance abuse issues or mental health problems, so their situation may not be related to the cost of housing.

 

Do you think the federal government should intervene in California to address the homeless issue?

Kamala Harris Backs Nationwide Plastic Straw Ban

Want a plastic straw with your drink in a restaurant? Sen. Kamala Harris doesn’t think that is a good idea.

 

During a CNN debate on climate change, Sen. Harris said that she supports a national ban on plastic straws. She did, however, acknowledge that paper straws do not work very well. Her campaign has said that she wants to see more innovation in straw production to make the elimination of plastic straws feasible. The debate was being held for the candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

 

California has a statewide ban on restaurants offering a plastic straw to a customer unless the customer requests one. A variety of cities have also enacted similar straw bans. Florida legislators passed a law that would prevent local governments from banning plastic straws, but Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed it.

 

Plastic straws have come under attack from critics who allege they contribute to pollution, especially in the ocean. These backers of straw bans contend that ocean wildlife are harmed by these straws. Opponents of a straw ban counter that plastic pollution in the ocean overwhelmingly comes from places other than the U.S. They say that banning plastic straws will do very little, if anything, to address pollution concerns and will only inconvenience American consumers.

 

Do you support banning plastic straws?

Kamala Harris Backs Nationwide Plastic Straw Ban

Want a plastic straw with your drink in a restaurant? Sen. Kamala Harris doesn’t think that is a good idea.

 

During a CNN debate on climate change, Sen. Harris said that she supports a national ban on plastic straws. She did, however, acknowledge that paper straws do not work very well. Her campaign has said that she wants to see more innovation in straw production to make the elimination of plastic straws feasible. The debate was being held for the candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

 

California has a statewide ban on restaurants offering a plastic straw to a customer unless the customer requests one. A variety of cities have also enacted similar straw bans. Florida legislators passed a law that would prevent local governments from banning plastic straws, but Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed it.

 

Plastic straws have come under attack from critics who allege they contribute to pollution, especially in the ocean. These backers of straw bans contend that ocean wildlife are harmed by these straws. Opponents of a straw ban counter that plastic pollution in the ocean overwhelmingly comes from places other than the U.S. They say that banning plastic straws will do very little, if anything, to address pollution concerns and will only inconvenience American consumers.

 

Do you support banning plastic straws?

California Looking to Reclassify Independent Contractors as Employees

The “gig economy” – people who work for Uber, Lyft, in similar ways – depends on independent contractors. Now California legislators are looking to change state law to reclassify most of these independent contractors as employees. They say this will lead to greater worker protection. Critics argue that it will end their work completely.

 

Under federal law, companies can contract with individuals to do work under certain circumstances, such as not having direct control over how work is done. This has allowed the flourishing of occupations in the “gig economy,” which allows people to work at jobs without meeting the traditional definition of being an “employee.”

 

Many of those who work at these jobs like this status. They say it allows them to pick and choose what jobs they do and when they do them. They like the flexibility and the lack of red tape that comes with traditional employment situations. Others, however, complain that such jobs do not offer the security and benefits of traditional jobs. They say that employers take advantage of independent contractors.

 

California legislators have listened to organized labor and others who take the latter view. The Assembly has passed legislation that would tighten rules in California for when employers can use independent contractors. The bill would narrowly limit who could work as an independent contractor.

 

Supporters of the bill argue that it will mean that employers will have to offer health and other benefits to a wider set of workers. Opponents counter that by adding more cost to hiring these workers, it will end their employment. Instead of helping independent contractors, they say, this will leave these people without work.

 

Uber, Lyft, and other companies that use independent contractors have vowed to fight this bill if it becomes law. They are sponsoring a ballot initiative that will increase protection for independent contractors while still allowing them to work. This ballot would be on the 2020 ballot.

 

Do you think that states should restrict who can work as independent contractors for companies such as Uber and Lyft?

Mayor Pushes for Mandatory Gun Insurance

While Democrats and Republican politicians debate whether to enact new gun laws on a national level, one local elected official wants to act. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is proposing a mandate that gun owners must carry liability insurance, a move he says will help the city deal with the cost associated with gun violence.

 

Under Mayor Liccardo’s plan, gun owners would be forced to carry insurance that would cover the accidental discharge of their firearm or the intentional acts of someone who steals that person’s firearm. He has also proposed a new tax on guns and ammunition to fund gun safety courses.

 

Liccardo has acknowledged that it would not stop gun violence, but he says it would relieve taxpayers of some of the cost of dealing with the results of gun violence. This proposal comes in the wake of a shooting at the Gilroy garlic festival.

 

Gun owners argue that this is simply another burden on law-abiding gun owners. They point out that criminals are unlikely to carry this mandatory insurance, so it will have little effect. Groups representing gun owners have vowed to fight the idea in court.

 

This insurance mandate would be the first in the nation if approved by the city council.

 

Do you think that the government should mandate that gun owners carry liability insurance?

California Mandates Release of Presidential Candidate Tax Returns

When he ran for president, Donald Trump broke with decades of tradition when he refused to release his tax returns. Under a new California law, he will be unable to appear on the 2020 primary election ballot in that state unless he does so.

 

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill yesterday that requires anyone whose name appears on the California primary ballot to submit five years of tax returns to the state. Those returns will then be posted online. The state’s previous governor, Jerry Brown, vetoed a similar bill when he was in office.

 

New York’s law to require that presidential candidates disclose their tax returns to the state legislature is tied up in court. No other state has such a requirement. When he vetoed the previous California bill, then-Gov. Brown said that he was concerned about its constitutionality. Many observers think mandating the disclosure of presidential tax returns places an additional requirement for president, which the Constitution does not allow.

 

From Richard Nixon onward, presidential candidates have released their tax returns to the public. Supporters of this practice say that it gives voters information to see if there are any conflicts of interest. President Trump was the first candidate not to do this in recent times, citing a variety of concerns.

 

Candidates wishing to compete in California’s primary election have until November to submit their tax returns. There will likely be a legal challenge to the law, however, which will almost certainly mean that it will not be in effect for next year’s election.

 

Should states mandate that presidential candidates release their tax returns? Or does this requirement violate the Constitution?

California Sets Limits on Police Shootings

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?

NY Ends Religious Exemption for Vaccination

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?

Beverly Hills Bans Tobacco Sales

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?

CA Sues Trump Admin over High-Speed Rail Funds

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?

Executions Halted in California

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?

California Kills High-Speed Rail Plans

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.?

Harris Campaign Focuses on Rent Relief

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?

Abortion Pill Mandated at California Universities under Proposed Bill

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?

Is Permanent Daylight Saving Time Coming to California?

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?

 

 

California Voters May Roll Back Gas Tax Hike

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?

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