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California Approves Slavery Reparations Task Force

This week, California became the first state to establish a task force to study the issue of reparations for slavery.

 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that sets up a nine-member task force that will study ways that reparations could be paid and who should benefit from them. The task force's members will be appointed by legislators and the governor.

 

When California was admitted to the Union in 1850, its constitution banned slavery. However, some Southerners had brought slaves to the state prior to that and were still legally able to hold them. Supporters of the reparations task force say it is time that the state reckon with slavery in its past how the state perpetuated racial discrimination.

 

The task force will study the issue of California's slaveholding legacy and racial discrimination laws, then examine ways that reparations could be paid to those affected by these historical actions. It would also consider who should receive reparations. The issue of what the reparations should be, from a cash payment to other assistance, will also be discussed.

 

Backers of this legislation say that it is necessary for the state to address the wrongs of the past that have led to the current situation of African Americans. They argue that the wealth gap is a legacy of past discrimination, so the state should act to fix it. While acknowledging that California was not a slave state, these supporters say that this task force should prove to be a model for other states or even the federal government.


Critics of the measure push back against these claims. They argue that given California's status as a free state, this is an example of lawmakers pushing an abstract notion of "social justice" that is divorced from reality. They say that if reparations are to be paid, it should come from a national effort. Many also oppose the idea of reparations, arguing that slavery was abolished long ago.

 

Do you support the idea of paying reparations for slavery?

 

California Bans Sale of Gasoline-Powered Cars by 2035

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has set in motion a plan to end the sale of cars using internal combustion engines by 2035.

 

Under the governor’s order, the California Air Resources Board will begin developing plans to phase out the sale of gasoline-powered passenger vehicles by 2035. The sale of heavier duty vehicles that use gasoline and diesel would be banned by 2045 under this order. Only zero-emission vehicles would then be permitted to be sold in California.

 

Gov. Newsom says that this ban is needed to help combat climate change. He points to recent fires in California as illustrating the urgency of the state taking major steps to reduce carbon emissions. He also claims this will help create jobs in California and across the U.S.

 

Critics of this ban note that consumers, not government, drive markets. They say that zero-emission cars are not attractive to consumers, and that innovation by the private sector will lead to more widespread purchasing of these cars. They also contend that this order will hurt consumers who want a wider choice in vehicles.

 

Since this ban is an order by the governor, not a state law, it can be reversed by future governors.

 

Do you support a ban on the sale of gasoline-powered cars?

 

Western Forest Fires Spark Climate Debate

Devastating forest fires are burning across the West, especially in California and Oregon. In the wake of the destruction left by these fires, some activists are saying that they show the need for a greater focus on climate change. Others, however, contend that poor land management practices at the state and federal level are largely responsible for larger and more intense fires.

 

Throughout the West, a thick blanket of smoke has caused air quality to be listed as "hazardous" in many areas. This smoke is coming from a series of fires in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states. In Oregon, 10 deaths have been linked to these fires. 

 

The number of wildfires, which burn both forests and grasslands, have been declining, but their intensity has been increasing. Some scientists link this to a warming climate, which they contend lengthens fire season and provides more time when areas are so dry they burn easily. They argue that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will lessen the effects of these fires.

 

Others, however, note that land management practices contribute significantly to how fires burn. They say that if federal and state agencies used more prescribed burns to clear out fuel on a regular basis, fires would not be as intense. Some also argue that the reduction in logging and timber thinning has led to a buildup of flammable material across the West.

 

President Trump is on a campaign swing through the West, and today he stopped to visit firefighters in California.

 

What do you think should be done to reduce the danger of wildfires?

Rent Control at Stake in California Election

Among the 12 ballot propositions confronting California voters this election, one would advance a major goal of progressive activists -- allowing rent control in the state.

 

Since 1995, California law has prohibited local governments from placing caps on rent increases. In 2019, though, legislators and the governor approved legislation that imposed statewide rent control, allowing landlords to raise rents by 5% plus inflation every year. In 2019, activists collected enough signatures to place a proposition on the ballot that would allow local governments to enact rent control policies, too. 

 

As a result, voters will now decide the fate of Proposition 21.

 

Supporters of this proposition say that it is a way to prevent landlords from pricing out low-income residents in the face of gentrification. They say rent control is a good way to stabilize neighborhoods and promote affordable housing. Rent control opponents say that the use of rent control in cities like New York has demonstrated that it leads to reduced investment in housing and higher rental rates for those not covered by rent control.

 

In 2018, California voters rejected a similar proposition, voting down Proposition 10 by a margin of 59%-41%.

 

Do you think that the government should tell landlords how much they can raise rent?

 

California Voters to Decide on 17-Year-Old Voting

In California, voters will decide whether some 17-year-olds will be able to vote in primary and special elections.

 

Under Proposition 18, 17-year-old Californians who will be 18 at the time of the next general election can register and vote in special elections and primaries.Voters will be asked to approve the proposed constitutional amendment during this year’s election, which will go into effect for the next election cycle.

 

Backers of this amendment argue that this allows greater participation for young voters in elections. They note that primary and special elections are part of the election cycle, so if someone will be 18-years-old for the general election, it makes sense to allow them to participate in these other elections. Opponents, however, counter that people who are legally minors should not be participating in the election process.

 

California legislators voted to place Proposition 18 on the ballot during their legislative session this year. It was overwhelmingly supported by Democratic legislators but nearly all Republicans voted against it.

 

Eighteen other states allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections as long at they will be 18-years-old by the time of the general election.

 

Do you think that 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the general election should be able to vote in primaries and special elections?

California Parents Sue for In-Person Schooling

Governor Gavin Newsom has prohibited schools in some California counties from opening for in-person classes. Some parents are now suing him to overturn his order.

 

In July, Gov. Newsom ordered that schools in counties with rising coronavirus cases must meet online. This order covered 32 of the state’s 58 counties. The largest California cities are included. His order also included criteria that schools would have to meet before reopening for students.

 

Some parents are frustrated with this order, arguing that it will lead to academic decline for their children. They are now suing the governor, saying that he should give parents the choice about whether to send children to school in person or online. They also contend that the path to reopening school buildings should allow more regional variation, and not be a “one size fits all” dictate.

 

Gov. Newsom argues that closing schools in high-risk areas will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. He says that it is not safe to open school buildings to masses of students, and points to other states where schools have been open and the virus has spread. The state’s teachers’ union supports the governor’s decision.

 

Whether or not to open schools for in-person learning has been a large controversy across the nation. Governors and local school districts are struggling with how to balance children’s education needs with the desire to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

 

Do you think that schools should be open for in-person learning?

 

Court Decision May Lead Uber to Shut Down in California

This week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that the ride-sharing service may temporarily shut down in the wake of a court decision requiring the company to classify their drivers as employees.

 

A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled that, under California law, Uber must stop treating its drivers as independent contractors. Instead, the judge said, the law requires that the company hire the drivers as employees and provide them with the various benefits and legal protections provided to employees.

 

This ruling comes in the wake of the enactment of AB 5 in California. That law put severe restrictions on how companies could use independent contractors. Supporters said it was necessary to crack down on unscrupulous companies that were trying to avoid paying workers benefits and higher wages. Opponents countered that it was the government meddling in arrangements that worked well for both employees and contractors.


With the law’s implementation, businesses have begun restructuring or ending their relationships with California independent contractors. If Uber does suspend its business in the state, that would affect a significant number of Californians who currently drive for the company.

 

Uber and other companies are backing a ballot initiative that would overturn AB 5. Uber said that unless the courts prevent the current ruling from going into effect, the company will cease operating in the state until the fate of the ballot initiative is known.

 

Do you think that the government should require Uber to treat its drivers as employees instead of as independent contractors?

Los Angeles Looking at Cutting Police Funding

Police are facing scrutiny for their actions around the nation. In Los Angeles, city leadership is trying to cut their budget.

 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he will look for $150 million in cuts to the Los Angeles Police Department budget. He said that other city departments are facing cuts due to the coronavirus epidemic, and that the police department should face cuts due to racial justice.

 

Prior to the mayor’s move, members of the city council had introduced resolutions calling for the same amount of budget cuts. These council members say this is one way they can introduce change to the way policing is done in California.

 

Cutting funding for police departments is becoming a popular issue for people who are upset with law enforcement actions in the wake of the George Floyd killing. They argue that the money going to police departments could be better spent on helping the community instead of paying for what they perceive as oppression.

 

Opponents of this move say these cuts will endanger public safety. They point to the unrest currently occurring and argue that it is more important than ever that police have the tools necessary to protect people and property.

 

Mayor Garcetti has said he will look to redirect money from the LAPD to other community programs.

 

Do you think that the budget for police forces should be cut?

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?

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