- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Oct. 5

The Orange County Register on allowing bilingual education in California schools:

Most of the attention this fall has properly gone to the fierce presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Some voters have also given substantial attention to many of the propositions on next month’s ballot, covering everything from plastic bags to condoms in pornography, from taxes to legalized marijuana.

All these are important questions, but the proposition that could have the most impact of all on California’s future is largely being ignored. That’s Proposition 58, simply described as “Non-English Languages Allowed in Public Education.”

This measure would all but repeal the 1998 Proposition 227, which passed by more than a 3-2 margin and has banned most bilingual education instruction in public schools ever since. Schools are still allowed to set up dual-language immersion programs if they and the parents involved choose to.

Proposition 227 has long infuriated teachers unions, in part because it effectively did away with the salary differentials paid to thousands of bilingual education teachers before it passed.

No, the implication in the ballot title that non-English languages have been banned from this state’s public schools for almost 20 years is not correct. Public schools, whether charters or not, never stopped teaching French, Spanish and many other languages.

But Proposition 227 has meant that the vast majority of K-12 pupils are taught primarily in English. That’s in contrast to the thousands of classrooms that previously taught English-learner students primarily in their native language - and a little English - with the purpose of eventually having them become proficient in English.

The reason 227 passed so handily when it did was not anti-Hispanic racism, as some supporters of Proposition 58 imply, but because English-learner children were progressing only very slowly toward proficiency. As a result, employers had trouble finding young English speakers to fill jobs in supermarkets, banks and other businesses where employees are often not college graduates.

The immediate results of 227 were successful. For example, more than 32,400 students, or 10.3 percent of the English learners in the Los Angeles Unified School District, became fluent in English between December 1998 and December 1999, an increase of about 20 percent over the last year of predominant bilingual education.

But some Latinos say they felt damaged by the change. “There was a racist undertone when it came to Spanish speakers,” state Sen. Richard Lara, D-Bell Gardens, told a reporter. “That’s how I felt.”

By contrast, many prominent Latinos supported 227, in spite of Lara’s perception. Jaime Escalante, the late, famed calculus teacher portrayed in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver,” was the “yes” campaign’s honorary chairman. Leaders of the Para Los Niños organization vocally backed 227, too.

Now a member of the Senate’s leadership, Lara sponsored Proposition 58 as the Legislature put it on the ballot. The measure, says the ballot argument supporting it, would enable “schools to use the most up-to-date teaching methods to help our students learn (English).”

But the original author, sponsor and prime funder of Proposition 227, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Ron Unz, insists his measure is still needed. He says Proposition 58 supporters ignore the good 227 continues to do.

In the ballot argument against 58, he says it would repeal the requirement that English be taught in public schools and that it would “overturn policies that actually improved language education.”

It’s a bitter disagreement. Unz claims 58 would bring back ineffective bilingual education programs and mire Latino children in English-learner status for many years.

For sure, this is a disagreement that deserves at least as much voter attention as any other major measure to be decided this fall. But, so far, neither side has raised much money. As of the last reporting date, the Yes side had $326,000 in hand, while opponents had nothing.

Which means a measure with immense potential effects on California’s future is being all but ignored.

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Oct. 4

Ventura County Star on banning plastic bags in California stores:

You will have the chance on this fall’s ballot to settle the argument over the use of plastic bags in California stores.

This is another example of an issue that should not be on the ballot, but the industry that makes the plastic bags you get at the store made sure that you would decide the issue.

Over the past five years, 151 cities and counties in California have passed bans on those single-use plastic bags. The issue is basic. The bags are an environmental disaster.

Those bans cover about 40 percent of the residents in California, although the Ojai City Council is the only governmental body in Ventura County to pass a ban.

The state Legislature, back in 2014, decided to take this good idea and make it statewide. It passed a bill (and it was signed by the governor) banning plastic bags and requiring stores to charge a minimum fee - 10 cents - for paper, recyclable and reusable bags. The stores would keep that money.

But the plastic bag industry challenged the measure and paid to get enough signatures for a referendum to hold up implementation of the law and place it on the Nov. 8 ballot. Not content to have a simple vote, the same folks also placed a second initiative on the ballot related to the plastic bag ban.

So now you have both Proposition 65 and Proposition 67 to deal with during this election.

We recommend a no vote on Proposition 65 and a yes vote on Proposition 67.

Proposition 67 is the actual referendum. If you vote yes, you will allow the state law banning plastic bags to be implemented.

Proposition 65 would redirect the money that stores collect in fees for selling the alternative bags to use for environmental and wildlife purposes. While it sounds nice, the problem is that if this passes by more votes than Proposition 67, then many stores - particularly small businesses - would be hurt because they would still have to provide the alternative bags for sale but could not keep the money.

The plastics industry inserted that initiative in the hopes it might just confuse voters enough that they throw up their hands and vote no for both initiatives, which is the real objective here. The industry leaders in Texas, New Jersey, South Carolina and Mississippi are pouring millions of dollars into California to try to convince you to do just that.

Do not be fooled. Plastic bags are bad for California. Vote no on Proposition 65. Vote yes on Proposition 67.

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Sept. 30

East Bay Times on raising the cigarette tax:

Nobody blows smoke at voters better than the tobacco industry.

These are the folks who market deadly products to kids to turn a buck. They’re at it again with a supremely sleazy advertising campaign designed to kill Proposition 56, which would raise the cigarette tax in California by $2 a pack to $2.87 a pack, which would be more than the national average of $1.63 a pack but far less than New York’s $4.35 a pack.

The ads are insidious. They tug at parents’ heartstrings, claiming the proposition takes money away from schools - a flat-out lie - and gives it to greedy insurance companies. In fact, it goes to pay doctors to treat poor people who are newly insured under Covered California.

Without adequate pay, doctors can’t afford to treat large numbers of these patients who need preventive care, which saves huge amounts of public money, or treatment of serious illnesses, many caused by smoking or secondary smoke.

Remember, smoking kills 40,000 Californians every year. It’s the state’s No. 1 cause of preventable death. Proposition 56 will save thousands of lives, substantially reduce the state’s health care costs and increase its atrociously low reimbursement rates for doctors who treat poor patients.

But the tobacco industry’s despicable campaign is working. Bankrolled mainly by R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, the No on Proposition 56 campaign has spent more than $50 million to blanket the airwaves with scurrilous ads.

Support for the tobacco tax - initially strong - dropped to 53 percent in a recent Field Poll.

The most craven ad stars Long Beach high school math teacher Davina Keiser. She says she is “astounded” to learn that not one penny of the measure goes to improving California schools. She calls it “bad math.”

If this is the kind of analytical skills our kids are learning in math class, no wonder they’re behind the curve.

Proposition 56 does not take a single dollar from schools. The independent Legislative Analyst’s Office says it will raise $20 million a year for public schools to enhance their smoking cessation programs.

The tobacco industry hangs its claim on the fact that Proposition 56 revenue will not be counted toward Proposition 98, the 1988 ballot measure that guaranteed a set percentage of state revenue for schools. But many propositions have had the same exemption.

Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of schools, supports Proposition 56. So does the California PTA.

The ads also claim too little funding from the tax will go to anti-smoking programs. (Oh, the irony.) But Proposition 56 triples funding for the state’s anti-smoking program.

Increasing tobacco taxes has proved again and again to be the most effective way to reduce smoking. This is why so many states have been far more progressive than California on this.

Don’t let the tobacco industry, which kills so many Americans, kill Proposition 56. Think for yourself. Vote yes on this lifesaving measure.

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Sept. 18

San Diego Union-Tribune on newly approved criminal justice reform bills:

We need to reform the criminal justice system to make it more just in its treatment of Americans continues to gather steam. Three bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown add to this momentum.

SB 443, by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, targets one of the most egregious practices in California law enforcement: policing for profit. Beginning Jan. 1, assets valued at less than $40,000 can only be seized from an individual after a criminal conviction. State law already requires a conviction before assets can be seized, but local and state law enforcement agencies will no longer be able to get around that by partnering with federal agencies and using lax federal laws to justify seizure.

SB 1143, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, limits the use of solitary confinement of juvenile offenders at juvenile halls, probation camps and prisons, a destructive practice that has been linked to suicide and depression, and which goes against the fundamental goal of criminal justice when it comes to young offenders, which is rehabilitation.

AB 2298, by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, requires law enforcement agencies to notify people who are added to the state’s gang database and makes it easier for individuals to seek the removal of their names. A scathing state audit released in August showed the CalGang database was riddled with errors, such as listing 42 people less than a year old as gang members.

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Sept. 18

The Press-Enterprise on legalizing recreational marijuana:

For half a century, efforts to control and prevent marijuana use have relied upon the brute force of criminalization. It is increasingly apparent that marijuana prohibition, much like alcohol prohibition, has been a costly, failed experiment that flies in the face of growing demand for the substance.

It’s now time we legalize recreational use of marijuana in California.

Personal use of marijuana is victimless. It is less harmful to those who use it than alcohol or tobacco, both of which are already legal. And arresting and incarcerating people for possession of marijuana is a poor use of law enforcement resources and space in our already overcrowded jails.

Six years ago, California voters rejected Proposition 19, which would have legalized recreational marijuana in the state. In the time since then, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

Informed by the experiences of those states, Californians are presented with a far more robust initiative in Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which will allow adults aged 21 and older to possess marijuana and grow small amounts for personal use, and also establishes a framework through which marijuana may be cultivated and sold. This is long overdue.

One in eight American adults already smoke marijuana, according to a recent Gallup poll. That’s 13 percent of Americans, up from just 7 percent of Americans who said they smoked in 2013. The same poll found that 43 percent of U.S. adults have tried marijuana. Do we as friends and neighbors want to continue criminalizing the behavior of so many of our fellow Californians?

Under Proposition 64, marijuana use will be permitted in a private home or business licensed for on-site consumption, but will not be allowed in public spaces, while operating a vehicle or anywhere tobacco use is currently prohibited. In other words, the personal use of marijuana will be permitted in much the same way as alcohol.

Punishing and criminalizing people for marijuana offenses is untenable in a state where adults are free to purchase alcohol and tobacco, which are arguably more harmful than marijuana, and there is an increasing demand for the product. Though there is a perception that marijuana use and possession is hardly a crime today, nearly 500,000 marijuana arrests have taken place in California in the past decade, with African Americans and Latinos arrested at disproportionately high rates.

Our criminal justice system is poorly suited to address what is more a public health issue than a criminal one and law enforcement resources are probably better devoted toward behaviors which truly pose a threat to public safety. If passed, Prop. 64 will not only steer us in the proper direction, but it will offer hundreds of thousands of Californians the ability to relieve themselves of unjustified criminal records for many marijuana offenses.

Proposition 64 also provides California the opportunity to develop effective controls over the cultivation, manufacture and sale of marijuana. Building off of the state’s medical marijuana regulatory framework, it keeps in place local control over whether marijuana businesses or large cultivation sites are permitted.

No doubt many parents are concerned about their children gaining access to marijuana. But, if anything, regulation and control of the drug should make it harder for youngsters to obtain than it is now.

Additionally, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office suggests that the recreational marijuana market could yield as much as $1 billion in tax revenue annually. Under prohibition, the state is simply not benefiting from the untapped potential of an above-ground marijuana market, in which taxes may be levied to offset some of the harms of marijuana abuse.

The initiative allocates the bulk of the revenue generated toward things specifically designed to reduce the harms associated with substance abuse and illegal cultivation. It requires 60 percent of revenue to go toward youth programs, including drug prevention, 20 percent will go to environmental cleanup and the rest goes to research and programs aimed at reducing any potential harms from the initiative.

Proposition 64 is the first step toward a rational drug policy. Proposition 64 gives California the opportunity to not only regulate the marijuana industry, but to make adjustments and clarifications when necessary. Though marijuana is currently illegal under federal law, the federal government has taken a hands-off approach to states choosing to responsibly regulate marijuana. This initiative allows California to do just that.

It is time for a new approach.

Vote yes on Proposition 64.

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