Election 2014  
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California Voters: What You Need to Know About Important State Ballot Initiatives

From the death penalty to GMO foods to union-busting attacks, here's a breakdown of the most crucial propositions.

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Yes on 34 supporters also point to an increase in savings for the state if the death penalty is eliminated. KQED r eports:

Court proceedings to execute an inmate can take decades, according to the state Legislative Analyst's Office. The LAO estimates that if the death penalty is repealed the state and counties could save about $100 million annually in trial and appeals litigation and corrections costs; after several years that savings would grow to an estimated $130 million annually.

Those savings would be somewhat offset by a special fund the measure would create that sets aside $100 million for grants to local law enforcement to help investigate homicides and sex crimes. That money would come from the General Fund over four years. In 2009, about 47 percent of homicides and 68 percent of rapes were unsolved, according to the Attorney General's office.

Whose Side Are You On?

Yes on Prop 34 has assembled a diverse coalition that includes formerly incarcerated people who were exonerated (including those on death row), family members who've lost loved ones to homicides, law enforcement officials, and a former San Quentin warden. The endorsers number over 1,400 so far and can be found here.

No on Prop 34 endorsers include numerous law enforcement organizations, district attorneys, victim advocate organizations, among others.

Proposition 35: Human Trafficking. Penalties. Initiative Statute.

Official Overview from the Secretary of State

  • Increases criminal penalties for human trafficking, including prison sentences up to 15-years-to-life and fines up to $1,500,000.
  • Fines collected to be used for victim services and law enforcement.
  • Requires person convicted of trafficking to register as sex offender.
  • Requires sex offenders to provide information regarding Internet access and identities they use in online activities.

In a Nutshell

This is a tough one. Many progressive organizations are in favor of it, but not all. Everyone is in agreement that human trafficking is bad and child pornography is really bad. The difference of opinion is that not all are convinced the way this initiative is written is the best way to handle the issue.

What People Are Saying

KQED's election guide provides quite a bit of valuable information on this one. Supporters say:

The measure would prevent human trafficking through increased penalties, law enforcement training and monitoring.

The majority of funding for Prop. 35 comes from former Facebook executive Chris Kelly, who founded the Safer California Foundation. California Against Slavery, the California Police Chiefs Association and the Peace Officers Research Association of California also back the measure.

Opponents say:

The measure limits online free speech. The measure could make it harder to help victims leave sex work by ending the crime of misdemeanor prostitution. The measure could be challenged in court because including the "intent to distribute obscene matter" could be considered unconstitutionally vague and lengthening prison sentences could be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

The ACLU of Northern California has come out against the measure. The Erotic Providers Legal, Education and Research Project Inc. is the major opponent.

Whose Side Are You On?

A story by Amy Isackson paints a good picture of the motivations behind the proposition, including the story of Carissa Phelps, forced into sex work out of desperation. It also explains why people may not support the measure. Isackson writes, "But many prosecutors, defense attorneys, civil libertarians and legal scholars say existing laws are adequate. While Prop 35 is well-meaning, they say, it has unintended consequences. They say the law actually could put women in danger, make it more difficult to prosecute traffickers and infringe on constitutional rights."

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