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New state laws set to take effect

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Aryn Plax
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Christina Garcia
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Twelve propositions that passed on California’s ballot for 2016 included legislation on education, plastic bags, marijuana, tobacco, criminal justice and taxation.

Proposition 51 called for the state to issue $9 billion in bonds to fund improvement and construction of school facilities for K-12 schools and community colleges.

Three billion dollars would go to construction of new school facilities; $500 million would go to providing school facilities in charter schools; $3 billion would go to modernizing school facilities; $500 million would go to facilities for career technical education programs.

“Any time you spend money on education, you’re creating future productivity for the nation because an educated person can have high productivity for the country,” said Ahmed Ispahani, professor of business administration and economics. “Anything that goes into investment in education is a wonderful investment.”

Proposition 55 proposed an extension on an income tax that was passed under Proposition 30 in 2012. Proposition 30 proposed increased taxes on incomes over $250,000. The revenue would continue to fund education and healthcare.

“Schools were on the verge of cutting in funding. (Gov. Jerry Brown) encouraged and got California voters to vote in a temporary tax on the very wealthy to help keep the schools afloat, and it was supposed to expire after the supposed emergency was over,” said Richard Gelm, professor of political science.

Proposition 30 passed in the midst of the recession, and Proposition 55 extends the increased income taxes by 12 years.

“I am against raising the taxes, definitely, because of a very simple reason,” Ispahani said. “If you tax the people who are making more than $250,000 a year, where is the capital formation going to come from? To invest in the country, for businesses and others, you need capital formation, and the wealthy people are the ones that provide the capital.”

Proposition 56 proposed an increase on the excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products by $2, according to Ballotpedia. Previously, the excise tax was 87 cents. The passing of Proposition 56 results in the current $2.87 tax. The increased tax goes into effect April 1, 2017.

“The negative impact is it generally disproportionately comes on the poor,” Gelm said. “We know that less educated people are more likely to smoke than educated people, maybe they’re not aware of the medical damage, of the health damage that it does. Also, for whatever reason, they get started smoking earlier. They’re lower income, and this tax is a bigger percentage of their income, so it’s a regressive tax in that sense.”

Proposition 64 proposed the legalization of recreational marijuana. Californians over the age of 21 will now be able to buy and sell marijuana effective Jan. 1, 2018. Marijuana is subject to state taxes and the revenue from the taxes would go to environmental protection, youth treatment, education programs and law enforcement.

“I think it will help our economics in the same way we’ve seen it help the state of Colorado,” Rob Ruiz, director of forensics, said. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt the state as much as they think it will. I think much of California who already smokes weed are smoking it now and you don’t see the issues that people are afraid of.”

Recreational use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The University of La Verne, as a recipient of federal funding, must abide by federal policy. Marijuana use on campus still violates campus policy for drugs and alcohol, as issued in an email from Dean of Student Affairs Loretta Rahmani.

Proposition 58 is designed to repeal Proposition 227 of 1998. Under Proposition 227, students who do not speak fluent English are placed in English-only classes designed for immersion, and students needed waivers to take non-English-only classes. Proposition 58 eliminates the requirement for English-only classes and waivers. Students can now take classes with teachers who speak English and their native language.

“There were some who were concerned that if you have immigrants maybe from Mexico, and the children speak predominantly Spanish, but you keep teaching them in Spanish for a long time in school, they won’t get up to the English proficiency right away,” Gelm said. “The counter argument to that is that the early cognitive skills have to be developed at age 3 to 6, and if somebody’s teaching a child in a language they don’t understand, on basic concepts, then they’re going to be behind the rest of their life.”

Ruiz agreed.

“I know as an educator, dual immersion is very successful,” Ruiz said. “Not just for English as a second language speakers but for English speakers as well. I think it is going to be very good for both groups of students. The recognition of other languages is always important.”

Proposition 57 proposed that a judge, rather than a prosecutor, determine whether or not a minor should be tried as an adult. The proposition allows nonviolent state felons to seek early parole and will increase the amount of sentencing credits the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation can award to inmates. Sentencing credits reduce the amount of time an inmate has to serve.

“I know that there’s a lot of folks that are in for nonviolent crimes and they got inordinate amounts of time,” Daniel Loera, director of multicultural affairs, said. “I believe people need to be held accountable for what they do, but sometimes folks get caught up in a system that is not a just system. I don’t think it’s a fair and equitable system at all.”

“I have a lot of students concerned about that one because it passed,” Ruiz said. “Rape while intoxicated counts as a nonviolent crime. They were upset because they felt voters didn’t read enough about it to understand that rapists were involved with that. I spoke with a lot of attorneys before I voted for that and I was assured that that would be fixed before it goes into effect or shortly after. They’re drafting legislation, if they find that loophole to make sure they don’t get let out then I’m okay with it.”

“I don’t know if they’ve distinguished the distinctions between crimes,” Loera said. “That’s problematic, to me this is not categorized appropriately. I know that there’s a lot of other stuff that happens but when you have something of this nature, it is not okay for the way that it is currently written.”

Proposition 52 changes current law about the hospital fee program of Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid welfare program that helps pay for medical services for low-income patients. The state receives federal Medicaid funds on condition that the state raises the same amount of money on its own. California hospitals pay the Hospital Quality Assurance Fee, and the revenue goes to Medi-Cal funds. In the past California has used some of the revenue for other purposes. Proposition 52 requires voter approval for revenue from the hospital fees to be used for any purpose other than Medi-Cal funding. This goes into effect Jan. 1, 2018.

Proposition 54 requires that legislative bills have to be published publically at least 72 hours before the state senate and state assembly can vote on them, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

Proposition 67 upholds the current ban on single use plastic bags and the requirement of grocery stores to charge 10 cents on recycled paper bags and reusable bags.

Proposition 63 requires people to obtain a permit before buying ammunition. Before Proposition 63, stealing a gun valued at less than $950 was a misdemeanor. Proposition 63 now classifies the theft of such guns as a felony. The proposition also bans the purchase of large ammunition magazines. Two portions will go into effect Jan. 1, 2018 and another will go into effect 2019.

Proposition 66 mandates that petitions challenging death penalty convictions must be heard by the judge who handled the original case. Before Proposition 66, the petitions were handled by the California Supreme Court. The process of challenging the death penalty conviction has to be completed within five years after the sentence.

Proposition 59 called for California’s elected officials to work toward overturning the United States Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which ruled that the government cannot limit corporations’ political spending. The proposition is an advisory question, which means that it is not legally binding, but merely a way of revealing general public opinion.

“It’s a political leverage, not a legal leverage,” Gelm said. “It’s essentially going to take a constitutional amendment to overturn that. This is in some ways kind of a straw poll in the beginning. If we had three fourths of the states pass similar things like this, going on record saying, ‘We really want this,’ maybe that would encourage the Congress to go ahead and do it, and we know we can get it done.”

Aryn Plax can be reached at aryn.plax@laverne.edu.

Christina Garcia can be reached at christina.garcia2@laverne.edu.

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