Brendan Abrams is a liberal arts and engineering studies junior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News editorial.
Everyone is fired up about the presidential election. Seriously people, we all already know who we’re voting for. Anyone who says they’re undecided is either lying, named Ken Bone or prematurely taking advantage of Prop 64’s intention to legalize weed. The campaigns themselves, while fascinating from a social perspective, are completely inconsequential at this point. So let’s shift focus to the votes that truly count, the ones that might soon make a difference in our daily lives as Californians and San Luis Obispans. In other words, let’s talk props (and measures).
Many of us seem to forget that alongside those two big names and the auxiliary names, which allow us to imagine we have more than two political parties in our system, exist a collection of proposed laws specific to the state of California or San Luis Obispo County. What follows is a rundown of some of the standouts from that group.
This time, only one measure made the ballot for San Luis Obispo County. You may have seen the cryptic signs propped up on lawns (or even, and this is true, being towed on trailers at Bike Night) asserting “Yes on J” or “No on J” and little else. Well, what is J?
J is short for Measure J, which is short for a 32-page proposal involving taxes and transportation. To spare you an afternoon of reading legalese, Measure J proposes a sales tax increase of 0.5 percent for a period of at least nine years, which would bring sales tax to 8.5 percent in San Luis Obispo, and 8 percent elsewhere in the county. All the funds raised from this additional tax would go directly to improving transportation throughout the county in multiple ways. In San Luis Obispo, a large portion would pay for residential road improvements, and smaller sums would accelerate the creation of new and improved pedestrian and bicycle routes, including safer routes to the Cal Poly campus. I see this as a splendid and necessary idea (have you traveled on some of these awful roads lately?) with the potential to benefit everyone, at a relatively low cost to each individual citizen. Verdict: Yes on J.
Now, the props:
Prop 54 requires bills proposed in the California legislature to be posted on the internet 72 hours before they are voted on, and mandates recording legislature proceedings. This should increase the transparency and accountability of our lawmakers, allowing voters and news organizations to be better informed, at minimal financial cost. Verdict: Yes on 54.
Prop 55 renews a tax on people making more than $250,000 per year. The extra revenue will continue to be put toward primary and secondary schools and healthcare. Fiscal conservatives will cringe at this insult to trickle-down economics, but I say anyone making that much money will not be strapped for cash after having to contribute a little more to the public pool. Verdict: Yes on 55.
Prop 56 adds a $2 tax to cigarettes on top of existing taxes. This also affects other tobacco and nicotine products, including electronic cigarettes. Proceeds would help pay for healthcare for low-income residents and preventive education on tobacco products. As a nonsmoker with a disdain for cigarette smoke, I’m incredibly biased here, but adding this tax should be a no-brainer. Smoking cigarettes is a personal liberty, but it is a habit that should be discouraged at all costs. It’s harmful to smokers, people in the vicinity of smokers and air quality. Why not make a dual impact with one tax and encourage healthy behaviors while providing care for those in need? Verdict: Yes on 56.
Prop 60 would mandate that performers in pornographic films wear condoms, and also that porn producers pay for regular medical exams and tests for performers. This is a mixed bag. Porn production is illegal in every state but California and New Hampshire. Producers would probably have to bite the bullet and succumb to regulation, which might be considered a victory for the rights and safety of the performers. However, the performers are consenting adults who should hypothetically be able to look out for their own health. More questions arise with regard to the cost and effectiveness of the regulation. How easy is it to catch that sort of thing before it happens? It also may not be a great idea to do significant damage to an industry that brings hundreds of millions of dollars to the state every year. Verdict: It’s a toss-up. Choose based on your affinity for mandated safe sex.
Prop 63 prohibits the possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines, and implements background checks for any sale of ammo. No hunter or skeet shooter needs large-capacity magazines, so this should be a positive change for anyone looking to improve their chances of not being a mass shooting victim. In addition, it’s only sensible that background checks should be required to obtain the component of a gun that makes it dangerous. This is slow, NRA-opposed reform, but reform nonetheless. Verdict: Yes on 63.
Prop 64 aims to legalize the possession, use and sale of marijuana by adults over the age of 21. Similar to the laws in Washington and Colorado, this places taxes and safety standards on marijuana sales. It’s about damn time. This could bring the state upwards of $1 billion in revenue each year, and will allow adults who were going to use pot anyway a safer, legal method of obtaining it. This should also drastically reduce drug-related arrests and convictions, reducing strain on our prison and court systems. Verdict: Yes on 64.
And stop pretending weed is dangerous.
As a Californian, your vote may not count for much in the presidential race, but it sure as heck matters for the props and measures. So when you enter that church or middle school auditorium on Nov. 8, be sure to vote the right (or left) way; informed.