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Election 2020 – Your Cheat Sheet for 12 Propositions to Know About Before Nov. 3

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2020 is a big election year. With all eyes on the presidential race, Californians can’t afford to lose sight of our state and local elections. These decisions need the same amount of consideration being given to the big race. They are the ones with the most — and the most immediate — effects on you and your family’s safety, quality of life and finances.

This year, California as a whole is reckoning with some big changes. The 12 qualified propositions on the ballot cover many issues, including tax codes, voting rights, workers’ rights and affirmative action. The results of these ballot measures will affect every life in California in some shape or form, and it’s important that voters understand them and make informed decisions on how to vote.

Prop 14 – Authorizes Bonds Continuing Stem Cell Research. Initiative Statute.

Prop 14 considers bonds for stem-cell and other medical research.

If passed, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine will issue $5.5 billion in state bonds to fund stem cell and other medical research, with $1.5 billion going to research and therapy for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, epilepsy and other brain and central nervous system diseases. Money would come from the state General Fund.

Proponents of Prop 14 argue that the funding will help accelerate development of treatment and cures for many diseases, including cancer and infectious diseases like COVID-19.

Opponents of the measure say that the state can’t afford the debt from borrowing the $5.5 billion, which would reach $8 billion with interest added. They also point out that the majority of the money from the first stem-cell research measure, Proposition 71 from 2004, went to infrastructure, education, and training, producing few medical breakthroughs.

Prop 15 – Increases Funding for Public Schools, Community Colleges, and Local Government Services by Changing Tax Assessment of Commercial and Industrial Property. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Prop 15 asks voters to weigh in on the biggest change to the state’s property tax code in four decades since 1978’s Proposition 13.

If passed, commercial and industrial property will be taxed based on current market value instead of the purchase price. It would replace the current rule, where property taxes can’t rise more than two percent unless there’s new construction or ownership, with tax reassessments of commercial and industrial properties at least every three years.

The new tax revenue this generates, an estimated $6.5 to 11.5 billion, will fund K-12 public schools, community colleges and local governments. The measure would exempt residential properties and owners of commercial properties with a combined value of $3 million or less, and exempt small businesses from personal property tax.

Proponents of Prop 15 argue that the initiative would close corporate tax loopholes and force wealthy corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. They also argue that money is needed for schools and local communities struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Opponents of Prop 15 argue that wealthy corporations and landlords will probably pass the buck to tenants and small businesses, and that any tax raise would ultimately raise the cost of living in the state.

Prop 16 – Allows Diversity as a Factor in Public Employment, Education, and Contracting Decisions. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.

Prop 16, if passed, would remove California’s ban on affirmative action, which was put in place with Prop 209 in 1996. Repealing the ban on affirmative action would allow state agencies and institutions, including colleges and universities, to consider race, ethnicity and gender for employment, admissions and contracting decisions.

Proponents of Prop 16 argue that it would create targeted opportunities for Black and Latino communities and help to correct centuries of economic exclusion and institutional racism. They also argue that the measure is a way to address the racial wealth gap in California, a state where White Californians make up 60% of high earners though they’re only 37% of the state population.

Opponents of Prop 16 argue that the change would make race more important than merit in college admissions and employment processes, a form of reverse discrimination.

Prop 17 – Restores Right to Vote After Completion of Prison Term. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.

Prop 17 concerns voting rights for parolees. If passed, previously incarcerated people will be able to vote while on parole, instead of having to wait until the parole term is over. This would enfranchise over 50,000 parolees, who are disproportionately African American and Latino. California is currently one of three states that require incarcerated persons to finish their prison and parole terms before they can vote. Nineteen states allow parolees to vote.

Those in favor of Prop 17 argue that parolees have paid their debt to society and contribute to their communities through work and community service, so they should have a say in government. Also, they argue that banning parolees from voting disenfranchises a large portion of the Black and Latino vote.

Opponents of the measure, primarily voter watchdog groups, argue that parole is a transition period and previously incarcerated persons have not paid their debt to society until after their parole is over.

Prop 18 – Amends California Constitution to Permit 17-Year-Olds to Vote in Primary and Special Elections If They Will Turn 18 by the Next General Election and Be Otherwise Eligible to Vote. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.

Prop 18 concerns the minimum voting age. If passed, young people who are 17-years-olds at the time of a primary or special election will be able to vote if they will turn 18 by the following general election and are otherwise eligible. This would allow these young adults to exercise their vote across a full election cycle.

Proponents of Prop 18 argue that 17-year-olds can make informed decisions about voting and should be allowed to participate in the full election cycle. They also argue that young people should have a say in issues that directly affect them, and that the change will inspire young people to get more engaged in politics.

Opponents of the measure say that 17-year-olds are still legal minors and can be unduly influenced by parents and teachers.

Prop 19 – Changes Certain Property Tax Rules. Legislative Constitutional Amendment.

Prop 19 regards property tax code changes for older Californians and natural disaster victims. If passed, the proposition would give homeowners who are over 55, disabled, or victims of wildfires and other natural disasters a tax break, allowing them to transfer their primary home’s low property tax base to their new home when they move, up to three times.

It would also change the inheritance tax break to require heirs to use the inherited home as their primary residence within a year, or else the property tax will be reassessed to market value. If passed, local governments and schools could gain tens of millions of dollars in new property tax revenue per year, and the initiative would also establish a fund for fire protection.

Proponents argue that Prop 19 will provide tax relief for seniors who are stuck in houses that they can’t maintain or are too far from family or medical care. They also argue that narrowing the inheritance tax break would generate more revenue for local governments and schools, since people who use inherited property as rental units or second homes would be forced to pay more taxes.

Opponents argue that the initiative would increase inequality by allowing homeowners to take the tax break, their initial home’s low property tax base, with them for up to three properties, instead of the current limit of one move. They say it would put people who are struggling to buy a home at a disadvantage, giving more purchasing power to existing homeowners.

Prop 20 – Restricts Parole for Certain Offenses Currently Considered to Be Non-Violent. Authorizes Felony Sentences for Certain Offenses Currently Treated Only as Misdemeanors.  Initiative Statute.

Prop 20, if passed, would change procedures and standards for the state Board of Parole Hearings and community probation programs, and expand the list of offenses that disqualify an inmate from parole. It would change several theft-related crimes from misdemeanors to felonies and create two new crimes, serial theft and organized retail theft. It would also expand DNA testing to require samples from some people convicted of theft and domestic violence.

Those who support Prop 20 argue that previous prison reforms, specifically propositions 47 in 2014 and 57 in 2016, led to an increase in crime by repeat offenders, and tougher parole standards are needed.

Opponents of Prop 20 argue that the measure is a prison spending scheme that will increase spending for prisons, money that should go to programs like schools, rehabilitation, mental health and homelessness.

Prop 21 – Expands Local Governments’ Authority to Enact Rent Control on Residential Property. Initiative Statute.

Prop 21 is the latest rent control proposition. If passed, it would amend state law to allow local governments to establish rent control for residential properties over 15 years old. Local rent-control limits can differ from the statewide limit, but local governments would be required to allow landlords to increase rents by 15 % after three years. Also, people who own no more than two housing units with separate titles, such as single-family homes and duplexes, are exempt from rent control. Currently, 64% of African Americans in California are renters.

Those in favor of Prop 21 argue that putting a cap on California’s sky-high rents is a strategic move that will assist renters to stay in their homes and help prevent homelessness. Half of renter households in the state are overburdened and spend more than 30 % of their incomes on rent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Opponents, primarily developers, landlords and business owners, argue that rent control would discourage construction and take affordable units off the market.

Prop 22 – Exempts App-Based Transportation and Delivery Companies From Providing Employee Benefits to Certain Drivers. Initiative Statute

Prop 22 is about employment classification for rideshare and delivery drivers, affecting the companies Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, among others. If it passes, these companies will be allowed to continue to classify their drivers as independent contractors with benefits from those app-based companies, including a base wage and healthcare subsidies. Currently, these drivers are legally classified as employees under AB-5.

Proponents of the ballot measure argue it would allow gig drivers, who are majority African American and Latino, to keep their flexibility and continue earning income in a turbulent economy.

Those against Prop 22 argue that it would allow the companies to underpay their drivers, and exempt gig companies from providing standard benefits that drivers need, like unemployment insurance, paid time off, and workers compensation.

Prop 23 – Authorizes State Regulation of Kidney Dialysis Clinics. Establishes Minimum Staffing and Other Requirements. Initiative Statute.

Prop 23 regards state regulation of dialysis clinics. If Prop 23 passes, all dialysis clinics would require at least one licensed physician on-site during treatment. It would also require clinics to report infection data to state health officials and require state approval for clinics to close or reduce services. State and local health care costs would increase due to increased dialysis treatment costs.

Supporters of Prop 23 argue that the regulations are necessary to keep large dialysis corporations in line.

Opponents of Prop 23 argue that many dialysis clinics would have to restrict hours or shut down if they had to pay a licensed physician, and that dialysis patients would have trouble affording increased treatment costs. They also note that the proposition does not require that the physicians have any specialized knowledge in dialysis or kidney function.

Prop 24 – Amends Privacy Laws. Initiative Statute. 

Prop 24 concerns consumer data privacy laws, which prevent businesses from sharing personal information gathered digitally, including from websites.  If passed, it would strengthen the California Consumer Privacy Act by letting consumers tell businesses to limit the use of their sensitive data, such as an individual’s exact location and race, and prohibiting businesses from keeping consumer data for longer than necessary. It would also establish a new state agency dedicated to enforcing privacy laws and increase financial penalties for violations concerning consumers under age 16.

Those in favor of Prop 24 argue that the current consumer privacy law isn’t strong enough, and that the measure would give people more control over their personal data, and make it easier for consumers to sue companies if their email accounts and passwords are stolen or hacked.

Opponents say the measure was written behind closed doors and included the participation of companies that are the targets of regulation.

Prop 25 – Referendum on Law That Replaced Money Bail with System Based on Public Safety and Flight Risk

Proposition 25 is a veto referendum on SB 10, a 2018 law that would replace cash bail with risk assessments for suspects awaiting trial. If Prop 25 passes, it would replace the current system, where suspects pay a cash bond to be released from jail with a promise to return for trail, with risk assessment to determine whether a detained suspect is a flight risk or a danger to the public. The state superior courts would establish divisions responsible for conducting risk assessments and making recommendations, and the state Judicial Court would determine which factors are considered for the assessments.

Prop 25 supporters argue that the risk assessment system would be fairer than the current system, which depends on a suspect’s ability to afford bail.

Opponents of Prop 25 argue that the risk assessments will likely discriminate against Black and Brown people and increase racial profiling. They also point out that it will give judges unchecked power with no accountability, and that setting up the new system would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

For more information on the propositions visit the California Secretary of State Website: https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/qualified-ballot-measures

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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