Capitol Beat – And That’s a Wrap

Aaron Read and Randy Perry
Legislative Advocates
Aaron Read & Associates, LLC

Election Results

Well, every once in a while a World Series and an election bring about an exhilarating surprise. The Cubs broke a jinx of more than a century. Donald Trump shook the political system to its core and made everyone question the media’s coverage. On November 8, the world watched as 57% of eligible voters in the United States used their freedom to cast their vote in the 2016 general election. Because California’s constitutional officers are not up for election until 2018, PORAC’s main focus during this cycle was on state initiatives and state legislative races. We did very well.

PORAC endorsed candidates in 62 of the Assembly races. Of those, we successfully predicted the winner in 58, for a success rate of 94%. The races that were lost were among the closest and most controversial: Karina Cervantez-Alejo in AD 30, Christy Smith in AD 38, Cheryl Brown in AD 47 and Eric Linder in AD 60.

There were 20 Senate districts on the ballot, and PORAC endorsed candidates in 16. Of those, we successfully predicted the winner in 15, for a success rate of 94%.

Of the 53 California congressional races, PORAC endorsed candidates in 41. CD 7, between Republican Scott Jones and Democratic incumbent Ami Bera, was still too close to call at the time this article was written. Excluding that, we successfully predicted the winner in 38 races, for a success rate of 95%. We lost Mike Honda in CD 17 and Isadore Hall in CD 44.

Overall, very few incumbents were unseated — Congressman Mike Honda and Assembly Members Patty Lopez, Cheryl Brown, Eric Linder, Young Kim and David Hadley.

Initiatives

A total of 17 initiatives were on the California ballot. It was a tight race to the finish line for a few of the measures, but as of November 15, all votes were tallied. PORAC took positions on 10 initiatives, and of those, seven were successful. The following four initiatives have or would have had the biggest impact on peace officers in California.

Proposition 57, the Governor’s plan to decrease California’s prison population, is a follow-up to 2014’s Prop 47, which reduced many nonviolent crimes to misdemeanors and gave inmates a higher chance of parole. Prop 57 passed with 63.74% of the vote. This not only increases the chances of parole for nonviolent offenders, but it also gives inmates more opportunity to earn credit for good behavior. Additionally, as of January 1, 2017, judges, not prosecutors, will be the deciding factor in whether or not juveniles are tried as adults in court. Props 47 and 57 are both responses to a 2009 mandate for California to reduce its prison population. Although Governor Brown met with the PORAC Executive Committee and Board on multiple occasions asking for their support, PORAC opposed this misguided initiative. 

Proposition 62 was developed by Taxpayers for Sentencing Reform to repeal the death penalty, and was strongly opposed by PORAC. If passed, it would have done away with the death penalty and replaced the maximum punishment for murder with life in prison without parole. PORAC sponsored a campaign against this ballot measure, and produced and ran ads featuring Richard Allen Davis, the death row inmate who brutally murdered Polly Klaas. PORAC’s active involvement against this measure played an important role in its defeat. The initiative failed with a 53.79% “No” vote.

Proposition 64, the “California Marijuana Legalization Initiative,” or, as supporters called it, the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” passed with 56.14% of the vote. PORAC opposed this initiative that makes the recreational use of marijuana legal for anyone 21 or older. Additionally, as of January 1, 2018, a marijuana sales and cultivation tax will go into effect. Counties and municipalities are empowered to restrict where marijuana businesses can be located, and local governments can ban the sale from their jurisdiction. Individuals who are serving criminal sentences for activities that are now legal under Prop 64 are eligible for resentencing.

Proposition 66 was one of the last votes to be finalized. It was a close call. Unlike Prop 62, this initiative reforms the death penalty by limiting the appeal process to five years, therefore speeding up the current process for convictions and sentences. Death row inmates will still be required to work while in prison, but more of their wages will go toward victim restitution. Backed by many law enforcement agencies and departments across the state, with PORAC leading the way, this initiative passed with 51.3% of the vote, making it the second-closest vote this year. Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), who lost a niece to the terrible cruelty of serial killers, agreed to be our spokesperson for PORAC’s No on 62 campaign and was featured in PORAC’s statewide TV and radio ads. Thank you to PORAC for continuing to ensure that the worst of the worst killers receive the strongest sentences.

Looking to the Future

In July, Americans were dealt a blow with the tragedies of Dallas and Baton Rouge, resulting in a heated national debate between law enforcement and its critics. We do not dispute a need for transparency, training, new policies and procedures, and are doing everything possible to encourage community trust. However, the threat to officer safety deserves equal attention.

Law enforcement is listening to the community as we strive for safer streets and work to find a reasonable solution to today’s debate. It is not our way to hide from the public. We want a sensible solution that will enhance public safety, transparency and accountability without endangering officers who are already responding to dangerous situations. PORAC believes a new measure can be written to responsibly address the concerns raised by our detractors.

Although we are in the relatively early stages of conversation, PORAC is working with stakeholders to consider drafting legislation to enhance transparency in areas such as citizen complaints, officer-involved shootings and serious uses of force. As always, PORAC will be leading the conversation in 2017 around these critical national issues.

Thank You

The political upheaval promises a busy legislative session. We would like to take a minute to thank each of you for your hard work. To say this year has been difficult would be an understatement. Between the increasing dangers that officers are facing on the streets, the critically important initiatives we fought for and against, the legislative battles we waged, and the vital discussions we’ve had with leaders and policymakers, 2016 was one for the record books. We are proud to be part of your law enforcement family, and we look forward to another successful year as your advocates. Happy holidays!