2016 Political Measure Wrap-up

Thanks for reading my first two posts. We are at a very important moment in time when the people are empowered by living in the information age - knowledge is power.

This is my last installment of this series of national topics on tomorrow’s ballots - I will wrap up some more big topics and highlight what the politicians call housekeeping issues, which run the gamut from voter rights to education. Remember, these topics will not be on every state’s ballot – they more than likely, though, were either on your state’s ballot in the past or will be in the future.

As we prepare to take to the polls tomorrow, let’s start with the topic of voting. We certainly have come a long way from our first election, with its limits on who can vote and what can be voted on. There are three states that have voting on their ballots tomorrow.

South Dakota is being innovative by having voters decide if they want to switch to a single nonpartisan primary in which all candidates are listed on one ballot. In this system, the top two vote-getters would move on to the general election. This aligns with a direct democratic system whereby the people are voting more directly for candidates as opposed to leaving it in the hands of delegates. They also will have voters decide whether to give redistricting duties to an independent commission.

Missouri also has voting on the ballot, where alarmingly voters will decide whether to amend their constitution to apply a strict photo ID law at the polls.

In Maine, voters are considering whether to use a ranked-choice voting system rather than a winner-take-all one. This is the first time alternative voting has appeared on a state ballot.

The topic that might be on the most state’s ballots is legislature, experiencing an unusual amount of attention by showing up on five different state ballots.

Californians are deciding if bills should be made public at least 72 hours before they are heard, while Alabama voters will be deciding on updates on its impeachment laws. Meanwhile, in Idaho voters could give the legislature the right to review all administrative actions by executive branch. In North Dakota voters will decide whether to explicitly require legislatures to live in the districts they represent.

Just as important as the topic of voting is campaign finance, which is on four different ballots - most notably in California and Washington. Voters in both states will decide whether to tell their congressional delegations if Citizens United (a Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate political donation) should be undone.

Washington seem to be the most adept at offering the alternative to Citizen United as voters in that state will be deciding whether to establish their own public funding system for campaigns. This has already been implemented with a program in Seattle.  

South Dakota, which has the second highest amount of measures, will be asking voters to decide whether or not to increase contribution disclosure requirements, decrease limits on contributions, and whether to initiate a public finance system of their own.

One of the most economically large topics on ballots tomorrow will be Transportation and Infrastructure. In New Jersey voters, will decide if a portion of the diesel fuel tax should go to transportation and infrastructure projects. In Illinois, voters will decide if all gas revenues should be dedicated to transportation, preventing them being used for general-fund purposes. Meanwhile, voters in Louisiana will choose if a revenue fund will be established to help pay for transportation projects.

Last but certainly not least, Maine will have voters decide whether or not to approve $100 million for a variety of transportation projects that include major freight movement as well as the creation of bike and pedestrian paths.

Oklahoma, Washington, Louisiana and Oregon will have various tax related issues on their ballots. State sales tax increase for Oklahoma. Washingtonians will be voting on a Carbon emissions tax, while Louisiana and Oregon voters will be deciding whether to increase corporate taxes.

Housekeeping topics include – hunting, fishing, farming, ranching, energy, cigarette taxes, gambling, healthcare, and “one-offs”.  As far as hunting, fishing, farming, and ranching goes the most notable issues voters will be voting on are in Indiana and Kansas where they are letting voters decide whether to enshrine these activities as rights.

In Massachusetts, citizens will decide whether or not to prohibit the sale of eggs, veal and pork from animals confined in ways that severely limit their ability to move.

Florida and Nevada will vote on Ballot Measures addressing solar energy.

California, Colorado, Missouri and North Dakota all plan to add significant increases to their cigarette taxes.

One-offs include Oklahomans deciding if grocery stores can sell alcohol seven days a week. Also, South Dakotans will be deciding on two measures capping interest rates for payday lenders. Californians will be deciding whether or not adult film actors should use condoms.

Healthcare care, which is now trending and being addressed at the state level, is one of the most important housekeeping issues. Colorado has measures voters will be deciding, the first being whether or not to establish a state funded, single-payer health care system, as well as deciding on whether to become the sixth state to allow medical aid in dying.

In California, voters will be deciding by citizen initiatives whether to limit the amount paid by the state’s healthcare budget for prescriptions drugs to the discounted price paid by the veterans’ administration.

 

Arguably the three biggest topics on the ballots besides marijuana and criminal justice are labor pensions, minimum wage, education, and guns.

As far as Labor and Pensions, voters in Alabama and Virginia will decide on adding the provisions of their right-to-work laws to their constitutions joining 10 states that have already done so.

Regarding minimum wage, Arizona, Maine, and Washington all have measures to raise it, which will be crucial to our economy. However, South Dakota has a measure to roll back the wage for teens.  In 2014 this topic was undoubtedly one of major concerns for many Americans, with five states doing so by a vote of the people.

Education is on the most state’s ballots at 10 but is usually represented in abundance around voting time. California, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah all are seeking an increase in funding.

Oregonians will be voting on outdoor education as well as retention rate, while voters will also be deciding on courses of action regarding chronically failing schools. In Massachusetts, voters will be deciding on issues pertaining to charter schools, and Alaska on student loans.

The last topic to address is guns, with four states voting on measures surrounding them. California has a citizen initiative that will address how people lose their eligibility to have a firearm, as well as one that would require a permit verifying the buyer is not barred from owning a firearm before buying ammunition. Another measure would require owners to report lost or stolen weapons.

Other gun related measures include Washingtonians deciding whether to allow the temporary removal of guns from the possession of an at-risk person. Also, Maine and Nevada are focusing on measures regarding background checks.

Along with electing the Head of State we will be voting on congress representatives and senator. However, it is important to note that over half of the measures are citizen initiatives, illustrating that people are now more informed than ever.  We are truly living in arguably the big bang of our democracy by limiting legislature and developing a more direct democracy.

Is that not what true democracy is, after all? America is the great experiment that countries all over the world look to emulate – a government that operates by putting the power not in monarchs, dictators, or power thirsty politicians but the actual people of the state and nation.

We are not perfect, but every day we are writing history. We have made mistakes and surely will make some in the future. However, with true bipartisan governance in the House and Senate we can achieve unity in our democracy.  Implementing an international humanitarian ethics commission to help restore public relations worldwide and limiting foreign private interest groups who might be fueled by making profits at the expense of powerless American citizens could help turn this country around. More focus on direct democracy and less on the legislature may ensure a feeling of one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Criminal Justice 2016

Welcome back I hope you all found the prior posts engaging and inciteful.

Today I want to discuss arguably the second biggest issue on the upcoming measure ballots you all may or may not be voting for next Tuesday and that’s criminal justice. It’s important to note that even though issues pertaining to this topic may not be on your state’s ballot, awareness is just as important because it can have an impact on your state or nationwide legislature in the future.

The numbers support there is more of a concern for education reform than criminal justice. That being said, the most important as far as public and private relations, policy, and defense is surely criminal justice reform. 

For a country that has 5% of the entire world’s population it holds a quarter (25%) of its prison population. This is more than China which has about 6 times the population of the United States of America.

Why this is such a huge public relations issue is because America has been regarded through time as the leaders of the free world. I can’t tell you how much growing up here in the United States you are beat in the head with the promise of being who you truly are meant to be. What makes America an ideal for immigrants looking to start a new life is having your basic human rights identified, upheld, and encouraged as a human is something that most of the rest of the world would beg to have. This is why the United States military is the best in the world and at the forefront of human rights issues worldwide.

However, there are still a great number of Americans who are getting slighted by a justice system that was built off profits, biased false propaganda, and perpetuated by politics. Issues on the ballot such as parole for nonviolent offenders, pretrial release reform, and death penalty all are direct reflections of this.

California has both Parole and the death penalty on the ballot. Parole for nonviolent offenders you would think makes sense especially for a prison system that is regarded by most intelligent people as overcrowded with prisoners but the criminal justice has had a few issues dealing with this topic.

Even Michael Hough who is a republican Senator for Maryland has been on record saying that government has been trying to keep people out of prison. However, Michael Hough is also a member of A.L.E.C (American Legislative Exchange Council) which through history has been a part of creating bills and introducing to legislature to enhance the profits for corporations benefiting off the increasing number of prisoners in the United States of America.  

One of the people who help found A.L.E.C. was Lou Barnett who became the national political director of Ronald Reagan’s political action committee. Reagan leveraged the southern popular vote by introducing mandatory sentencing for crack cocaine and propagating the criminalization of blacks in the drug war started by Nixon a decade before.

During Reagan’s administration, we saw one of the biggest spikes in prison population history in United States. It grew by 2 times the amount it was just at the end of the previous decade adding 402 thousand prisoners.

It is important to note that A.L.E.C. is a network of conservative politicians and private sector corporation officials. The purpose of A.L.E.C. is to draft and share model state-level legislation for distribution among state-level governments.  They’ve introduced bills policies on a wide range of issues in government.

A.L.E.C. have been instrumental for introducing various bills that has enhanced bias and has led to thousands of convictions in the criminal justice system. It’s important to note that the impacts of these convictions provide the leverage for politicians in elections by influencing media relations and stories, as well as affected convicts’ ability to vote. Corporations profit also by gaining free labor to produce their products to help maximize profits.

Bias in the criminal justice system has had an impact on the death penalty issue as well. Death Penalty is on the ballot of Nebraska and will surely be on other states’ ballots in the future. The best example of the importance of this issue as a human rights problem that should be noted is Donald Trump’s views on the what’s known to the public as the “Central Park Jogger case”.

The case was a murder and rape trial were 5 teenagers, 4 of them under 18, were prosecuted and sentenced from 6 to 11 years in prison until DNA evidence proved they were innocent. Donald Trump was so compelled by the case that he took out a full-page advertisement to give these kids the death penalty.

Malakia Cyril who is the Executive Director of Center for Media Justice documented the happenings in this case in a documentary titled 13th and stated “In this case 5 innocent teens went to prison because the public pressured to lock up these ‘animals was so strong’”

6 to 11 years… teenagers. Ault prison…

Although these might be extremes and not necessarily what we will be voting for next week I just want to point out that there is a reason people consider criminal justice, here in America, a system. The increase of private prisons and bills that support mass incarceration them is clearly a force that is ensuring these biases are exacerbated for profits and politics. From the 1970s when Republican Richard Nixon took office and we saw the first major increase in the prison population, there has been a domination of the republican party since. It’s important to acknowledge the dramatic increases prison population which correlates during this time growing by 5 times what it was.

You would think the staggering increase would be analyzed and assessed as there being other fundamental problems in the United States. There is less of an emphasis of mental healthcare and socio economic issues than there is on actual criminal issues. This illustrates that there is a fundamental human rights issue not being addressed.

Philosophically the best way to rationalize what exactly I mean is in the case of Dylan Roof. Many people are still wondering why he has yet to be prosecuted. He has admitted to killing 9 people in the church and has given motive. Sure, there are plenty people who believe the death penalty is appropriate however the reason the case is taking so long is because people are confused on if this should be treated as a mental health issues rather than a criminal issue. There is no denying he broke the law but how do he is prosecuted, judged, and sentence is determined based off this making this paramount distinction.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying we should let wound up, radicalized, psychotic, socio paths run the streets wreaking havoc and creating terror. However, when it comes to black people the law can’t be so cut and dry based off the history of this nation.

To deny the bias towards minorities is simply a fallacy. 40.2% of the prison population is black which means black men are 6 times more likely to go to jail then white men. That means 1 out of every 17 white men are imprisoned compared to the ratio of black men which is 1 out of 3. Men lie, Women lie, the numbers don’t.

Another issue in Criminal justice that people in America will be voting on is pretrial release reform which is on the ballot in New Mexico. Although New Mexico might not be the biggest player on the national scale pretrial release has had a major impact on the numbers of people imprisoned especially in low income socio-economical communities.

Kalief Browder is a great example of someone who was accused of a crime and was sent to jail. However, there was a $10,000 bail place for his release that his family wasn’t able to make so he sat in jail awaiting trial for over 3 years.

Here is probably the most wicked part of his ordeal. While his was awaiting trial, he was approached numerous times about taking a plea deal being trying to convince him if he went to trial it could be convicted for longer Even though he was innocent of the crime.

While being in jail he endured abuse from inmates and guards. He was so stressed that he attempted suicide twice. After waiting three years he was released free to go however time is one that’s hard to get back. Browder is just one example of plenty men who get lost in the system. People, a majority of the American public don’t ever hear about.

On 60 Minutes there was a lawyer(s), approved by the American bar association, on record saying that a few of us (lawyers) control the country by benefitting on the fact they create laws that protect them. If that isn’t a clear statement of a man’s abuse of power and influence, then I don’t know what is. Once a man is convicted it affects his ability to gain loans for school, ability to get a job, and ability to vote.

I commend individuals like Hillary Clinton who has acknowledged the need for criminal justice reform. Also, Newt Gingrich who has publicly stated no one who is white can understand what it’s like being black in America. As well as Warren Buffet for participating in philanthropic endeavors around the globe, all seem to be aware and identify the difference between human rights and criminal justice.

Even though criminal justice might not be the most popular topic on ballots across the nation it should be the most important. If the United States is considered the leaders of the free world it’s imperative that us as citizens have a grasp as to what that truly means. The United States has a private sector which is in cooperation with the government and has major influence on how other governments around the globe operate.

 

 

What we really need to know about voting next week

First I just want to say thank you for reading. This is my inaugural post on Commune Community and I hope you find it engaging. I also want to urge you to continue the conversation.

The main purpose of this post is to help raise awareness about the upcoming measures being voted on next week along with the elections. Most people know about the two primary candidates running representing the Democratic and Republican party.

There’s no doubt who are next president will have a profound impact on our political landscape but knowing about these measures as well as following the events of congress will have a greater impact on our everyday lives. That’s what the focus of this column helps to address and I plan on addressing a new topic every day.

There are 145 measures that span over 34 states that will be on ballots next week that address issues including marijuana, criminal Justice, taxes, campaign finance, minimum wage transportation and infrastructure, and what congress deems “housekeeping” issues

First on the commune community docket we will be addressing tonight is the bumper crop Marijuana. Marijuana has been on the ballot since 1996 but has now become the most popular issue of this election cycle/ measures.

There are 9 states that have marijuana on the ballot next week including major states such as Florida for medical use and California for recreational. Many advocates of the herb feel that once it is approved by voters this will be the momentum to finally prohibit the drug and make it legal. I would like to take a little bit of time to dive into this issue a little bit further let’s start by making the distinction between medical and recreational marijuana.

There are currently 25 states that have legalized medical cannabis and four more that have it on the ballot for next week. All over the country the herb is being used to help people who suffer from diseases like cancer. It helps with pain relief as well as developing appetite as well as helping people with epilepsy reduce their amount of seizures.

Marijuana has also been a part of a recent study that shows it can help with the regenerating of damage brain tissues and cells in people who have suffered major head trauma or consistent trauma.

Colorado has been America’s first experiment with Recreational marijuana. Most business men see the experiment as a huge success that not only brought in profits for them but the state as well through taxes. The state also saw a 50% decrease in marijuana possession arrests.

Although economically recreational marijuana might have been ideal there are still other cons that came along with it. Most of them are related to the health of infants, young children, and teenagers. The primary concern is how does being under the influence of marijuana effect people when they get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough data to support any position on this however it is a fact that the effects of marijuana are extremely different than that of alcohol which is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in this country according to the NIH.

The Governor of Colorado admits however that there still isn’t enough data available to support these health claims.

Another Con has been the setup of criminal enterprises under Colorado’s lax real estate and marijuana grows where the marijuana is grown. There have been known Russian criminal enterprises that have come to set up grows to makes profits out of state where they can make up to 3 times as much compared to if they operated with a license in the state.

Although Medical marijuana is legal in half of America it’s important to be clear that this is still a federally illegal. However, most marijuana business men think and believe once California votes in favor of recreational marijuana this will all change.

Something that I do want to point out that Marijuana was outlawed by then head of the DEA Harry Anslinger in 1930 who was on record saying “Most marijuana smokers are negroes, Hispanics, jazz musicians and entertainers.” Anslinger goes on to state the drug was associated with Satan. “it is a drug that causes insanity, criminality, and death – the most violence causing drug in the history”

Many people believe Anslinger who was the head of the DEA for over the next 30 years is a contributor to the systematic racism that goes on still today that leads to complications and injustices in the Criminal justice system.

All this being said bottom line Medical marijuana has been a great source for healing and medicine reducing the abuse of opioids. However, there may still need to be studies done on the federal lever to make sure recreational marijuana is fall proof one thing I learned in this world… nothing is. The best thing the federal government can do is properly regulate the marijuana monger businessmen who will ensure they have the most potent products to draw customers at their own expense. In Colorado, there were cases of edible overdoses which have been rectified by placing a limit as to how much can be used in them.

I think it is worth noting that Hilary Clinton, whose husband introduced provisions that led to the convictions of many nonviolent marijuana related crimes, has acknowledged how the convictions are wrong. This makes her the most likely candidate to help reduce the sentences of most of these prisoners.

With marijuana being on 9 ballots, namely California’ for 20 years, it’s easily the most popular topic since 2004. The topic was deciding the definition of marriage being between a man and woman which was on 13 ballots.