Endorsements 2012: State ballot measures - Page 4

End the death penalty -- Yes on 34. No on 35 saves our sexworkers. GMO food gets a label when you vote Yes on 37

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We agree with sex workers advocates that human trafficking is a vile crime. But we also agree that decriminalization of prostitution should be the first step towards solving it, making sex workers unafraid to come forward and report abuse in their industry and making it easier to distinguish between forced and consensual labor. In the meantime, state Sen. Mark Leno is working on legislation that will address trafficking without the problems in Prop. 35.

We'll wait for Leno's alternative. Vote No on 35.

PROPOSITION 36

THREE STRIKES MODIFICATION

YES

On Nov. 4, 1995, a small-time criminal named Leando Andrada stole $150 worth of videotapes from K-Mart. The father of three was charged with felony theft — and since he'd had prior convictions for burglary and marijuana transportation, his conviction led to a sentence of 25 years to life.

That's nuts — but it's the result of a very bad 1994 law that has made California one of the harshest states in the nation for repeat offenders — and has overcrowded the state prisons and cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

The law states than anyone convicted of three "strike" felonies, no matter how nonviolent, must serve a minimum of 25 years behind bars. Even the people who sponsored the three-strikes law now agree that it's gone too far.

Consider: Nearly 8,900 three-strikers are in prison in California, with 3,500 of them serving life sentences. A disproportionate 46 percent of three-strikers are African American.

Incarcerating all of these prisoners is expensive. Reforming three strikes could save the state of California $70 million to $90 million annually if it passes. And some of that money would be directed towards solving more murders and rapes — instead of paying so Californians can languish in prison for stealing video tapes.

Prop. 36 wouldn't repeal three strikes. It would simply require that the third strike offense be considered violent or serious. And it would provide a means for people currently serving ridiculously long sentences for relatively minor crimes to appeal and seek relief.

This is long overdue. Vote yes on 36.

PROPOSITION 37

GMO LABELING

YES

A huge amount of the food on supermarket shelves in California contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs.) A lot of people, particularly in the chemical and agribusiness industry, think that's just fine. They say that GMOs have no negative health impacts and improve the ability of producers to bring low-cost fresh food to customers.

We freely admit: The scientific evidence on GMOs is pretty sparse. There are some studies done on rodents that show organ failure and cancerous tumors related to some GMOs, but there are no human studies at all and the Food and Drug Administration says there's no need to regulate GMOs.

Prop. 37 doesn't seek regulations or limits in any way. It just mandates that GMO food be labeled — the way it is in at least 50 countries worldwide, including all of the European Union, China, Japan and Russia. Hardly a radical proposition, but it's got Big Ag in a furor.

The No on 37 campaign is funded by Monsanto, Dupont, Pepsico, and other chemical, seed and food companies that make their money from genetically engineered foods. Those outfits say engineered food is perfectly healthy, and that food labeling would unnecessarily scare consumers.

We'll be glad if they're right, and GMOs are just fine and dandy. But consumers deserve a choice — and labeling would force the industry to support further studies on consumer safety. Vote yes.

PROPOSITION 38

TAX FOR EDUCATION

YES

There's so much wrong with Prop. 38, starting with its origin. It's another billionaire plaything, the work of the wealthy Molly Munger, who decided, on her own, that the state should raise income taxes to pay for better schools.

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