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Election Update: California Says “Yes” To Term Limits And “No” To Cigarette Tax

Election Update: California Says “Yes” To Term Limits And “No” To Cigarette Tax

June 5 marked the first test of California’s newly drawn political districts and the first comprehensive use of the top-two primary, which in races for the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and state Legislature sends the two candidates who collect the most votes to the November election, regardless of party affiliation.

That meant, for example, that casting my vote for Senator yesterday involved reading a list of 24 candidates: 6 Democrats, 14 Republicans, 2 Peace and Freedom Party, 1 American Independent, and 1 Libertarian.

Both changes were intended to favor candidates with at least somewhat wide appeal, including those not hitched to any political party, in order to mute the partisan feuding currently consuming Washington and Sacramento.

However, in that race for Senate, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, finished far ahead of her 23 challengers in her bid for a fourth full term, with 49.3% of the vote. Elizabeth Emken, an autism activist endorsed by the state Republican leadership, came second with 12.5%, and thus will face the popular, well funded Feinstein in November.

With both Democratic President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney already having sewn up their party’s nominations, California’s presidential primary was anti-climactic, and only about 40% of those eligible actually voted.

Propositions 28 and 29

Californians approved a change to term limits for state lawmakers by a wide margin: 61.4% to 38.6%.

Proposition 28 will limit lawmakers to 12 years in the Legislature, but allow them to serve the entire stretch in the Assembly or Senate. In 1990, Californians limited lawmakers to three two-year terms in the Assembly and two four-year stints in the Senate, for a total of 14 years in Sacramento.

Proposition 29, which would have imposed an additional $1 per pack on cigarettes, to raise an estimated $860 million a year for research on tobacco-related diseases and prevention programs, failed by a narrow margin: 50.8% to 49.2%.

That could well be because tobacco companies poured nearly $47 million into their campaign to defeat the proposition.

The American Cancer Society and other proponents predicted that the increase in cigarette prices would stop 220,000 kids from starting to smoke and encourage 100,000 current smokers to quit. They raised more than $11 million, including $500,000 from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and $1.5 million from cycling champ Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation.

But this was not enough to stop the Big Tobacco interests: backed by the tobacco money, a coalition of anti-tax and business organizations mounted an aggressive campaign against the initiative, including a flood of television commercials and campaign mailers.

The First African American Or Female District Attorney In L.A. County?

In Southern California contests, the nonpartisan race for Los Angeles County district attorney was locked in a three-way contest among Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson and L.A. City Atty. Carmen Trutanich. Lacey, who was leading the pack, would become the first African American or female D.A. in county history if elected in a November runoff to replace the retiring Steve Cooley.

Now it’s on to November, when the ballot promises to be very long and complicated, and will include that important vote on the death penalty.

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15 comments

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10:53AM PDT on Jun 9, 2012

Legislating personal habits by taxation or criminal law is always a bad idea. I smoke, but have never used drugs and quit drinking almost forty years ago. Taxing tobacco and alcohol is a desperate substitute for offering a compelling case to forego their use, and criminalizing drugs has had no impact on their use, while collectively costing us a great deal more than the national debt over the last forty years.

Both lead to hypocritical and asinine rhetoric. If smoking will shorten my life by twenty years – specifically the twenty years when 50% of my life-long healthcare costs will be incurred – then it surely doesn't increase national healthcare costs. If pot is as bad as tobacco and alcohol, both of which are legal, there is no case to criminalize it. Yet, half our prison inmates are there for drug -related charges.

If there were no alcohol and tobacco taxes and no war on drugs, how much of that money would we spend on goods and services that create jobs? Is keeping one tax or ATF agent really worth more than keeping a firefighter or a teacher? If there'd been no war on drugs, would crack and drug cartels even exist?

10:27PM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

I detest tobacco, but I voted no on 29. I thought the entire campaign against it was dirty and full of misinformation, but I still voted no. It felt weird, especially because I liked what Prop 29 promoted, even with all its so-called faults. The only thing I could not support in good conscience was the fact that it seemed too eager to treat smokers as easy targets instead of people. It was SUCH a small difference that it really hurt when I cast my vote. Frankly, if the tax had been levied on the tobacco companies instead of the buyers, I would not have hesitated to vote yes. Sure, they would have passed it right on to their customers, but I would have been okay with that.
The mere fact that "we all know" something is bad is not good enough to keep charging people more for it. If it's that simple, why don't we go after alcohol? Secondhand smoke doesn't hold a candle to the damage people do every day while intoxicated. Or fast food. 10 cents per cheeseburger would raise a LOT more revenue than a dollar per pack. And BOTH lead to an increase in cancer rates. The fact that they decided to pick on a shrinking and increasingly ostracized minority that hardly fights back anymore... it just didn't seem right.

5:30PM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

So, Barbara S., now Californians can line the pockets of the big tabacco companies. I smoke. Wish I had never started. Butts were dirt cheap when I was kid. You could buy loosies, one cigarette, one penny. It was illegal, but so what. Now, you should want to make it difficult for people to begin smoking. Hell, make the tax two bucks. Make cancer an expensive proposition. If you don't smoke, you don't pay the tax. Simple.

11:45AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

Harriet B., in most places the taxes on cigarettes are more than 50% of the cost, in some place the taxes are as high as 75% of the cost. There is NO other product with taxes this high. By the way cancer is on the rise while the numbers of smokers are declining. This is just another way to steal from minorities.

11:10AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

Barbara S. so you bought the Tobacco companies bs....the only people paying the tax increase would be smokers, do you really care if the money is spent in another state but the result was to find the cure for cancer? Really? Really? People across this nation, no in the entire world are working to find a cure for cancer, millions are given annually to try to find the cure....somehow, I don't think that if the cure was found in Mass. and you had cancer you would care where the cure came from, do you think you would really care. No not all Californians would have to pay the tax, and let's not forget about the funds that would have been set aside to help educate children from smoking. By the way the actual amount of the tax is 23 cents a pack of cigerattes.

Term limits are set at 12 years, and that is plenty of time for institutional memory, and yet it will allow new people with new ideas and desires to serve to come in and join in serving the people. By the way when one speaks of institutional memory, it is normally garned by the fact that the entire institute does not step down at one time, but that people step down at different times. Many charity boards that work extremely well are managed in this manner, you have your "old hands" and your "new folk" and the memory continues

10:50AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

I grew up in Northern California I am familiar with and find it odd that Senator Dianne Feinstein has come so far?

10:27AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

I have to say, as a Californian, this scares me more than Wisconsin.

7:10AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

Christeen A. It is nice to see the young interested in politics. With time, you may come to see that term limits are a very poor idea. It destroys institution memory and soon you are left with no one who understands how things work. Would you like to work for a corporation who fired everyone after four years of service? Think about it. We have a way to "fire" politicians who are no longer effect: elections.

7:04AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

Go California.Term limits for sure.No to any new taxes.

6:50AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

Term limits are only good if your representatives are NOT doing good work. While there are lots of elected officials who get into Office and do little for their constituents, sometimes good people who would work all their lives making mostly correct choices which benefit everyone, are sacrificed because of all the others who do not.

As far as Prop. 29 goes, we had no guarantees that ANY of it would be spent IN California for the next 15 years; yet, Californians would have had to pay every cent collected from it, regardless. It was a poorly drafted Proposition, and as far as I'm concerned, deserved to be defeated. Why should Californians line the pockets of building corporate offices outside the State, when we need jobs just as badly as all the others? The wealthy will always buy their tobacco products; it's the poor who would have suffered the most penalties from prop. 29.

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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