November 2016 marks the next major election and is set to feature a few new measures and potentially many more to be voted on on the California ballot alone. Some of these possible items include the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes, the overturning of mandatory vaccinations, raising the minimum wage and reduced transgender rights.
Current Ballot Items
Three referendums already qualifying to be placed on the California 2016 ballot will attempt to overturn the statewide plastic bag ban, incorporate multilingual education programs in public elementary schools and change the way that Medi-Cal is funded.
The American Progressive Bag Alliance has led the campaign rivaling the current statewide plastic bag policy. Present legislation restricts large grocery stores and pharmacies from providing single-use plastic bags to customers in order to reduce plastic bag litter and pollution, and instead requires them to charge 10 cents for a recyclable, compostable and reusable bag.
Another initiative will focus on allowing access to multilingual education. If passed, most of the “English in Public Schools” initiative of 1998 will be repealed, allowing languages other than English to be used in public educational instruction when teaching “limited proficient students.”
Lastly, the third bill to be voted on is the California Medi-Cal Hospital Reimbursement Initiative. Medi-Cal is a program that helps low-income individuals pay for health insurance within California and is another name for the federal Medicaid program. Hospitals are required to pay fees in order to receive Medicaid funding, leading to an estimated $2 billion in additional funding for Medi-Cal. This initiative is aimed at adding language to the California Constitution that would require hospital fee changes to go through voters in order to assure hospital fees that are diverted to Medi-Cal patients.
Potential ballot additions
Thirty-seven ballot measures have received clearance for signature collections so far, with most of them requiring 365,880 signatures to be added onto the 2016 ballot.
An initiative regarding transgender bathroom usage in the state of California has been approved to gather signatures. If added to the ballot and approved by voters, individuals will be required to “use facilities in accordance with their biological sex in government buildings.” In this context, biological sex refers to how each individual is categorized “as determined at birth, through medical examination, or court judgment recognizing a change of gender.”
Quarrel over the current California mandatory vaccination laws have sparked a new initiative that is attempting to overturn the existing policy. Currently, only physician recommendations against vaccinations are considered to be valid exemptions for schoolchildren to not receive required vaccinations. Supporters of this initiative would like to see personal belief and religious reasons reinstated as respected grounds of rejecting vaccinations.
Brian Nguyen, a third-year biology major stands with the current vaccination legislation that makes it mandatory for all school children to be vaccinated. “I think vaccines should be mandatory. To put it simply, it’s like child abuse in a sense. If you were a parent and there was a harmful animal in front of you and then you placed your child in front of it and saying ‘have your way’ that’s child abuse. In a sense that’s the same with vaccination, the parent is either willing or not willing to protect their child from harm. We already have laws in place against child abuse, so making vaccination mandatory just couples with laws we already have in place.”
The legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes is also likely to appear on the 2016 ballot. Proponents of this initiative want to generate a new stream of revenue through a general retail sales tax. Oregon, Colorado, Alaska and Washington so far are the only states that have legalized marijuana to be used for this purpose.
Minimum wage remains a topic of both state and federal debate. While the California minimum wage will increase to $10 in January, a proposed initiative will attempt to raise the California minimum wage gradually to $15 by 2021.
“Increasing the minimum wage means that companies are now less willing to employ the same number, let alone employing more people, since it will be more expensive to hire. With the increase in minimum wage, companies will want to maintain or even increase their level of productivity which ultimately meant that employees will be overworked and given unattainable goals to achieve,” elucidated third-year business administration student Elissa Lim.
In other news, Governor Jerry Brown has recently signed a bill that will sharply increase the initiative filing fee from $200 to $2,000 in order to prevent measures being filed that are perceived as flippant.