The presidential race is huge this election season but it is overshadowing something that will have more impact on the lives of Stanislaus County residents - Measure L.
Passage of Measure L would mean the generation of more money for roads in the county and all nine cities as well as transportation projects affecting school children and senior citizens. If it fails to get a two-third majority, local officials fear they won't have enough money to maintain roads, given how the pot of money has been dwindling.
Measure L would raise the sales tax on goods sold in the county by a half-cent and remain in effect for 25 years to generate an estimated $960 million over its life. That means there would be $38 million per year to be shared locally for transportation. Over the 25 years, it's estimated that $480.2 million would go to repairs of local streets and roads; $48 million for bike and pedestrian paths; $96 million for traffic management; $269 million for regional projects; and $67.2 million for transit services.
Half of the funds would go to cities and the county to spend on a list of road repairs. In the case of Ceres, $33.95 million would be available for local street and road repairs. A list of exact streets to be repaired is detailed on the website, www.stanislaus-localroadsfirst.com under the local investments tab.
Passage of the tax would make Stanislaus County a "self-help" county and enable more state and federal highway monies. Most counties in the state are a self-help county.
Ceres share would be $122,210 annually for bike and pedestrian projects, and $244,420 annually for traffic management.
Hughson would receive $6 million over the 25-year tax life for road maintenance and fund a Whitmore Avenue roundabout. It also provides $600,000 for the Safe Routes to Schools and Hatch Road multi-use trail improvements.
Ceres officials are happy that the tax would direct $30.7 million for the Mitchell/Service/Highway 99 interchange and $17 million toward the county's $71.7 million Faith Home-Garner expressway connection which would ultimately divert truck traffic away from Mitchell Road. The tax will not entirely pay for the $123 million Mitchell-Service interchange. The rest of the funds would be derived from public facility fees, redevelopment bond proceeds and the pursuit of federal and state grants. City Manager Toby Wells remains optimistic that the tax would enable the construction of the Mitchell/Service/99 interchange.
The Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) has outlined the following overall formula for the spending of the tax monies:
• 50 percent of local street repairs;
• 28 percent on regional construction projects;
• 10 percent on traffic management, such as traffic signalization to improving local intersections to reduce vehicle wait time;
• 7 percent for point-to-point services, better transit connections between unincorporated areas and services in Modesto, transit and some money for van connections to the Altamont Corridor Express train station;
• 5 percent will be spent on pedestrian and bike path programs (or $250,000 annually for Ceres);
Californians will also vote on 17 propositions encompassing major topics of debate within the state.
Voters in the area will also be deciding who represents them in the 10th Congressional District - incumbent Jeff Denham or Democratic challenger Michael Eggman. Both men have local farmers.
In the 12th state Assembly race, voters in eastern Stanislaus County (including Hughson and half of Modesto) will be deciding on Heath Flora or Ken Vogel to replace Kristin Olson. Olson cannot run because of term limits and has decided to seek a seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors to take Bill O'Brien's seat.
State Assemblyman Adam Gray is in a low-key campaign to fend off Republican challenger Greg Opinski in the 21st Assembly District. Gray is a former Merced County official
Statewide voters must choose between two Democrats to take over Barbara Boxer's U.S. Senate seat. State Attorney General Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez are battling it out with Harris the favorite to win.
Ceres voters will be decided if they wish to return Tom Hallinan of Ceres to the Yosemite Community College District board seat for Area 7, or if they want to elect farmer Jon Rodriguez.
Voters in Hughson will be deciding on two measures affecting schools there. Measure Q is a $3.2 million bond measure to improve the quality of education, upgrade elementary and middle school classrooms, a new restroom facility at the middle school, install a new field irrigation system at the elementary school and install a security camera system. Measure R is a $2.2 million bond issuance to install a new air conditioning system in the gym, re-roof the gym, provide an all-weather track install a security camera system.
Though there will be 17 measures put before voters at the election on Nov. 8, 18 statewide ballot propositions were put on the ballot in 2016. One measure, Proposition 50, the Suspension of Legislators amendment, was on the ballot for the primary election on June 7 and was approved. One additional measure, the California $15 per hour Minimum Wage Initiative, was certified for the November ballot but was then withdrawn after state legislators passed Senate Bill 3, raising the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022.
Of the 17 measures on the November ballot, 15 were placed by citizens through signature petitions, and two by the legislature.
One proposition that has caused conflict amongst California voters is Proposition 57, or the California Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements Initiative. The proposition is a combined initiated constitutional amendment and state stature, meaning that if approved, the ballot measure will change both the state's constitution and one or more state statutes.
A "yes" vote on Proposition 57 supports increasing parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and allowing judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court. As of the beginning of 2016, there were about 25,000 nonviolent state felons that could seek early release and parole under Proposition 57. The crimes that a number of those felons have committed, however, have some voters up in arms.
The California Republican Party has made their opposition to the initiative known, arguing that the proposition would allow criminals convicted of crimes like rape, lewd acts against a child and human trafficking to be released early from prison. Those in favor of the proposition, including the California Democratic Party and the California Federation of Teachers, argue that the proposition would provide a sustainable way to reduce California's overcrowded prison population, rehabilitating juvenile and adult inmates while still keeping dangerous offenders in prison.
A veto referendum will also be on the November ballot. In 2014, the California State Legislature enacted Senate Bill 270, banning plastic bags. Proposition 67, or the California Plastic Bag Ban Veto Referendum, will be on the ballot in hopes to uphold or ratify the contested legislation.
If Proposition 67 is approved by the state's voters, it would ratify Senate Bill 270, prohibiting large grocery stores and pharmacies from providing plastic single-use carryout bags and ban small grocery stores, convenience stores and liquor stores from doing so the following year. The initiative will also provide $2 million to state plastic bag manufacturers for the purpose of helping them retain jobs and transition to making thicker, multi-use, recycled plastic bags.
A "no" vote for Proposition 67 is a vote in favor of overturning Senate Bill 270.
Many marijuana legalization initiatives were proposed and circulated in 2016. Proposition 64, or the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, emerged as a clear leader early on and was the only marijuana-related measure to be certified for the November ballot. A "yes" vote supports legalizing recreational marijuana and hemp under state law for use by adults 21 or older and establishing certain sales and cultivation taxes, while a "no" vote opposes the proposal.
Currently, medical marijuana is legal in California but recreational use is prohibited. In 1996, the state became the first in the nation to legalize medical marijuana, and in 2010 voters were first given the chance to vote on the legalization of recreational use with the appearance of Proposition 19, but the measure was defeated.
Proposition 64, if passed, will legalize recreational marijuana and hemp under state law and establish a 15 percent sales tax as well as a cultivation tax of $9.25 per ounce for flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves, with exceptions for qualifying medical marijuana sales and cultivation. In order to prevent monopoly powers from developing within the industry, the initiative was also designed to prevent licenses for large-scale marijuana businesses for five years. Other provisions relate to rights of employers, driving under the influence and marijuana business locations.
There are two propositions on the upcoming ballot that are death penalty related: Proposition 62 and Proposition 66.
Proposition 62, the Repeal of the Death Penalty Initiative, supports repealing the death penalty and making life without the possibility of parole the maximum punishment for murder. Proposition 66, the Death Penalty Procedures Initiative, supports changing the procedures governing state court appeals and petitions that challenge death penalty convictions and sentences. If both measures pass, the one with the most "yes" votes would supersede the other.
Proposition 62, if passed, will repeal the death penalty, while Proposition 66 will keep the death penalty in place. While Proposition 62 would replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole, Proposition 66 would change the death penalty procedure to speed up the appeals process. The initiative would put the Supreme Court in charge of initial petitions challenging death penalty conviction, establish a time frame for death penalty review and require attorneys to work on death penalty cases.
Proposition 62 would also require prisoners sentenced to life in prison to work and pay restitution to victims' families, increasing the portion of wages to be provided as restitution to 60 percent. Proposition 66 suggests the same for prisoners on death row.
Between 1996 and 2014, Californians voted on 196 measures and will vote on 18 in 2016, bringing the total of measures voted on in the last 20 years to at least 214. Of the previous 196 measures, 50.5 percent were approved and 49.5 percent were defeated.
In addition to the measures above, California voters will also make decisions regarding:
• Proposition 51: $9 billion in bonds for schools;
• Proposition 52: Voter approval of changes to the hospital fee program;
• Proposition 53: Voter approval of projects that cost more than $2 billion;
• Proposition 54: Conditions under which legislative bills can be passed;
• Proposition 55: Personal income tax increases on incomes over $250,000;
• Proposition 56: Increase the cigarette tax by $2 per pack;
• Proposition 58: Bilingual education in public schools;
• Proposition 59: State's position on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission;
• Proposition 60: Require the use of condoms in pornographic films;
• Proposition 61: Prescription drug price regulations;
• Proposition 63: Background checks for ammunition purchases;
• Proposition 65: Funds from grocery and retail carry-out bags redirected to Wildlife Conservation Fund.