Forum Opens Debate on Special Election

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Teachers, students, nurses, cops, firefighters and people with illnesses. All of them stand to either lose or gain depending on which ballot propositions get are approved in the California special election on Nov. 8.

For this reason, the GCC Social Science Department decided to conduct a panel discussion on the California special election, the first in a three-part lecture series. The discussion was held in Kreider Hall on Sept. 22. The four members of the panel gave comprehensive information on six ballot propositions and touched briefly on two others.

Mike Eberts, a GCC professor of mass communications, acted as moderator. He started the discussion by giving a background of the special elections. He encouraged students and faculty who were present to vote, because a lower voter turnout “works for the benefit of the conservatives.”

GCC Political Science professor Kathleen Holland began the discussion by speaking on Proposition 75, which affects public employee dues and is also known by the proponents as the “Paycheck Protection Act.” This proposition targets public employee unions, requiring them to get written permission from members each year to use a portion of their dues for political purposes. According to Holland, Proposition 75 could diminish the political power of unions and “does not address how much money corporations raise” in comparison. Also, the proponents of this act are mostly pro-conservative, pro-business and Republican forces.

“This forces union leaders to get consent to use money for political purposes,” Holland said.

Political Science professor John Queen spoke about Propositions 74 and 76, explaining that Proposition 76 was “designed to transform the budget process” and was “triggered by the budget crises, when taxes plummeted.” This proposition provides mechanisms for dealing with every increase or decrease in the budget.

In good times, Queen explained, the proposition “places a new limit on state spending,” which can then add to the state’s reserves.

In bad times, however, this allows the state to dip into its reserves and allows the government to declare a fiscal emergency in certain cases, such as if “the revenue is lower or if reserves decline by more than 50 percent.”

“This is a major transfer of budgetary power to the government, something we’ve never seen before,” Queen said.

Proposition 74, on the other hand, is aimed at public school teachers. This is an initiative that would increase their probationary period from two to five years and changes the dismissal process for teachers who receive two consecutive unsatisfactory evaluations. In simpler terms, this “shortens the process to fire a teacher,” Queen said.

Chris Carson from the League of Women Voters spoke on Proposition 77, which amends the process for redistricting California’s State Senate, Assembly, Congressional and Board of Equalization districts and puts the process in the hands of a three-member panel of retired judges selected by legislative leaders. “It would be chaotic,” Carson said.

Economics professor Mark Maier did a comparison of Propositions 78 and 79, which are both targeted at prescription drugs. Maier explained that Proposition 79 creates a drug prescription program that includes a state-initiated rebate and will help seniors and families save money each year. Proposition 78, on the other hand, “enables drug companies to sell at a discount voluntarily.”

“All of us stand to gain if 79 passes,” Maier said. “There are huge numbers if uninsured people with serious chronic conditions that do not buy pharmaceutical drugs because they can’t afford it.”

The members on the panel also briefly spoke about Proposition 73, which requires a parental notification provision for minors seeking abortion within 48 hours, and Proposition 80, which “allows for a partial re-regulation of utility companies and more protections for their markets.”

A question and answer portion then followed, and students and faculty were encouraged to express their views on the discussed propositions.

Other lectures in the Social Science Department lecture series include “Multicultural Matters” on Oct. 27 and “The Big One and How to Survive It” on Nov. 17.