Capitol Alert

AM Alert: The Carters back California death penalty repeal, but will it matter?

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, who celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on July 7, talk about their years together in his office at the Carter Center in Atlanta on June 22, 2016.
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, who celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on July 7, talk about their years together in his office at the Carter Center in Atlanta on June 22, 2016. Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Mounting another campaign a mere four years after the last one narrowly failed – and facing the complicating factor this time of a concurrent push to speed up the death penalty – supporters of an initiative to abolish capital punishment in California have rounded up a stable of high-profile backers in hopes of swaying a voting public that remains evenly divided on the controversial issue.

On Thursday, the campaign announced the endorsement of former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, who said in a statement that they “strongly support” Proposition 62, which would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

“We believe that the attempt to administer the death penalty in a fair and efficient manner has failed, and note that a number of states have chosen to abandon this policy for this reason,” the Carters said. “It is our hope that California will also lead the nation in adopting a more effective and fiscally responsible law enforcement approach.”

Other famous backers include actors Jane Fonda, Danny Glover and Ed Asner; Virgin Group founder Richard Branson; Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The proponents of Proposition 62, who argue that capital punishment is a costly and inhumane procedure bound to kill innocent people, likely sense that the timing is now right after a 2012 initiative to end the practice was defeated by a vote of 52 percent to 48 percent.

2016 is another presidential election year, which tend to turn out higher numbers of Democratic voters more likely to oppose the death penalty. A January Field Poll also showed a growing number of California voters favor getting rid of it, though they are still slightly outnumbered by those who would like to speed up the execution process, 48 percent to 47 percent.

But endorsements, even from someone as respected as Carter, are unlikely to make much of a difference, according to longtime Democratic political strategist Darry Sragow.

“Voters have very specific and strongly held views for or against the death penalty,” Sragow said. “An endorsement has very little value if it's endorsement that voters view as nothing new, as expected.”

Carter has been a longtime advocate for abolishing capital punishment. In 2012, he penned an op-ed encouraging Californians to vote for anti-death penalty initiative.

Nevertheless, Sragow added, Carter’s endorsement can only be viewed as a “net plus.” It brings attention to the issue, he said, and helps spread the message to California’s traditionally low-information voters.

“It shows motion,” he said. “It shows a determination on the part of the campaign to pull out all the stops to win.”

EQUAL PAY: The California Pay Equity Task Force will convene for the first time today to discuss implementation of last year’s SB 358, the California Fair Pay Act, that strengthened equal pay protections in the state. The bill, which took effect Jan. 1, requires women be paid the same as men for “substantially similar” work except under seniority- or merit-based systems.

The task force was created by the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls to advise in the implementation of the new law and serve as a forum for businesses and labor groups. Enforcement of the law lies with the office of Labor Commissioner Julie Su who is a member of the commission and the task force along with the bill’s author, State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.

At the first meeting, the task force will hear presentations from task force members Su, Commissioner Lauri Damrell, Equal Rights Advocates Legal Director Jennifer Reisch and California Chamber of Commerce Policy Advocate Jennifer Barrera.

The meeting is set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building.

WORTH REPEATING: “I cannot support this man nor can I be a member of a party that would choose him as their nominee.”

-- Jimmy Camp, longtime Republican political consultant in Southern California, as he announced he was leaving the GOP Thursday as Donald Trump accepted the presidential nomination.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: Former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose makes the case for Trump.

COME FLY WITH ME: U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, will announce a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for upgrades at Mather Airport Friday. He will be joined by Airport Director John Wheat and Chief Administrative Officer for Planning and Development TJ Chen.

Alex Miller, a spokesperson for Bera, said Thursday that the grant will fund improvements for a taxiway and taxiway lighting system.

Mather Airport boasts a 11,300-foot runway, one of the longest in California. The airport is also home to the annual California Capital Airshow.

The event is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Mather Airport Administration Office.

DRINKING ON THE JOB: The California Employment Training Panel, which provides funding for employers to train workers, will consider a series of proposals at its meeting Friday, including one from beermaker Anheuser-Busch. The St. Louis-based company, which owns the Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois brands, among others, is expanding to the craft brewing market at its Fairfield and Van Nuys facilities. On Wednesday, the Justice Department signed off on a $107 billion merger deal between Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller. The company is requesting $633,276 from the ETP to train 718 employees.

The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. at the California Environmental Protection Agency, 1001 I St.

CELEBRATING: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, who is turning 62.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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