Four big remaining reasons Californians must not forget to vote

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, left, and his Republican challenger Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones participate in a debate for the highly competitive 7th Congressional District seat.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, left, and his Republican challenger Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones participate in a debate for the highly competitive 7th Congressional District seat. jvillegas@sacbee.com

If you have voted already, you may now don your “I Voted” sticker and take a selfie of it. If not, civic duty will be calling between now and Tuesday.

Because California is so blue, the stark choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is, in this state, almost certainly a foregone conclusion. So, alas, is recreational weed legalization. But other decisions have sweeping implications. If you do nothing else, remember these ballot priorities.

Fix the prisons

California’s “tough on crime” era went too far and made a costly and unconstitutional mess of the criminal justice system. Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 57 would adjust the balance to encourage rehabilitation and comply with federal court orders to ease prison crowding. But that’s not the biggest ballot deal.

Voters this year also can dump one of the most expensive, outdated and dysfunctional policies in the state – the death penalty, which has become a sick joke. California has 747 people on death row, and they are more likely to die of old age there than be executed. Most research shows that that capital punishment doesn’t deter crime, isn’t equally administered and isn’t cost-effective; governors and courts in other states are increasingly moving away from it.

Prosecutors have a problematic measure on the ballot they say will speed executions. It won’t, and voters should reject it. More sensible is a yes vote on Proposition 62, which would replace the death penalty with what people in death row are already getting: life in prison without parole.

Fix Congress

California’s 7th Congressional District, which includes much of eastern Sacramento County, Elk Grove and Folsom, has implications for the nation and control of the House of Representatives.

Republican Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones seeks to unseat Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove. You wouldn’t know it from the commercials that are airing, but both candidates are thoughtful.

In our view, however, Bera is preferable. He is one of the few physicians in Congress and will help shape the discussion over fixing the Affordable Care Act. As a former academic at UC Davis School of Medicine, Bera understands the implications of college costs that spiral ever higher.

Jones has tried to distance himself from Trump. But as a Republican, Jones would be a captive to the national Republican Party and conservatives in the House Republican caucus. They are out of step with voters in his district and in California on a variety of issues, not the least of which is abortion rights.

Fix special interests

Voters should give a massive thumbs down to Proposition 53, which indulges a rich farmer’s obsession with the Delta tunnels at the expense of the public. This initiative looks good on paper, but it would complicate public works construction and maintenance the whole state depends on – roads, bridges, dams, you name it – under the guise of supposedly combating government debt.

Also, the plastic bag industry is spending millions to thwart the state’s ban on single-use plastic bags, which pollute parks and choke marine life. The details are complex, but the fix is simple: Vote “no” on Proposition 65, which may be the most cynical initiative ever to hit the ballot, and “yes” on Proposition 67. (Think: Seven is heaven, five is jive.)

Fix the potholes

Congress is perpetually gridlocked, but so is the Legislature on how to pay for a growing backlog of road repairs. A special session this year on transportation funding went nowhere.

Sacramento County voters should grab the chance to take matters into their own hands and approve Measure B, a half-cent sales tax for transportation and transit. It takes a two-thirds majority to pass – always a high hurdle – so every vote counts.

Measure B would generate a projected $3.6 billion over 30 years, 61 percent for existing roads, highways and bike paths, 30 percent for Regional Transit and 9 percent for local matches for key new highway projects.

And in the first five years, three-fourths of road spending would be required to go to existing roads and three-fourths of the money RT gets would have to go to replace aging light rail cars and improve service on existing lines.

If you care about potholes and long commutes, you need to vote for Measure B.

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