Election Day — Tuesday, November 4 — is just around the corner, and a number of statewide propositions on this year's ballot have important equity implications.
PolicyLink strongly supports Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. Prop 47 would reclassify six nonviolent felonies — such as simple drug possession and petty theft — as misdemeanors, shifting several hundred million dollars annually from California's broken prison system to schools, mental health and drug treatment, and victims' services.
Prop 47 would have a profound impact on California's communities of color — due to systemic racial bias, people of color are disproportionately arrested for minor crimes that Prop 47 would address. Prop 47 would reduce barriers to employment, housing, education, and public benefits faced by Californians with a felony record — a benefit made even more impactful because individuals currently serving a felony sentence for any of the included offenses could petition for resentencing.
While 62 percent of likely voters support Prop 47, its passage will depend on voter turnout and on equity leaders who are working across issue areas to rally their communities to the polls.
PolicyLink also supports Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act, which would allow for much-needed investments in California's water infrastructure, ensuring that all of our state's communities — including the most disadvantaged — have access to safe and affordable drinking water, wastewater treatment services, and other water resources needed to support healthy outcomes.
For more on this year's statewide propositions, please click here.
California Renews its Commitment to Equity
The end of September marked the close of the legislative session, and the dedicated efforts of California’s equity advocates continued to pay dividends. Governor Jerry Brown approved a range of bills that advance equity — the idea that investing in low-income communities and communities of color is essential to achieving a healthy and prosperous California.
The new policies continue a trend of improving the way California regards and embraces its most vulnerable populations. For example, to address crises caused by California’s severe drought — especially in low-income communities lacking clean drinking water due to contamination or poor infrastructure — the state passed a package of bills that will help restore groundwater basins.
The state also led the nation by building on its inclusive approach to integrating undocumented Californians. New policies will reduce the possibility of deportation for minor infractions and allow undocumented immigrants to obtain professional state licenses — expanding last year’s policy admitting undocumented attorneys to the California Bar. The state also created the California Dream Loan Program, allowing state public universities to administer loans to undocumented students, and allocated $3 million to provide legal services for approximately 4,000 unaccompanied refugee children in California.
Finally, a slate of new laws supported by the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color will help improve the lives of people struggling across the state. For instance, a new law will eliminate the unjust disparity between penalties for crack and powder cocaine possession — an infamous policy that unduly harmed communities of color. A series of bills will remove barriers to good jobs for Californians returning from prison, establishing technical education and workforce training programs and creating new opportunities to work as a certified nurse assistant or obtain a professional license. Other Alliance-supported policies focused on getting young Californians out of the school-to-prison pipeline will ease the transition back to school for young Californians caught in the justice system, protect the due process rights of involuntarily transferred students, and eliminate an unfair payment associated with student truancy.
Did we leave out any important equity-focused bills? Tweet at us with the hashtag #CAEquity and let us know!