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Saturday, Oct 06 2012 11:00 PM

Yes on 32: Check undue union influence

By The Bakersfield Californian

Proposition 32 is not everything it claims to be, but that's nothing new in the realm of political campaigns. It's packaged as campaign finance reform but primarily targets the political influence of unions in state and local politics and does little regarding the equally astounding sums that business interests pour into political causes. Still, we believe union influence in politics is an area that desperately needs reform and therefore support Prop. 32.

The measure would prohibit:

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Nov. 6 general election

Bakersfield City Council, Ward 2: Elliott Kirschenmann

Bakersfield City Council, Ward 4: Bob Smith

32nd Assembly District: Rudy Salas

Proposition 30: Creates temporary sales tax and top-tier income tax increases to benefit schools and general fund -- NO

Proposition 31: Establishes two-year budget cycle and pay-as-you-go budgeting -- YES

Proposition 32: Bans automatic deductions by unions for political campaigns -- YES

Proposition 33: Makes changes to automobile insurance regulations -- NO

Proposition 34: Replaces death penalty with life without parole, mandates restitution -- YES

Proposition 35: Enhances penalties for human trafficking -- YES

Proposition 36: Makes changes to three-strikes sentencing laws -- YES

Proposition 37: Requires package labeling of genetically modified foods -- NO

Proposition 38: Creates temporary income tax increases that directly benefit schools, with local management of funds -- YES

Proposition 39: Requires multistate businesses to base state tax liability solely on in-state sales -- YES

Proposition 40: Retains state Senate boundaries established by Citizens Redistricting Commission -- YES

* Payroll deductions by unions or corporations for political purposes.

* Direct contributions by unions and corporations to state and local candidates and their committees.

* Government contractors from contributing to state or local elected officials involved in awarding contracts.

The main point of contention relates to payroll deductions. It is true, this provision primarily impacts unions; almost no corporations in California raise political funds this way. The lifeblood of political activity for unions is funded through member dues automatically deducted from paychecks. And union members have little say in how the money is spent. Union leaders decide on political positions. How fair is that?

This seemingly limitless pot of money is then thrown around by unions in Sacramento to kill legislation, elect candidates, stop pension reform, and support or oppose ballot measures. A classic example happened earlier this year when the California Teachers Association killed a perfectly sensible bill that would have made it easier to fire teachers involved in certain child abuse, sex and controlled substance offenses.

For too long, private companies and government agencies have had to facilitate this practice, which is what they're indirectly forced to do when they issue paychecks and execute those deductions. Prohibiting these deductions doesn't hinder anyone's free speech as opponents claim. Union members are still free to donate money to any political cause they choose or give their money to a union by writing a check or letting the union deduct the money automatically from their personal bank account. Rather than having to opt out of automatic deductions to fund union political activities, Prop. 32 would give union members more control of their political activities.

Prop. 32 won't fix everything in Sacramento. But the measure does ensure that unions, one of the most powerful groups in the Capitol, are deriving their funds in a fair way from informed members.

The Californian urges a yes vote on Proposition 32.

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