11 Awesome Props – Part 6: Prop 35

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Editor’s Note: Frequent Fox and Hounds contributor, Joe Mathews, will give his unique perspective on all eleven November ballot measures over the course of the next month. He will take them in the order they appear on the ballot.

Are you against slavery? Well, I am. And so are Californians Against Slavery, who are backing Prop 35, which steps up penalties for and monitoring of human traffickers. Those who are against Prop 35 – and there aren’t many – are clearly just apologist for slave traders. And you don’t like slave traders, do you? Me neither. Yes on Prop 35 is really the only choice.

Here’s another reason to back Prop 35. There’s no real argument or debate against it. Too many initiatives produce a real back-and-forth that teases out not just how people feel about an issue, but the potential problems of the particular policies in that initiative.

But not Prop 35. There’s been no real debate at all. This is a slam dunk to pass.

Of course, you’re probably wondering why the legislature didn’t just pass the stuff in the initiative when it was offered as legislation. That’s easy—the legislature doesn’t take human trafficking seriously. Why? Probably because they love slavery.

That’s why it’s so important to construct a new kind of regime for fighting human trafficking. And the best way to build broad  support for taking on human trafficking is to sideline the legislature by putting human trafficking law into the initiative. That way, such laws – and this new regime to fight trafficking — can only be approved upon in the future when people and interests with enough money to qualify ballot initiatives bring this back to the people. This is good, because the people in California have nothing better to do with their time than vote over and over on improvements to initiative statutes on trafficking.

Now It’s true that there were some objections in the legislature to legislation that seemed inexact or overly broad. And some legislative staff pointed out that new penalties and requirements for human traffickers will cost money – and that Prop 35 doesn’t offer any way to pay for those services. It also may be asking an awful lot of cash-starved law enforcement agencies to monitor human traffickers and their email accounts in the various ways described in the measure.

But don’t worry about all those details. Prop 35 is all about the simple moral clarity of taking a stand against something that everyone knows is wrong. Why bother with the details?

It’s not as though overwhelmingly popular ballot initiatives have ever produced surprise costs, and unintended consequences.

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