Amidst the political theatre in Washington, D.C. and the slew of new legislation at the desk of Governor Jerry Brown, the Public Policy Institute of California gauged where the state stands with the most prominent issues. For the first time in PPIC survey history, a majority of respondents support some form of legalization of marijuana, majorities across partisan lines support the prison reform compromise, and most adults trust schools to spend money correctly.
Prison Plan Compromise
Californians seem to appreciate it when legislators work together to create a possible policy solution. This is the case with the state's corrections plan with regards to realignment: a majority of respondents favored the compromise regardless of partisan background. The questions was framed as follows:
"A federal court ordered the early release of about 10,000 inmates from the state’s prisons by the end of the year to prevent overcrowding. The governor and the legislature plan to spend up to $315 million to address this issue. They have proposed asking the court for a three year extension to reduce the prison population by providing rehabilitation programs in an effort to reduce the number of repeat offenders. If the court denies this request, they propose moving inmates to private, local, and outof-state facilities to prevent the early release of inmates. Do you favor or oppose this plan?”
Support for marijuana legalization reached an all time high among adults. About 52 percent favor a form of legalization. Democrat and independent responders support legalization at a rate of 64 percent and 60 percent, while Republican respondents only had support at 45 percent.
“In general, do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?”
In addition, 61 percent of adults do not believe the federal government should have to enforce marijuana laws if a state has legalized the substance.
The state legislature passed and the governor signed Senate Bill 4 earlier this month, a regulation on the practice of hydraulic fracturing -- or fracking. The law has companies who wish to engage in fracking to disclose all chemicals being used in the process and to notify the surrounding property owners. A significant aspect to the law is the independent study to determine the effects of fracking, due at the end of 2014.
While an interview with the law's authors reveals a difficult compromise made, response to the overall practice of fracking fell along partisan lines with a majority of adults and likely voters in opposition. The question posed:
"Do you favor or oppose increased use of hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a drilling method that uses high pressure water and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations?"
K-12 Funding and Spending
The state's local control funding formula is being implemented beginning this school year. Districts with higher proportions of low-income and English learning students will receive more state funding in hopes of helping close the achievement gap. Californians have shown consistent support of the plan leading up to its implementation. Given that schools now have autonomy over spending decisions, Californians are also optimistic about schools spending wisely.
How confident are you that local school districts will use this money wisely? Are you very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident, or not at all confident?”
(The full report on Californians and Their Government from PPIC explores many more issues. It can be read here.)