Tuesday, June 25, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 16

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 10th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 32

Measuring up: Local groups back county and city ballot measures

By Joe Payne

While internet ads, mailers, and radio commercials inundate voters with information about state propositions and national candidates, there's still a number of local ballot measures vying for attention.

With early voting open since Oct. 8, the Sun examined local measures that could change the landscape of supervisorial districts and others that will outline local cannabis taxes.

Duel for redistricting

An initiative to establish an independent redistricting committee for the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors came as a surprise in June when an independent political group received approval to put just such a measure on the November ballot.

Reason in Government procured the necessary 16,000-plus signatures from county voters to put the initiative, now called Measure H2018, on the ballot. Voters can decide whether or not to set up a five-member commission where one member and one alternate with limited political or partisan affiliation will serve from each current supervisorial district and reconsider district boundaries after each federal census.

Measure H2018 is supported by the county's respective 5th District and 4th District Supervisors Steve Lavagnino and Peter Adam, who signed the argument for the measure with Reason in Government's founding board member, Robert Collector.

Collector told the Sun he and the organization were interested in a redistricting committee after California's voters decided on citizen-led redistricting in 2008.

"We thought it was good governance and we thought it was something that worked for us, reflects our brand, reflected our belief in sound, honest, citizen-driven government," Collector said.

Reason in Government's proposal was initially met with some controversy. Liberal groups and activists believed that the conservative-leaning organization's measure was not crafted in good faith, 1st District Supervisor Das Williams told the Sun, and that Measure H2018 had "some serious flaws."

Williams submitted his own redistricting initiative on behalf of the supervisors in July, which was added to the ballot as Measure G2018 at the same time as H2018. Measure G2018 would begin a redistricting commission that has 11 members, more limitations on who is eligible for the commission, and language adapted from the 2008 statewide initiative.

Citizen-led redistricting is an issue that Williams said he has been active on for many years, and that he would have liked to "have got together and hammered something out" with Reason in Government.

"I think the whole point of a citizens redistricting commission is to reflect the people, and that's why we created this structure, and it's a structure that has worked in several other counties already," he said.

Collector expressed concern over how Measure G2018 had "a whole lot of definition about diversity about who's on the commission," and said he thought it might make the "objective decision about who will sit on the commission a subjective one." He said that Measure H2018 was a "fair" initiative.

Both Supervisors Williams and Adam signed the official argument in support of Measure G2018. The Santa Barbara County Republican Central Committee recommend a yes vote on both measures, whereas only Measure G2018 received support from the Santa Barbara County Democratic Central Committee.

Feasibly, both measures can be approved by county voters, but in that case, the measure that receives the most votes will be implemented.

Cannabis: tax or no tax?

Both Lompoc and Solvang voters will decide exactly how to tax California's new recreational cannabis industry within their respective cities.

In Lompoc, Measure D was first proposed by Lompoc City Councilmember Jenelle Osborne, who told the Sun via email that it was "reflective of best practices of other California cities [that] already implemented taxes." Osborne also penned the measure's pro argument in the city's election guide.

Measure D would impose a 1 percent tax on commercial cannabis cultivation each year along with a 6 percent tax on gross receipts for cannabis retailers. Cannabis testing businesses, or labs, won't pay a separate tax. Cannabis manufacturers or distributors that earn less than $2 million net income each year will pay a flat tax of $15,000, whereas those that net more than $2 million will owe $30,000 per year. The monies collected would go Lompoc's general fund.

The Lompoc Valley Cannabis Association fully endorsed Measure D, according to the association's co-founder, Joe Garcia.

Garcia said that 6 percent was a high tax once state taxes and other fees are considered for Lompoc's cannabis industry, and that some in the industry have a "concern that it could drive black market sales and people out of stores."

"We know that this is a compromise and we support the cannabis industry paying, frankly, what is a small amount elsewhere for all the other taxes," he said, referring to cultivation and lab taxes. "This was a real compromise with real numbers."

For the city of Solvang, recreational weed isn't allowed, but general fund revenues from medical pot is still on the table this November.

The Solvang City Council decided to allow limited brick-and-mortar medical cannabis dispensaries in August, so city residents can decide whether to tax those businesses.

Measure F2018 would establish a 5 percent tax on retail cannabis transactions. The measure also stipulates that the Solvang City Council could subject the industry to a maximum rate of 10 percent on gross receipts through an ordinance or resolution.

In their pro argument available in the city's voters guide, Solvang City Councilmembers Ryan Toussaint and Karen Waite wrote that the city intends to "allow only highly qualified operators that meet the standards of the city's zoning and regulatory ordinances." The stated goal of the city was to limit the black market, preserve health and safety, provide medical access to cannabis, and establish a new but fair source of funding for the city's general fund.

There were no arguments opposing the measure. 

Managing Editor Joe Payne can be reached at jpayne@santamariasun.com.

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