One of the biggest unfinished stories about the November election was the profound changes voters demanded of the American judicial system.
Dozens of states and cities had judicial reform initiatives on the ballot, some radical as well the results were far more one-sided than the national elections. Drug legalization initiatives won in red and blue states, including Oregon, where voters chose to decriminalize the personal belongings and use of even cocaine and heroin. New or revised Police oversight agencies have also been approved in nearly a dozen cities.
But change in politics is seldom that easy. It can take months or even years for major political reform to take effect. This gives the opponents enough time to build up new leverage and possibly even block the system. Police unions are already preparing to oppose the proposed changes to their disciplinary procedures. A conservative governor helps block cannabis legalization. and even public opinion can recede in time, as it did with bail in California.
So what really happened this November when it comes to criminal justice reform – and more importantly, what happens next? Below are five of the most important voting actions of 2020 and the not-so-easy paths that lie ahead.
Washington, DC voters voted overwhelmingly for an election in November that would all but decriminalize the use of psychedelic plants like mushrooms, Peyote or Ayahuasca. The move would make the prosecution of such crimes one of the “lowest priorities of the District Police” in law enforcement. However, residents of the state capital will have to wait a little longer before they can use natural hallucinogens.
First, the voter-approved initiative goes to the DC Council for review, where the legislature can vote to repeal it. The Council is at least upset five voter initiativesMost recently in 2018 when a passed initiative was blocked that would have raised the minimum wage for tipped workers like restaurant workers. Although the Mayor of D.C. Having expressed his personal opposition to the psychedelics initiative, he was spokesman for the council chairman he said Washington Post prior to the November vote, they had no plans to block it if it was passed. It is unlikely that this will change. The council, already known nationally as a liberal body and having passed a law back in May allowing activists to put the measure on the ballot, leaned further to the left in November with the addition of new progressive members.
But even if the council does nothing to prevent the measure from taking effect, it faces a potentially bigger obstacle: the US Congress, which still has constitutional powers to repeal local laws in the capital. The Psychedelics Act is expected to come into effect after 30 “law days” – days when Congress meets – following its certified passage (on December 2nd of this year) and give the House and Senate time to Adoption of a joint resolution rejecting the initiative or amendment blocking its implementation. You have done it before: 1998 Congress clogged a measure to legalize medical marijuana approved by DC voters. Medical marijuana legalization was delayed for 12 years until the 2010 DC Council passed law that Congress did not override during its review period.
Even if all is well for the supporters of the 2020 Psychedelics Initiative, magic mushrooms will not become “legal” in DC. The laws against their use are simply not being enforced by the DC police. And Congress has tools to prevent further legalization: for example, every year since DC voters approved a measure to legalize the possession and cultivation of recreational marijuana in 2014, Congress has included a provision in its federal spending law that stipulates the DC Council forbids from legalizing the sale of the substance. With other states fully legalizing pot, Washington’s policy remains stuck in some sort of long-term compromise.
The Defund the Police Movement That drew the country’s attention this summer and seemed to be all but vanished from memory by the fall – only to reappear in political postmortems, suggesting that the Democrats running for Congress could have harmed. But Defund is very much alive in the country’s most populous county.
Los Angeles County voters approved an election in November that would significantly reduce the future budget of the sheriff’s office. Action J changes the county’s charter to require at least 10 percent of its general fund to be used for community programs and alternatives to incarceration. And while there is no explicit requirement that the money be withdrawn from law enforcement agencies, experts say it is effectively because 10 percent of the budget cannot go into a “cancer system”. These can be prisons, prosecutors, and law enforcement agencies such as the sheriff’s department and the probation department. In terms of dollars, it could shift anywhere from $ 360 million to $ 900 million one year from police to social service.
Is it really going to happen? The change won’t go into effect until July next year, but the county is already taking it seriously: after the measure passed in November, the county supervisory board and CEO began setting up a committee to determine the funds to be allocated.
However, the main obstacle to implementing the measure is likely to be the economy. In 2020, the LA district regulator had to make drastic budget cuts for both law enforcement and social services due to the pandemic-triggered recession, and Measure J includes a provision that allows regulators to override these in the event of a tax emergency to put. Should the economy fail to recover or worsen in the next year or at any time in the future, the board of directors could decide to reduce the percentage of money that the measure reserves for social services.
And while there are no legal challenges pending, the door is not closed there: A judge over the summer declined however, an attempt by the police union to remove the measure from the vote left open the possibility of further challenges to its legality after it was passed. And law enforcement resistance is unlikely to be going anywhere. the Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff’s Association millions try to defeat the electoral measure in the fall.
Completing the deposit is a high priority by judicial reformers who see it as a de facto system for imprisoning poor people who have not been convicted of anything.
But the latest political moves on bail in America’s largest blue states have turned heads. Earlier this year, after months of pressure from police and prosecutors, New York withdrew its groundbreaking bail bond for most offenses and non-violent crimes. And in November, the Californians abruptly threw out a bail reform measure they’d only supported two years earlier.
The California bail bond industry backed the defeat of Prop. 25, which would have gutted its business by eventually passing a 2018 voter initiative to end bail. But also organizations like Human Rights Watch and local NAACP and ACLU chapters that oppose bail but are concerned about California’s plan to replace it with a pre-trial detention system based on how dangerous a suspect appeared . Many progressive activists fear that such “risk assessment programs” create dangerous new kinds of bias, either through algorithms or through judges.
What now? Obviously, California bail reform has enough popular support to be passed, or at least in 2018. However, reformers are unsure what kind of alternative can be adequately supported by both moderate and progressive advocates.
Despite the uncertainty, some reforms are already under way. This summer, the state Supreme Court ruled These judges must take a defendant’s solvency into account when setting bail, which would reduce the number of people detained as they are unable to bail. And George Gascón, the newly elected Los Angeles County’s district attorney, appears obliged to end bail in his jurisdiction. On the day he took office, December 7th, he gave one memo Ordering the assistant district attorneys to end the use of bail on misdemeanors and nonviolent offenses and applying the order retrospectively to anyone currently in prison in Los Angeles. His office also announced plans to remove the bail entirely on Jan. 1, although it is unclear which system will be used in his place. Whatever he does, the results will not be trivial: Los Angeles is the largest single prison system not just in California but in the entire country, and other jurisdictions may use it as an example or a cautionary story in the future.
Inspired by the protests against the racial justice of the summer, Police surveillance initiatives have been adopted in several locations including San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and King County (Seattle). Another was Portland, Oregon, where the political and legal arguments give an insight into how difficult the next steps can be.
Election 26-217 would replace the current, mostly toothless Independent Police Review Board in Portland with a powerful new commission that could subpoena documents, access police records, force testimony, including from police officers, and impose discipline, including dismissal. Voters in Portland, a city that has become synonymous with tenacious nationwide Restlessness, passed it with overwhelming 80 percent support.
But even before the measure was passed on November 3rd, there was Rumble a legal challenge in waiting. In fact, the Portland Police Union filed one just two days after election day complaint with the city claiming a breach of their collective agreement by allowing voters to decide on something – in this case, disciplinary standards and procedures – that the city is contractually obliged to negotiate with the union. The complaint asked the city to take a break in the new regulator until it negotiates a new deal with the union.
Mayor Ted Wheeler, the supervised The Portland Police Bureau has wholeheartedly behind the new board, stating that the city will “actively defend the voters’ decision” while complying with the negotiating rules. It seems that this might require some complicated steps, such as changing the state law: Loud to Oregon Public BroadcastingLater in November, City Hall called on Senator Lew Frederick to draft a bill that, if passed by Salem lawmakers, would fill a loophole in the Oregon Collective Bargaining Act for public employees to do its job.
Even if everything goes well, it can take years for the Commission to negotiate a case. The city council is expected to take at least one 18 months Work out the details of implementation, including the appointment of a citizen-led committee to propose the structure and operational guidelines of the Commission.
For now and for the foreseeable future, complaints of police misconduct will continue to be monitored by the IPR – which, to add another crease, is monitored by one Auditors who is against the new board.
While the state decides to create the loophole, the city of Portland must begin planned contract negotiations with its police force in January. These talks could give the police union an opportunity to negotiate an alternative disciplinary regime or other benefit in order to accept the voter-backed commission.
In November, voters were cast in a group of Liberals, Conservatives and swing states agreed on one thing: they want potty smoking to be legal. Voters in New Jersey, Arizona, and Montana approved measures to legalize recreational marijuana, and voters in Mississippi approved measures to legalize medical marijuana. But none of them was so red than South Dakota, which was the first state in which voters simultaneously approved separate electoral measures to legalize medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.
Kristi Noem, the state’s Republican governor who has long opposed legalizing hemp and cannabis, said voters “made the wrong choice.” She has already supported – including, According to reportsby state means – a legal challenge by two law enforcement officers asking the courts to annul the amendment for technical reasons, because the initiative violated the procedure for revising the state constitution.
Despite the governor’s support for the legal challenge, the attorney general’s office, which is run by a Republican Who is generally forbearance against drugs, submitted a request that the court dismisses the action. But it could be a battle that goes to the state Supreme Court. The casewho are expected to go before a Circuit Judge January is similar to a lawsuit earlier this year in Nebraskawhich resulted in a marijuana legalization initiative being removed from that state’s vote by the Supreme Court for similar technical reasons.
If the courts don’t reject the change, it will take effect on July 1st.
Noem, who can be re-elected in 2022, is still largely popular among the South Dakotans, although Covid-19 has risen sharply in their state in recent months. Still, it’s not as popular as legalization: that of the state Change in the legalization of leisure activities got more support than She did in her 2018 election. While weeds are likely less important than their leadership to voters during the pandemic, it could become another count against them if their approval ratings drop in the months ahead.