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California leaders’ efforts to stall Prop. 47 criminal reform sit in limbo

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(The Center Square) – Proposition 47, which made most drug dealing and theft into rarely prosecuted misdemeanors, faces a major reform initiative on the November ballot. Democratic leaders’ efforts to weaken the reform campaign, including floating a competing initiative and adding clauses preventing their own anti-crime bills from taking effect if the reform passes, appear to be stalling due to opposition from Democratic legislators.

In 2014, California voters passed Prop. 47, which requires serial theft of values less than $950 per theft and trafficking of hard drugs to be charged as misdemeanors, not felonies. Amid rising property crime and drug abuse, a coalition of public safety advocates and retailers — whose top funders are Walmart, Target, and Home Depot — introduced the “Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act,” a Prop. 47 reform initiative that recently qualified for the November 2024 ballot.

This reform would allow felony charges for serial thieves, enhance penalties for organized theft, and create a new class of crime called a “treatment-mandated felony” that would let an individual who “successfully completes drug and mental health treatment” to have the conviction expunged and face no jail time. Those convicted of treatment-mandated felonies also would “receive “shelter, job training, and other services designed to break the cycle of addiction and homelessness.”

Democratic leaders responded by announcing their intention to add amendments to their 12 anti-crime bills that would stop them from taking effect if the Prop. 47 reform passes. However, floor votes on these amended bills were delayed on Monday, with KCRA reporting Democratic leaders didn’t have enough votes, and that they are working with California Governor Gavin Newsom to potentially place a competing Prop. 47 reform measure on the ballot.

In his June 25 State of the State pre-recorded address, Newsom touted California’s crime record and attacked “red state” governance, specifically citing Jacksonville, Florida, and Memphis, Tennessee, as evidence that Republicans are not as effective on crime; Jacksonville and Memphis both have Democratic mayors.

“In California, we take public safety seriously – a problem to solve, not just to flog on cable news … I recognize we need to clarify existing laws,” said Newsom, perhaps foreshadowing his own potential Prop. 47 reform. “While it’s true that California has among the toughest felony theft thresholds in the nation, we will do more to go after professional theft rings more forcefully. We look forward to advancing a package of reforms this year.”

California Democrats will have to act quickly to meet the June 27 deadline to add a competing initiative to the November ballot.

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