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Democrats turn on Newsom, forcing withdrawal of his ballot proposition

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(The Center Square) – California Governor Gavin Newsom withdrew his competing ballot measure to reform the state’s reduced prosecution of drug dealing and theft just days after Democratic legislators rejected his supported amendments to their anti-crime bills.

Newsom’s measure would have required the majority of legislators’ support on July 3 to make it on the November ballot, and would be in competition with another prosecution reform measure that earned nearly one million signatures.

The official website and Twitter account of the Office of the Governor of California took down mention and links to a July 1 press release from Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Mike McGuire, D-North Coast, and Speaker of the Assembly Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, announcing their drug and theft initiative, which initially had a vote set for Wednesday, July 3. Through a special rules change, the measure would have required only a majority, not the usual two-thirds, of legislators’ votes to make it on the ballot. But with the governor’s withdrawal and hiding of the announcement, it seems he may not have even had a majority despite Democrats’ supermajority in both houses of the legislature.

“We are pleased the Governor and Legislature have dropped their countermeasure and welcome them to join our campaign to responsibly amend Prop 47 to deal with retail theft, the fentanyl crisis and homelessness,” said Greg Totten, CEO of the California District Attorneys Association and a spokesperson for the now-only Proposition 47 reform ballot measure, in a statement to The Center Square.

California voters passed Prop. 47 a decade ago making most theft and drug crimes into rarely-prosecuted misdemeanors, leading a coalition of businesses and law enforcement to launch the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act. If passed in November, the TRA will allow for felony charges against serial thieves and combining thefts to meet the $950 felony threshold, and create new penalties for fentanyl dealers on the level of dealers of other hard drugs.

It would also create a new “crime” called a a “treatment-mandated felony” that would let an individual who “successfully completes drug and mental health treatment” have the conviction expunged and face no jail time, and receive shelter, job training, and other services to get back on their feet post-treatment.

Newsom’s competing measure would have introduced penalties for drug dealers who sell drugs with fentanyl mixed in, but these cases would be difficult to prove, as prosecution would need to prove dealers knew fentanyl is present in the drug, that the buyer did not know there was fentanyl in the drug, and have not told the buyer there is fentanyl in the drug. It also would have allowed thieves to face felony charges after two theft convictions over $50 within the last two years, but TRA supporters argued this would cause “repeated thefts” under $50.

Newsom tried to force Democrats to add “poison pill” amendments invalidating their bipartisan package of anti-crime bills if the TRA passes, but opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats left those amendments on the floor. Newsom’s proposition withdrawal marks his second defeat from Democrats in the last week over his response to the TRA.

Newsom appears to have moved on from the issue, and today announced his new nationally-distributed podcast and radio show called “Politickin” with Super Bowl Champion Marshawn Lynch and NFL superstar agent Doug Hendrickson. Today he’s also at the White House meeting with President Joe Biden and other Democratic governors.

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