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CA Democrats Undermine Prop 47 Repeal with Retail Theft Legislation

Big box retailers like Target, Walmart, and Home Depot joined together with local law enforcement to tackle the rising retail theft problem in California by collecting enough signatures for a ballot initiative that will repeal parts of a decade-old statute known as Proposition 47. The measure, scheduled to be on the ballot in November, would increase criminal penalties for shoplifting and drug dealing in the state. 

But all of the progress made on this new initiative has now been put in jeopardy by underhanded moves from Governor Newsom and his counterparts in the legislature.

The proposed initiative, by Californians for Safer Communities, would roll back parts of Proposition 47, which reduced penalties for theft and drug possession offenses when it was passed by voters in 2014 in an effort to solve overcrowding in jails. Instead, this lax-on-crime method emboldened criminals, who are now unafraid to commit large-scale theft in broad daylight. The measure would strengthen penalties for retail theft and fentanyl use amid a growing drug epidemic. It would also require those convicted of fentanyl use to go through a drug treatment program mandated by the state.

Californians for Safer Communities was required to obtain 546,651 signatures in support of the measure by April 23 in order to see their initiative on the November ballot. On April 18, they submitted over 900,000. The official ballot measure qualification deadline is June 27th, which will determine if the measure appears before voters on the November ballot.

Yet, ahead of that June 27th deadline, Democratic legislative leaders are trying to reduce support for the initiative by heavily amending a bipartisan package of retail theft legislation already being approved by the legislature. The goal is to appease the concerns of big box retailers, in order to get the largest financial backers to remove their support for the Californians for Safer Communities’ initiative. If Target, Home Depot, Walmart, etc. have their concerns addressed through the amended bills, they have no incentive to continue backing the “Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act,” which tackles issues that the retail theft legislation does not. 

The package of legislation was meant to act in conjunction with the ballot measure, not in opposition. Instead, Democratic leaders like Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and Senate President Pro Tem Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) have attempted to hijack the legislation to use as a bargaining chip to reduce support for the ballot initiative, which they have consistently opposed. To accomplish that goal, they proposed adding urgency clauses to many of the bills in the package, which would implement the bills immediately upon Gov. Newsom’s signature, but repeal them if voters approve the ballot measure in November – which brings us back to the either/or equation. These Democrat leaders are hoping that by immediately enacting the retail theft legislation, big box stores will no longer see the need for Prop 47, remove their support, and ultimately doom the ballot measure. (Watch Dem press conference)

Assembly Republican leader James Gallagher and Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones sent a joint letter to Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas and Senate President Pro Tem Mike McGuire. It reads: 

“The poison pill amendments — specifically, an urgency clause and the automatic repeal of retail theft bills should voters adopt the (ballot) initiative — undermine these efforts [to protect California communities]. These amendments set a dangerous precedent, forcing our constituents into a false choice between legislative reforms and necessary modifications to Proposition 47.”

Even some Democrat legislators are opposing what their leadership is proposing. “I don’t support the amendments,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine) on Thursday, according to the Sacramento Bee. The Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, Kevin McCarty, agreed, saying he thought was “inappropriate” to insert the poison pill amendments.

“Legislators using partisan politics on an issue as serious as public safety is frustrating, to say the least,” Greg Burt, VP of California Family Council, shared. “Our citizens urgently need laws and policies to reduce the crime, homelessness, and drug addiction ravaging their communities. It is distressing to see our elected representatives attempting to undermine the state’s initiative process, which empowers citizens to bypass the legislature when it fails to provide solutions.”

“We believe CSC’s measure will still make it to the ballot in November, and we continue to encourage residents to vote for the much-needed partial repeal of Prop 47, which has been nothing but a disaster in our state,” Burt said. 



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