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California’s Public Policy Playback: News You Might Have Missed

Tanu Henry, Antonio Ray Harvey and Joe W. Bowers Jr. | California Black Media

“A Squeaker:” Voters Pass Proposition 1 With Razor-Thin Margin 

Proposition 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s controversial $6.4 billion proposal aimed at providing some 11,000 treatment beds for mentally ill and drug addicted homeless Californians, barely passed last week with about 30,000 votes — equal to less than one percentage point.

State election authorities had been counting approximately 7 million votes cast for the measure for more than two weeks since the March 5 primary. On March 20, the Associated Press declared the measure had passed.

“This is the biggest change in decades in how California tackles homelessness, and a victory for doing things radically different,” said Newsom, who moved his State of the State address last week, in anticipation of the results.

“Now, counties and local officials must match the ambition of California voters. This historic reform will only succeed if we all kick into action immediately – state government and local leaders, together,” Newsom added.

Opponents of the measure called Newsom’s win on Prop 1 an “embarrassing squeaker that contains a strong warning.”

“Prop. 1 does not just ‘reform’ the mental health system, it reduces funding for mental health services by redirecting $1 billion per year. Prop. 1 could be a humanitarian disaster if it is not well managed,” read a statement from Californians Against Prop. 1.

“Prop. 1 was poorly designed because it relies on $10 billion in debt and stealing money from existing mental health services. The governor’s campaign succeeded only by concealing the way this measure is paid for. They barely got away with it,” the statement continued.

Former S.F. Mayor and Longtime Assembly Speaker Willie Brown Turns 90

Willie Brown, whose name and image have become inextricably linked with San Francisco, celebrated his 90th birthday last week at Harris Restaurant in the Golden Gate City. Earlier on the same day, another birthday celebration was held for Brown, San Francisco’s first Black Mayor, at San Francisco City Hall.

A who’s who guest list of more than 300 prominent San Franciscans and other Californians gathered to celebrate Brown at both events, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, among others.

In several interviews last week, Brown told reporters his primary goal right now is to live to see 91.

“Happy Birthday to the Honorable Willie Brown, Jr! As a longtime California leader, two-term mayor of San Francisco, legendary speaker of the Assembly, and California Hall of Fame inductee, his contributions to California, and his love for the state, are immeasurable,” said Newsom in a statement.

Brown, an attorney, was first elected to the California Assembly in 1964. In 1980, he was elected Speaker and served for 14-plus years before he was elected San Francisco Mayor in 1995.

At the City Hall celebration, Breed told Brown — for whom a section of the city’s famous Bay Bridge is named – that he does not need a symbolic key to the city.

“Any time you show up anywhere, the doors are always open,” Breed said. “You will always be our forever mayor.”

New Bill Would Authorize Police Officers to Make Warrantless Arrests

To combat the surge in burglaries and retail thefts in California, lawmakers have introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1990. The proposal making its way through the State Legislature would authorize police officers to make arrests without first obtaining a warrant.

“This bill would authorize a peace officer to make a warrantless arrest for a misdemeanor shoplifting offense not committed in the officer’s presence if the officer has probable cause to believe that person has committed shoplifting,” reads the bill language.

Authored by Assemblymembers Wendy Carillo (D-Boyle Heights), Mike Gipson (D-Carson) and Carlos Villapudua (D-Stockton), AB 1990 is drawing bipartisan support.

“I am proud to join my colleagues Assembly Members Gipson, Villapudua and Carrillo as a co-author to AB 1990 STOP Act. This bill will support law enforcement’s efforts in protecting our communities against retail theft, said Assemblymember Juan Alanis, a Republican who represents a district that stretches from the Bay Area to parts of the San Joaquin Valley.

“Although there is a lot of work to be done, this is an important step to addressing this critical issue. I look forward to continuing the fight against retail theft in the Legislature.,” continued Alanis.

Opponents have begun to speak out against the bill currently under reviewed by the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

“Please say no to AB 1990 #Stop Act,” wrote Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood) on Facebook. “Bad for Black and Brown folks. Please share so our community can know what is happening.”

Attorney Gen. Rob Bonta’s Message to Those Involved in Organized Crime: “We Will Prosecute You” 

On March 19, California Attorney General Rob Bonta held a press conference to announce that the Department of Justice has charged three people accused of organizing “smash-and-grab style thefts” at high-end retail stores throughout California. From Dec. 12, 2022, to Feb.12, 2024.

“Our message to those involved in organized crime is simple,” said Bonta.

“If you steal from our businesses and put people in harm’s way; if you try to make an easy buck out of other people’s hard work, we will prosecute you,” he stated.

Bonta said the suspects were charged with 27 felony robbery and grand theft charges resulting in more than $309,000 in losses in six different counties: San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, Alameda and Santa Clara.

“I want to thank first and foremost our law enforcement partners” said Bonta at the press briefing. “We are at our best when we work together, when we collaborate, when we team up, when we share information.”

Bonta said his office will continue to crack down on organized retail crime.

Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief of Detectives Alan Hamilton also celebrated the effective coordination and cooperation among various law enforcement agencies across the state.

“Organized retail theft crime is no longer local,” said Hamilton. “A strong economy, and a feeling of safety should not be disrupted in any community by a delinquent few.  We will continue to strengthen public safety and build trust with our businesses and consumers alike, through the incredible work of our local and regional partners.”

Bonta said stores targeted in the raids included Burberry, Prada, Sunglass Hut, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, Michael Kors, Gucci, Coach, Versace, and Maison Margiela.

Gov. Newsom to Expand List of Counties Under Storm-Related State of Emergency

On March 22, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that his office is expanding the state of emergency he declared in February to include nine counties.

If the Governor’s Major Disaster Declaration request is approved, the federal government will provide funding to assist local and tribal governments with emergency response and storm recovery expenses.

Newsom’s request includes Butte, Glenn, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Sutter and Ventura counties.

As explained above, California experienced significant damage from the heavy precipitation and snow, river and urban flooding, and high winds caused by the early February 2024 winter storms event,” reads Newsom’s letter, dated March 22, to President Biden.

“For these reasons, I am requesting a Major Disaster Declaration for all categories of public assistance for the counties identified above, as well as hazard mitigation statewide,” the letter continued.

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