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Despite 11th Hour Push from Gov. Newsom, Prop 47 Proposition Makes It to Ballot

California voters will decide the outcome of a measure that aims to amend Proposition 47, a law that made drug possession and theft for property less than $950 a misdemeanor instead of a felony.


Last week, a reform measure that imposes harsher criminal penalties for drug possession and theft qualified for the November ballot. Republican legislators and law enforcement officers advocated for the reform measure they say would reduce crime rates statewide.


Republican Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones said that Democrats are too prideful to admit that Prop 47 was a mistake and continue to deny the need to reform the law.


“To combat the California crime wave, we need to strengthen our laws, both in the Legislature and at the ballot box,” Jones said in a statement.


“It’s irresponsible to force voters into a false choice between the two,” he added.


Before the ballot measure qualified last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom attempted to negotiate with legislators to keep the reform measure off the November ballot. Democratic leaders made efforts to prevent Republican plans to have parts of Prop 47 repealed.


Democrats accused Republicans of political posturing and intentionally misrepresenting Prop 47, pointing out that most retail theft and other crimes most frequently committed exceed the $950 misdemeanor threshold that has become a point of contention for opponents.


“If a ballot measure purporting to address retail theft and fentanyl issues is approved by voters this fall, aspects of these laws simply won’t be applicable and there will be conflicts,” Speaker of the Assembly Robert Rivas said.


“We should solve our crime problem with carefully considered legislation that addresses the problem, because that’s how to solve this — not through blunt force, but through informed fixes,” he said.


However, Californians for Safer Communities, a bipartisan group composed of law enforcement officers, community organizers, and business leaders backed the proposed amendment to reform Prop 47. The advocacy group garnered over 900,000 signatures for a petition that qualifies Prop 47 to be included in the November ballot, allowing voters to have a say on the amendment.


Greg Totten, co-chair of Californians for Safer Communities said that State legislators should stop playing politics.


“The Legislature’s plan to include an automatic repeal … proves they are not serious about addressing the explosion in retail theft and the state’s fentanyl crisis,” said Totten.


Voters approved Prop 47 in 2014 lowering the penalty for crimes including shoplifting, grand theft, and receiving stolen property. But Republican leaders want harsher penalties for offenses such as drug possession and property theft.


Democratic leaders in the legislature proposed a bi-partisan package of 14 bills to help curb retail theft statewide to sway voters from repealing Prop 47. Democratic legislators also promised to add an amendment to a proposed bill on retail crimes that revokes the laws if voters pass the statewide proposition regarding harsher crime laws.


Despite the governor’s repeated attempts to avoid including Prop 47 in the ballot box, voters will make the final decision in November.


“Do I think the legislative path is better than the ballot box? Yes, I do, but I also respect the will of our voters here in California, said Rivas. They’re frustrated, and I know that’s why our caucus, why our leaders in the Senate – why we have devoted a year to developing good, strong laws to fix this problem.”

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