Newsom and Democrat Leaders Seek to Take Proposition 47 Repeal Off Ballot

Newsom and Democrat Leaders Seek to Take Proposition 47 Repeal Off Ballot

California Gov. Gavin Newsom meets with delegates from Norway in Larkspur, Calif., on April 17, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Tom Ozimek

Tom Ozimek

6/8/2024

Updated: 6/10/2024

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom confirmed that he and Democrat leaders in the state Legislature are negotiating to remove the bipartisan Proposition 47 reform measure from the November ballot, amid opposition from Republican leaders.
“There’s a lot of moving parts, a lot of negotiations concurrently happening,” Mr. Newsom told reporters in San Francisco on June 7. “Prop 47 is included.”
Commonly referred to as Prop 47, the ballot measure passed by California voters in 2014 aimed to reduce the prison population by reclassifying some crimes, such as drug possession and shoplifting, as misdemeanors, while raising the threshold for felony theft charges to $950 from $450.
A bipartisan effort is underway to change Prop 47 by way of a November ballot initiative called the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act.
The ballot initiative seeks to revise Prop 47 to boost criminal penalties for repeat offenders of theft and certain drug crimes and create incentives for some to enter drug rehab. For instance, individuals convicted of theft for a third time would be punished for up to three years in prison, while fentanyl possession would be classified as a felony.
The California Secretary of State’s Office, which notes that the ballot initiative has more than 910,000 signatures in support, has until June 27 to certify the November ballot, meaning that the window is narrowing for opponents to negotiate its removal.

‘A Better Approach’ Versus ‘Grave Damage’

Mr. Newsom and some Democrats are opposed to the Prop 47 reform measure and have instead pushed a package of public safety bills they say offer a more flexible approach to tackling crimes such as retail theft.
“I just don’t think there’s a need to have it on the ballot,” Mr. Newsom told reporters on Friday. “Why have something on the ballot that doesn’t actually achieve the goals that are intended? Why do something that can be done legislatively, with more flexibility? I think it’s a better approach.”
Democratic State Senate Pro Tempore Mike McGuire has also called the Prop 47 reform initiative unnecessary and Democrats have proposed amendments to the package of retail theft bills that include repealing some provisions if voters approve the ballot measure in November. These have been dubbed “inoperable clauses.”
Republican legislative leaders argue that Californians should have the right to vote on the initiative to repeal parts of Prop 47.
“To combat the California crime wave, we need to strengthen our laws, both in the Legislature and at the ballot box,” State Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones, a Republican, said in a June 7 statement.
Mr. Jones also urged Democrat leaders not to support legislation with any inoperable clauses that would automatically repeal bills or provisions addressing retail theft if voters pass the Prop 47 reform measure.
“It’s irresponsible to force voters into a false choice between the two,” Mr. Jones said.
Mr. Newsom declined to say whether he would sign any legislation that would contain the inoperable clauses, citing the “evolving process” of negotiations around the various retail crime-related bills and the Prop 47 effort. He praised the retail theft package that he says adequately addresses various stakeholder concerns around retail theft, particularly organized retail theft.
Mr. Jones and state Rep. James Gallagher, the California Assembly Republican leader, said in a joint letter to Mr. McGuire and state Rep. Robert Rivas, the Assembly speaker, that the proposed inoperable clauses—which they labeled as “poison pills”—threaten to do “grave damage to the bipartisan progress we have made with the retail theft package.”
The GOP lawmakers praised the retail theft package as “commendable,” but said the fight against crime in California requires a “more robust” approach, which includes Prop 47 reform.
While some of the bills in the retail crime package mirror aspects of the Prop 47 reform ballot measures, a key difference in the ballot initiative is an increase in penalties for someone convicted of shoplifting if they have two prior theft-related convictions.
Prop 47 passed with nearly 60 percent approval in 2014.
Proposition 20, a proposal in 2020 that sought to toughen some of the penalties that were reduced by Prop 47 ended up failing.
Magnus Lofstrom, policy director and senior research fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California, told The Epoch Times in a recent interview that crime is down in the state from historic highs decades ago but there’s been an uptick in theft since 2019, especially for auto theft.
“Property crime rates in California are low, but we have seen some increases in the past few years,” Mr. Lofstrom said. “The problem is we don’t really know what’s behind it and what’s driving it.”
Commercial burglary is on the rise—up 16 percent since 2019—and commercial robbery—where violence or the threat thereof is used—has risen 13 percent over the same period, according to the institute’s data.
Travis Gillmore contributed to this report.
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Tom Ozimek

Tom Ozimek

Author

Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.

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