Opponents of California’s Prop. 47 Get Stoked as Petition Signatures Mount

Opponents of California’s Prop. 47 Get Stoked as Petition Signatures Mount

Local residents attend a Proposal 47 reform signature collection drive-thru event hosted by KFI radio at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2024. (Mei He/The Epoch Times)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

2/23/2024

Updated: 2/27/2024

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Nearly 500,000 signatures have been gathered to “fix” Proposition 47, a law passed by California voters in 2015 to lessen some drug and theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanor offenses in an effort to reduce prison populations, with the measure now just inches away from qualifying for the November ballot.
“We’re very confident we’re going to qualify,” said Greg Totten, campaign chair for Californians to Reduce Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft and CEO for the California District Attorneys Association.
Mr. Totten told The Epoch Times that the half million signatures gathered so far doesn’t include volunteer efforts. Since the campaign began, he ordered 15,000 petitions for volunteers and has since ordered more. Most recently, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer was given 300 to 500 petitions for an event at the Honda Center on Feb. 22, according to Mr. Totten.
“We got over 1,000 signatures today,” Mr. Spitzer said after the event. “We’re so far ahead of schedule, I was worried today we were going to run out of signature forms because we had cars backed up all the way and it was just wildly popular.”
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer shakes the hand of a participant for a Prop. 47 reform signature collection drive-thru event hosted by KFI radio at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2024. (Mei He/The Epoch Times)

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer shakes the hand of a participant for a Prop. 47 reform signature collection drive-thru event hosted by KFI radio at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2024. (Mei He/The Epoch Times)

To qualify for the November ballot, 545,000 signatures are needed by April 26, but about 800,000 overall are needed to allow for unqualified signers; for example, those not registered to vote, according to Mr. Totten.
Known as the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act, the measure would increase criminal penalties for repeat offenders of theft and certain drug crimes.
“We’re at a tipping point. When Californians walk into basic retail outlets and they see products locked up, when they see inventory reduced, store hours reduced, stores in their neighborhoods closing, they have recognized that this is a problem that must be corrected,” Mr. Totten said when acknowledging the need for changes to the decade-old proposition.
He said drug addiction is contributing to an increase in homelessness because addicts face no consequences.
“Those people have no incentive to go into treatment. There’s no felony consequence for possession of hard drugs. We’re trying to change that,” Mr. Totten said.
Since the proposition passed, homelessness in California has increased by 51 percent and decreased by 11 percent in the nation, he said, referencing annual homelessness counts by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
California Assembly and Senate committees have also killed 20 bills aimed at reducing retail theft—which were sponsored by the District Attorneys Association—since the proposition passed, with the proposed bills never making it to the Assembly or Senate floors, according to Mr. Totten.
“All of them have been killed. ... The only reason that anything is occurring right now is because of the initiative. ... You can’t meaningfully fix 47 without taking it back to the voters,” he said.
Yorba Linda City Councilwoman Janice Lim at a Prop. 47 reform signature-collection event hosted by KFI radio at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2024. (Mei He/The Epoch Times)

Yorba Linda City Councilwoman Janice Lim at a Prop. 47 reform signature-collection event hosted by KFI radio at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Feb. 22, 2024. (Mei He/The Epoch Times)

In California, under Proposition 47, possession of drugs is cited as a misdemeanor, as is theft below $950 per occurrence, with more than 75 percent of those charged never showing up to court, according to officials.
The new measure would allow theft amounts to be combined to reach felony thresholds for repeat offenders. Also, three arrests for “hard” possession of drugs such as fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroin would become a felony charge, with the option for mandatory drug treatment to expunge the charges, according to the new initiative.
The initiative largely seeks to bring back felony offenses for repeat crimes as misdemeanors have become all but unenforceable, according to law enforcement officials. Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper said in November 2023 that there were 33,000 outstanding misdemeanor warrants in the county and that the “misdemeanor approach will solve nothing.”
He said the California Legislature alone is powerless to solve the problem because Proposition 47 has mandated that any attempt to increase penalties for theft or drug crimes requires voter approval.
In San Diego, volunteer efforts are also helping gather signatures. Nonprofit organization San Diego Asian Americans for Equality collected nearly 200 in its first two weeks, receiving an additional 100 forms since then and running out again, according to its co-founder, Frank Xu.
Mr. Xu said many San Diegans have noticed an increase in homelessness, shoplifting, drug use, and overall crime in recent years.
The 10-year-old nonprofit also participates in the county’s annual homeless count, Mr. Xu said, so the Asian community has seen firsthand the rise in homelessness.
“Every single year, we see numbers increasing. ... We count it ourselves with our own eyes,” he said.
He said collecting signatures has been easy. Volunteers just ask community members to sign the petition to stop “zero-dollar shopping,” a term in Chinese commonly used for retail theft. Also, people at Chinese events where the nonprofit has collected signatures haven’t hesitated to add their names.
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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