More Nullification Amendments Added to California Public Safety Bills

More Nullification Amendments Added to California Public Safety Bills

The California State Capitol in Sacramento on Feb. 1, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Travis Gillmore
Travis Gillmore

6/21/2024

Updated: 6/25/2024

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SACRAMENTO—Following similar actions in the state Senate, the California Assembly’s Appropriations Committee amended five bills on June 19, adding clauses to some public safety bills that will nullify them if voters approve a measure this November to reform a law passed by voters in 2014.
An initiative set for the November ballot known as the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act—which would prioritize treatment and rehabilitation while allowing repeat offenders of some drug and theft crimes to be charged with felonies—is at issue, with some lawmakers looking to amend a package of bills to include so-called inoperability clauses which would rescind the bills if the initiative passes.
As part of the legislative process where both chambers consider each other’s bills, the Assembly is now considering Senate proposals and vice versa, and if they pass on the floors, the bills will be sent back to their respective house of origin for approval of amendments made by the other chamber.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, the author of one bill in question—Senate Bill 905, which would eliminate a legal loophole that requires proof that a vehicle was locked to charge someone that broke into it with theft—said he supports the amendments.
“I understand that this bill and some other bills are getting caught up in some bizarre politics,” Mr. Wiener said during the hearing. “You either support the policy or you don’t support the policy, and I don’t see why an inoperability clause would, frankly, affect that.”
Such clauses have created division at the state Capitol, with some Assembly Democrats pulling their names from bills after Appropriations Committees in both houses sought to insert the amendment.
He said the amendments should not be a reason for lawmakers to oppose the bills.
“Whatever happens with the ballot measure is going to happen one way or the other,” Mr. Wiener said. “It’s unclear to me why people would change their position on good policy based on that, but that’s the way politics rule sometimes.”
A representative for law enforcement groups across the state testified during the hearing that the organizations could not support Mr. Wiener’s and other bills, as amended.
Another now-amended bill, Senate Bill 982 authored by state Sen. Aisha Wahab, would remove the January 2026 expiration date on existing law that established organized retail theft as a crime allowing for possible harsher penalties.
When questioned by the committee about the reason for the amendment, given that the provisions in the initiative do not conflict with the bill, the author said the Legislature is better equipped to address organized retail theft crimes.
“I think ... legislation is the best way to make a balanced approach with policy,” Ms. Wahab said during the hearing.
Senate Bill 1144, authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, was also amended to be nullified if the ballot measure passes. The bill targets online marketplaces by requiring platforms to collect information identifying high-volume sellers so law enforcement can investigate the sale of any potentially stolen items.
“The contents of SB 1144 will do far more to help us prosecute and end organized retail theft than anything in [the ballot] initiative,” Ms. Skinner said. “So, this is what is needed to be able to deal with the problem we have.”
One committee member questioned the motives of the amendments and said the move is jeopardizing the future of the package of public safety bills.
“Why would they compromise what were otherwise good bills?” Assemblywoman Diane Dixon told The Epoch Times. “It’s shocking that they would want to play politics ... with a qualified initiative that has been signed by over 900,000 registered voters in California.”
She said the bills and the initiative would “complement each other” and should coexist. She additionally noted how some lawmakers see a need to reform Proposition 47—passed by voters in 2014 to lower prison populations by reducing some drug and theft crimes from felonies to misdemeanors—while others are concerned that the ballot initiative will be successful.
“They’re afraid that this proposition will be passed by the voters,” Ms. Dixon said. “And it likely will because Californians want to make their communities safer.”
Other amended measures include Senate Bills 1242 and 1416, which would strengthen penalties for arsonists that use fire to make stealing easier and enhanced sentences for selling, exchanging, or returning stolen goods, respectively.
“What happened today was truly inexcusable, and yet just another example of the supermajority putting politics before people,” Assemblywoman Kate Sanchez, vice-chair of the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, told The Epoch Times by email on June 19. “California voters first decided Prop 47, they should be the ones to say whether it stays or goes, not out of touch Sacramento politicians.”
One committee member suggested that the initiative was problematic because it would increase penalties for certain crimes that he said are better addressed with social programs.
“This initiative is a clear reminder of the deep criminalization of poverty that has taken place in this country for decades,” Assemblyman Isaac Bryan said during the hearing.
The amended bills received votes from most Democrats, while all four Republicans on the committee voted in opposition.
All five bills were also amended with an urgency clause, meaning they are currently on a fast track in the Legislature and will take effect immediately if the governor ultimately signs them into law.
After passing the committee, the bills are expected to be heard on the Assembly floor in the coming days. Regardless of the nullification amendments, their future is uncertain given historical reluctance from some in the Democrat’s Progressive Caucus to support any bills that strengthen penalties for criminal activity.
The bills need a two-thirds majority—as mandated by state law due to the urgency clauses—to pass on the Assembly floor.
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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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