News

Proponents of California’s Prop. 47 Reform Question Legislature’s Public Safety Bill Amendments

Proponents of California’s Prop. 47 Reform Question Legislature’s Public Safety Bill Amendments

Proponents of the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act gather in front of the attorney general's office in Sacramento, Calif., on June 12, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Travis Gillmore
Travis Gillmore

6/16/2024

Updated: 6/16/2024

0

One day after a proposal that would repeal parts of California’s Proposition 47 officially qualified for the November ballot, proponents gathered in front of the state’s attorney general’s office to request lawmakers not to discourage voters from supporting the measure amid heightened public safety concerns across the state.
The ballot measure, if approved, would reform Proposition 47, which was passed by voters in 2014 to lower prison populations by downgrading some felony theft and drug crimes to misdemeanors.
“This is a battle for the future of California, and it’s a battle for the future and health for the businesses of California,” Greg Totten, president of the California District Attorneys Association and co-chair of California for Safer Communities—the group behind the ballot initiative—told The Epoch Times after the June 12 press conference.
The initiative—titled the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act—would also strengthen penalties for repeat offenders and allow prosecutors to charge felonies for some drug and theft crimes, while also encouraging offenders to participate in drug rehabilitation programs to avoid prison sentences.
Debates have been heating up at the Capitol recently after a group of Democratic lawmakers proposed bill amendments that would invalidate some public safety bills—which would strengthen penalties for some crimes—if voters approve the partial repeal of Proposition 47 in November. The deadline for the Legislature to pass the bills is Aug. 31.
Greg Totten speaks in support of the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act at a press conference in Sacramento, Calif., on June 12, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Greg Totten speaks in support of the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act at a press conference in Sacramento, Calif., on June 12, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Supporters of the ballot initiative said the bill amendments are an attempt to influence the election by forcing voters to choose either of the two.
Some lawmakers in favor of the bills and the recently introduced amendments—including Sen. President Pro Tem Mike McGuire and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas—say the ballot initiative would cause mass incarceration and undermine state leaders’ years-long effort to reduce the prison population.
They have also said some elements in the public safety package contradict the ballot measure, so the bill amendments—scheduled to be heard June 17 and June 19 by the Senate and Assembly Appropriations committees, respectively—are meant to prevent such conflicts.
Proponents of the measure, however, dismiss such claims as political posturing.
“They’ve been playing politics too long and killing good, thoughtful legislation, and they’re trying to do the same with the initiative,” Mr. Totten said.
Mr. McGuire and Mr. Rivas did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas speaks on stage at the Los Angeles Equality Awards at The Westin Bonaventure Rooftop in Los Angeles on Oct. 14, 2023. (Rich Polk/Getty Images for Equality California)

California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas speaks on stage at the Los Angeles Equality Awards at The Westin Bonaventure Rooftop in Los Angeles on Oct. 14, 2023. (Rich Polk/Getty Images for Equality California)

With decades of experience as a prosecutor—most recently in Ventura County before retiring to lead the district attorneys’ group—Mr. Totten said homelessness has worsened statewide despite billions of dollars in taxpayer money being spent.
Additionally, he said that fentanyl and substance use disorders are fueling the problems affecting communities—saying that homelessness, drug addiction, and theft have similar root causes and need to be tackled with a big-picture approach using accountability and rehabilitation.
“They’re all interlinked; they’re all inextricably connected,” Mr. Totten said. “Many drug addicts steal to support their habits and their lifestyle.”
Dozens of supporters from across the state attended, with some speaking at the event, representing all races and socio-economic backgrounds.
Their goal, according to multiple speakers, is to offer a “beacon of hope” for Californians to help improve public safety and better communities statewide.
“This initiative is really about bringing about hope and change,” Reverend Mac Shorty, founder of the Community RePower Movement—a nonprofit based in Los Angeles—told The Epoch Times. “We are living in hopeless times right now, and people are looking to hold on and attach to something positive.”
Reverend Mac Shorty speaks in support of the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act at a press conference in Sacramento, Calif., on June 12, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Reverend Mac Shorty speaks in support of the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act at a press conference in Sacramento, Calif., on June 12, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

The mother of 22-year-old Jackson Smith—who died in 2016 after taking a pill that he believed to be Oxycodone but was a counterfeit version laced with fentanyl—told The Epoch Times that the initiative could help save lives.
“We are in a real mess right now,” Pamela Smith said. “And the fentanyl epidemic that we’ve been in for quite some time is absolutely out of control, and we need to do something about it.”
She said the ballot measure’s approach—using a combination of rehabilitation efforts and increased penalties for dealing drugs such as fentanyl—could help “hold people accountable and bring back consequences for people that are selling poison to our children and getting away with it.”
Pamela Smith speaks in support of the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act at a press conference in Sacramento, Calif., on June 12, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Pamela Smith speaks in support of the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act at a press conference in Sacramento, Calif., on June 12, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

“Californians need to understand that ... it is extremely important to vote for it because it will change the landscape of California,” Ms. Smith said.
With about 120 Californians dying every week from fentanyl, according to the statistics from the state’s Department of Public Health, she said families are devastated by the loss of loved ones to fentanyl.
“I’m so tired of it, and I know so many other parents are tired of it,” Ms. Smith said. “I don’t want another mother to go through what I go through every single day.”
Another parent working to end the fentanyl crisis lost his 17-year-old son, Zach Didier, in 2020 to fentanyl poisoning after the star athlete was deceived by a drug dealer.
He said more accountability for criminals, as is being proposed in the ballot measure, is needed to keep Californians safe.
“When we look at the accountability space, especially toward the people who are intentionally and knowingly peddling poison for profit ... we’re way behind,” the father, Chris Didier, told The Epoch Times.
He said voters need to carefully examine the public safety bills and the Proposition 47 reform measure and weigh the differences before making any decisions.
“Think about what’s going on here and do your homework to know what this initiative is all about and what [some] Assemblymembers and state Senators are trying to promote, and what it does,” Mr. Didier said. “You’ll see a difference; vote your conscience.”
Copy
facebooktwitterlinkedintelegram

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.

Author's Selected Articles
California Insider
Sign up here for our email newsletter!
©2024 California Insider All Rights Reserved. California Insider is a part of Epoch Media Group.