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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

California Democrats push back on Republican attacks against crime legislation

The package of bills is expected to move through the state Legislature in the next few weeks.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — California Democratic lawmakers pushed back Monday against Republican talking points about a handful of crime bills, saying the legislation targeting the retail theft crisis — and not a proposed ballot initiative — is the best way to address the problem.

Senate President Pro Tempore Mike McGuire said Republicans have been spreading “hogwash” throughout the Capitol over the past few days about the crime bills. Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas said phrases like “poison pill,” used by Republicans, are propaganda and demonstrate their goal is to play politics.

“There are no poison pills,” Rivas said, adding moments later: “These amendments are necessary.”

Democrats at a Monday press conference said they intend to add an urgency clause to those bills, meaning they will become law immediately after being signed by the governor, instead of becoming effective Jan. 1.

The bills also will have inoperability clauses added to them. If a proposed ballot measure passes in November and repeals Proposition 47, the crime bills would be voided.

Proposition 47 was passed 10 years ago. Its purpose is to focus prison dollars on violent and serious offenses. Certain drug and theft charges were dropped to misdemeanors.

Critics have said the proposition emboldened thieves, pointing to videos on social media that show brazen thefts.

Rivas referenced those videos, saying that he knew action was needed when he took the speaker’s gavel last June. He created a special retail theft committee to determine what change was needed and made a new appointment to his chamber’s Public Safety Committee. The result was the package of bills Democrats hope to see passed over the next few weeks.

“Republicans are crying foul about this,” Rivas said.

The bills, in the works for months, address issues ranging from vehicle break-ins to the aggregation of thefts to meet a legal threshold for prosecution.

McGuire argued that the package of bills will be more effective at combatting retail theft than a repeal of Proposition 47, the latter of which is a goal of some Republicans. The legislative fix is preferred by retailers, he said, adding the days of mass incarceration in California are over.

Opponents of Proposition 47 say Democrats are the ones playing politics.

Assembly and state Senate Republican leaders last week issued a statement on the bill amendments. They oppose the additions to the bills, calling them an attempt to interfere in the state’s initiative process.

“Democrats need to stop playing politics with public safety and let voters decide on fixing Prop 47,” said Assemblymember James Gallagher, his chamber’s minority leader, in the statement. “These poison pills show that Democrats aren’t serious about ending the crime wave — they just want to look like they’re doing something because their years-long support for criminals has become a political liability.”

Gallagher and state Senator Brian Jones, the Senate’s minority leader, in a letter to Rivas and McGuire say the urgency and repeal clauses would force people into a false choice of supporting legislative reform or needed changes to Proposition 47.  

“It’s irresponsible to force voters into a false choice between the two,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, some Democrat politicians are too prideful to admit their mistake with Prop 47 and they continue to deny the desperate need for reform.”

Rivas in the press conference said lawmakers added the inoperability clauses to the bills because they want to avoid potential legal conflicts. For example, one of the bills would impose a higher sentence on thieves who steal property valued at over $950. Repealing Proposition 47 would do the same, except it doesn’t include an inflation adjustment.

“They just don’t work together,” Rivas added.

Categories / Criminal, Government, Law

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