SHASTA COUNTY, Calif. — Proposition 47, as voted for by nearly 60% of voters throughout the state, is a referendum repeatedly cited by law enforcement as a source of the state’s high crime rates. Assembly Bill 1599 was introduced this week to almost entirely repeal the proposition altogether.
“Proposition 47 has been nothing short of a colossal failure across the state," said Assemblymember James Gallagher who is one of the AB-1599 creators.
Proposition 47, voted into law by 59.6% of voters in 2014, allowed for myriad changes to sentencing requirements. The referendum reclassified grand theft, shoplifting, petty theft, and check forgeries as misdemeanors if the offense resulted in the theft of less than $950.
AB-1599, authored by Assemblymen Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) and James Gallagher (R-Yuba City), would more substantially eliminate Prop 47, repealing all changes and additions made by Prop 47, except those related to reducing the penalty for possession of concentrated cannabis.
When asked why the assembly member wanted to repeal something that most Californians voted for, he replied, "I think the people were really deceived with Proposition 47. Democrats who have been in office, like Kamala Harris and Rob Bonta, they use their power to say that this is just going to ensure that people have a second chance and that's how they ride it. Of course, that's not what has happened. People have just seen a bunch of bad crimes rise and people have become wise to the fact that this is not what was sold to them."
Proposition 47 was enacted to comply with a 2011 California Supreme Court order, which upheld that California’s overcrowded prisons violated incarcerated individuals’ Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment.
The 2014 proposition modified but did not eliminate, sentencing for many nonviolent property and drug crimes.
“What Prop 47 did was take very low-level crimes like petty theft, some petty drug offenses, petty larceny, and classify them as misdemeanors rather than felonies,” said Charis Kubrin, professor of criminology, law, and society at the University of California, Irvine, who wrote a study examining the impact of the proposition on crime rates.
Proponents argue that the proposition is needed because it gives criminals a second chance in life.
In a statement from the Democrats of Shasta County Jenny Abbe said:
Since it's passage by a majority of Californians, Prop 47 as enabled a reduction in mass incarceration for non-violent crimes, and provided alternative sentencing options that make re-entry and rehabilitation more possible. Gallagher's proposal would require Californians to vote to reverse a trend toward more compassionate sentencing of non-violent crimes, which is unlikely to happen.
"The unprecedented increase in property crime in the North State and across California is a direct result of this failed policy. When there is no punishment for ransacking a place of business, criminals only become more brazen in their attacks. AB 1599 will give the voters a chance to put an end to this misleading proposition and allow law enforcement to put criminals behind bars,” said Gallagher.
There is also a new bill led by Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, Assembly Bill 1603 amends this portion of the legislation by lowering the threshold for a felony. A suspect must commit more than $400 worth of petty theft or shoplifting to be charged with a felony, reverting to the original threshold before the passage of Proposition 47, Salas’ news release said.
"That's not enough," said Gallagher in regards to AB 1603. "Our friends on the other side of the aisle need to stop dancing around the issue. Why shouldn't criminals pay for their wrongdoings?"
Voters must approve both pieces of legislation to become law. Before this process, the bills must pass through both houses and receive Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.
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