California Democrats Are Going All Out to Protect Prop. 47 from the Voters

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Prop. 47 is the California initiative passed by the voters in 2014 which raised the bar for property crimes making most retail thefts into misdemeanors. Prop 47 did the same for small amounts of drug possession. And ever since, police have complained that this is part of the reason that rampant shoplifting and open drug use have escalated in places like San Francisco.


As the west coast has gradually swung back from the far left commitment to criminal justice reform and drug legalization (Oregon is reversing its own drug legalization effort after a spike in overdose deaths), Democrats have come under increasing pressure to do something about Prop. 47.

Back in January we learned the Gov. Newsom opposed those efforts. Instead he proposed the creation of some new laws which would (he claimed) address the problems without undoing Prop. 47. Here's how Politico reported it at the time:

Elected officials who have backed lighter sentencing in an effort to reduce mass incarceration are looking for ways to address crime without abandoning a yearslong movement away from lengthy prison terms.

Those dynamics have amplified calls to roll back Prop 47, a 2014 ballot measure that reduced drug and property crimes to misdemeanors and drew support from a cross-section of California Democrats, including Newsom. But the Democratic governor is resisting calls to revisit the initiative, instead embracing a mix of new penalties and bills that solidify existing law.

Jump forward a few months and it looks like the effort to repeal Prop. 47 is going to make the ballot. So Newsom and his fellow Democrats are going all out by offering a bunch of new laws which include and "interoperability clause." In short, if Prop. 47 is repealed the new laws would be automatically defunct

The Prop 47 reform initiative is likely to make it onto the ballot, according to recent data from the California Secretary of State's office. Proponents of the reform gathered 910,000 signatures supporting the ballot measure, although the signatures are still being verified.

Some Democrat lawmakers plan to add inoperability clauses into the public safety bills to prevent them from going into effect if voters approve the Prop 47 reforms, according to KCRA. Some Democrats said this is to ensure there are not any inconsistencies in the law, a claim the campaign seeking to reform Prop 47 rejected on Friday.

Republicans are calling this plan a "poison pill."


In other words, Californians can have the new laws or they can repeal Prop. 47 but Democrats won't let them have both. The clear goal here is to lure away enough support from the Prop. 47 repeal effort that it collapses. Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig posted a message about the effort on X Saturday.

It reads: 

Days ago, proponents of “The Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act” (a People’s Initiative that will qualify for the Nov 24 ballot) learned that the Governor’s office directed Sacramento lawmakers to insert a “poison pill” provision into their current package of bills dealing with retail theft and other crimes.

The purpose of the Governor’s “poison pill” language in the crime bills is to guarantee, subject to legislative votes, an automatic repeal of those same laws should the People’s Initiative be enacted by voters in Nov 24! 

This unprecedented & unethical gamesmanship is designed to punish the voters of CA & anyone who might support the enhanced accountability sought by the People’s Initiative to amend Prop 47, which goes much further than the legislation to effectively address the fentanyl/drug, retail theft and homeless crises.  

In addition, this “poison pill,” if successfully passed, will immediately trigger a critical rewrite of the “Official Title and Summary” of the People’s Initiative by the CA Attorney General. This is what voters will see on the ballot. 

This is the potential political kill shot they seek!


State Democrats held a press conference Monday to counter this, claiming the interoperability clauses in their bills were neccessary because the laws would be in conflict. But when pressed, they only seemed able to offer one example.

Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas and Senate Pro Tempore Mike McGuire claimed on Monday that the two proposals would conflict legally, but were short on specifics.

"We added inoperability clauses to help ensure that if these bills were put into law and the ballot initiative also goes into effect, we don't have a world-class mess of conflicting policies on our hands," McGuire said...

Rivas provided an example with AB 1960, which would impose a sentencing enhancement for thieves that destroy property over $50,000. Rivas said the initiative has the exact same enhancement, "except it does not include an inflation adjustment which is in the bill," Rivas said.

As the legislative leaders deflected from specific questions about the conflicts, they emphasized their concern that if the initiative passes, it would return California to its days of mass incarceration.

This is absolute nonsense. It would be very easy for Democrats to revise their bills slightly to accommodate the repeal of Prop. 47. They don't want to do that though, because what they really want is to kill the repeal effort. Criminal justice reform must survive even if the voters don't want it. 

This is literally an effort by Democrats to keep crooks out of prison by threatening to scuttle public safety efforts unless they get their way on Prop. 47. Democrats should be ashamed but of course they are not.


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