Gavin Newsom and Democrats work to remove crime from California’s ballot

California prosecutors joined retailers this year in qualifying a ballot initiative that would overturn parts of Proposition 47, the decade-old law that reduces penalties for theft and drug possession.

The big question now is: How long can rural sheriffs and the Walmart board share a common vision for fighting crime?

Law enforcement officials have requested changes to Proposition 47 since voters approved it in 2014.

Retailers, including small stores, supermarket chains and large giants, have become increasingly concerned about the policy since shoplifting increased during the pandemic. They qualified Proposition 47 for the November ballot with a coalition combining the DA’s political reach and retail money.

Now, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic leaders are plotting to remove the measure from the ballot before the June 27 deadline by pulling coalition partners in opposing directions. The Democratic-led Legislature is moving forward with a series of bills that address many of retailers’ concerns, including a new crime category for serial thefts and a crackdown on the resale of stolen goods.

The DAs called the proposals insufficient, arguing that the only way to combat shoplifting is to make changes to Proposition 47, and that the only way to make changes to Proposition 47 is to bring it back to the voters.

Last week, Democrats announced they would amend the bill to repeal the laws if voters approved the initiative.

“If a ballot measure meant to address the shoplifting and fentanyl problems is approved by voters this fall, some aspects of these laws simply will not apply and conflicts will arise,” the president said. Assemblyman Robert Rivas, a Democrat, during a press conference. this afternoon. “We must solve our crime problem with carefully considered legislation that addresses the problem, because that is the way to solve it – not through brute force, but through thoughtful solutions. »

The election coalition leader said the decision to add amendments appeared intended to force retailers to choose between the two legislative efforts. “There is absolutely no political basis for including them other than to pressure their supporters and sow division among those seeking criminal justice reform,” said California CEO Greg Totten. District Attorneys Association, in a press release.

Some of these differences have already emerged in responses to lawmakers’ amendments. Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association, told POLITICO that the legislative package addresses her members’ main concerns about shoplifting and that she agrees with the new emergency clauses contained in the bills, which would make them effective immediately.

She took exception to inoperability clauses that would repeal the laws if the ballot measure passes in November. “On the one hand, I understand: it’s political,” she says. “But on the other hand, it’s frustrating.”

Michelin represents a number of small and large retailers in the state, but not necessarily the views of some major stores like Walmart and Home Depot, which have invested millions of dollars to qualify the ballot measure and have yet to commented on legislative developments. .

Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig sounded the alarm over the weekend about what he called “an imminent threat to our collective efforts to reform Prop 47.” and anyone who may support the increased accountability sought by the ballot measure.

Republican leaders in the Legislature have also been highly critical of the inoperability clauses, noting that they supported the contents of the bipartisan package but could not support the versions with the new amendments.

“These bills are good. They passed both houses, with very strong bipartisan support,” Republican leader James Gallagher told POLITICO. “Let’s get them through without any strategy, without any last-minute tricks.”

For the law enforcement officials behind the initiative, a tough stance against Sacramento Democrats comes at virtually no cost: Many of the most vocal officials represent conservative-leaning voters who are more adamant in favor of tough-on-crime policies.

But stores, which would likely bear the eight-figure costs of an election campaign, are also responsible to shareholders and consumers – meaning they are more likely to consider the pragmatic benefits of compromise (i.e. do not spend millions to strengthen the measure). ) . autumn).

“While a lot has been said publicly and privately, I also think there is a lot more clarity about where people are and where the conversations need to be happening,” said Daniel Conway of the California Grocers Association. Chief among them: “The return to voting is probably the fundamental sticking point.”