California Democrats Cry ‘Rubbish’ Over Republican Criticism of Retail Theft Bills, Prop. 47

California Democratic leaders on Monday pushed back against criticism from Republicans over their handling of a series of bills that would toughen penalties for retail theft crimes.

“To our Republican colleagues who oppose our solutions to public safety and retail theft, I ask them this: What do you all stand for? Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, said at a news conference. “Which policy from our bipartisan package are you defending here?

This followed an outcry from Republicans unhappy with amendments to some of the bills in the package. The changes would undo a group of measures if a ballot initiative amending Proposition 47 passes in November. The 2014 voter-approved initiative reduced some theft and drug crimes to misdemeanors and set a $950 threshold for shoplifting.

The 14 measures will be submitted to the Assembly and Senate public safety committees on Tuesday. However, Rivas and Senate President Pro Tem Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, have not yet explained which bills they plan to amend.

Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City and Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones of San Diego sent Democrats a letter Thursday expressing concerns about the amendments, saying they “create a dangerous precedent, forcing our voters to make a false choice between legislative reforms and necessary measures.” modifications to Proposition 47.”

Another emergency amendment would cause them to go into effect as soon as Gov. Gavin Newsom signs them, potentially weakening the ballot measure.

Conflicting retail theft plans

On Monday, Rivas and McGuire called Republican claims that the amendments were a “poison pill” hypocritical.

They insist that passing the ballot measure and the bill simultaneously would cause conflicts.

Rivas cited a 1960 Assembly bill by Rep. Esmeralda Soria, D-Fresno, that would add sentencing enhancements for those who destroy property while committing a felony if the loss exceeds $50,000. He said the initiative contained a similar provision, but it did not include an adjustment for inflation.

“They don’t work together,” Rivas said. “It is our responsibility to resolve this issue now.”

McGuire called the Republicans’ claims “hogwash.”

“They are trying to slow down some of the most consequential crime bills this Legislature and this state have seen in years,” he said.

Leaders are at odds with Republicans and the California District Attorneys Association, which supports the ballot measure.

McGuire and Rivas are rushing to get the bills on Newsom’s desk before the June 27 ballot qualification deadline. Their bills are similar to many elements of the initiative and strengthen laws related to retail crimes. The significant difference between the two is a part of the ballot measure that would increase penalties for a person convicted of shoplifting with two or more prior theft-related convictions.

Democrats and Newsom oppose amending Proposition 47, saying their bill is better than the initiative, and they want to prevent California from returning to the harsh sentencing regime of the 1980s and 1990s that resulted in mass incarceration. In 2009, a panel of federal judges ordered the state to reduce its prison population due to overcrowding, resulting in Proposition 47 and various other criminal justice reforms.

“The court basically said, ‘California, you need to reduce your prison population,'” Rivas told the Sacramento Bee on Monday. “Are we losing sight of him?

The speaker said he was making no effort to convince those who support the initiative to remove it from the ballot. He denied that the amendments were related to the ballot measure.

“I focus on what I can control,” Rivas said. “I’m focused on the work we have here in this building, which is legislative.”