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Gavin Newsom and Other Democrats Work to Keep Votes on Crime Off of the California Election


This year, California prosecutors and retailers worked together to get an election measure approved that would undo parts of Proposition 47, a law from 10 years ago that makes it easier to get away with theft and drug possession.

Now the big question is: How long will it be before country sheriffs and Walmart’s board agree on how to fight crime?

Since voters passed Prop 47 in 2014, law enforcement has been asking for changes to it.

Small shops, grocery chains, and huge big-box stores are all more worried about the policy since a rise in some types of retail crime during the pandemic. Prop 47 was put on the November ballot through an alliance that brought together the political power of the DAs and the money of the retailers.

Now, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic leaders are working on a plan to pull the coalition partners in different ways so that the measure doesn’t go to the voters on June 27. The Democratic-led Legislature is going forward with a set of bills that will address many of the retailers’ concerns. These bills include making serial theft a new crime and making it harder to sell stolen goods again.

The DAs have said that the plans are not good enough and that Prop 47 needs to be changed in order to stop retail theft. They say that the only way to change Prop 47 is to put it to the voters again.

Last week, Democrats said they would change the bill package to get rid of the rules if the initiative passed.

“If a ballot measure meant to deal with issues like retail theft and fentanyl passes this fall, some parts of these laws will not apply and there will be conflicts,” Democrat Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas said at a press conference this afternoon. “The best way to solve our crime problem is to pass well-thought-out laws that directly address the issue. That’s how you solve problems, not by using force without thinking.”

The leader of the ballot measure alliance said that the move to add amendments seemed to be an attempt to make retailers choose between the two efforts to make laws. According to a statement from Greg Totten, CEO of the California District Attorneys Association, including them has no policy reason other than to put pressure on allies and split people who want to change the way criminal justice works.

Some of these differences have already shown up in how people have responded to the changes made by the Legislature. Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association, told POLITICO that the legislative package addresses many of her members’ main worries about retail theft. She also said that she agrees with the bills’ new “urgency clauses,” which would make them go into effect right away.

She did not like the parts of the rules that would not work if the ballot measure passed in November. She said, “On the one hand I get it—it’s politics.” “On the other hand, it’s annoying.”

Michelin speaks for many small and large stores across the state, but not necessarily those of big box stores like Walmart and Home Depot, which spent millions of dollars to get the measure on the ballot but haven’t said anything about what’s happening in the legislature yet.

On the other hand, Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig warned this weekend of what he called “an imminent threat to our combined efforts to reform Prop 47.” He wrote on X that the inoperability clauses are “designed to punish the voters of CA & anyone who might support the enhanced accountability” that the ballot measure wants.

Republican officials in the legislature have also been very critical of the inoperability clauses, saying that they agree with the bipartisan package’s main ideas but not with the versions that have the new changes.

“These bills are fine.” In fact, they passed both houses with strong backing from both parties, Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher told POLITICO. “Let’s get them passed without any tricks or shenanigans at the last minute.”

Law enforcement officials who support the measure don’t have to pay much to be tough on Sacramento Democrats. Many of the most vocal officials are elected by voters who are more committed to a tough-on-crime policy.

But the stores, who would likely have to pay eight figures for a campaign, also have to answer to owners and customers. This means they may be more likely to think about the practical benefits of a compromise, like not spending millions to support the measure this fall.

Daniel Conway of the California Grocers Association said, “A lot of things have been said in public and in private, but I also think there’s a lot more clarity about where people are at and where the conversations need to be had.” “Going back to the ballot is probably the main sticking point” was the most important one.

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