In 2014, voters passed Proposition 47, which supporters deceptively called the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” Nearly ten years later, Californians are coming to terms with the real-life consequences of the failed experiment on reducing penalties for crimes. Fentanyl deaths are skyrocketing, and shoplifting has become so pervasive that many businesses have closed. 

Proposition 47 did three main things: it changed certain drug possession and theft offenses from felonies to misdemeanors by raising the threshold to become a felony; allowed defendants serving time to petition the court to reduce prior sentencing; and allowed felons with prior convictions to reduce their charges to a misdemeanor long after being convicted.  

The problem is that shoplifting is essentially now treated like a traffic ticket – thieves are not even being arrested regardless of how many times they are caught.  With no reason to stop the behavior, a cottage industry has sprung up where shoplifters re-sell stolen goods on online marketplaces where the revenue outweighs the criminal liabilities. This lax enforcement has also extended to people in possession of illegal drugs like fentanyl. And thanks to another bill, AB 109, serious felons are now serving their time in county jails, eliminating the local capacity for incarcerating thieves and drug dealers. Consequently, voters have overwhelmingly signed petitions to overturn Proposition 47 and return some sanity to California’s criminal enforcement laws.

In the last few years several bills have been introduced to enhance the quality of life and protect our communities, but all have been met with the buzzsaw that is the Assembly Public Safety Committee. My own bill, Assembly Bill 27, would have returned discretion to judges that are considering sentencing enhancements for defendants who use a firearm in the commission of a crime. Unfortunately, this bill was not even considered for a hearing or given a vote. 

The latest round of bipartisan public safety bills, 14 in total, would make a serious dent in the recent rise in retail thefts. However, those bills have been tampered with, inserting “poison pill” amendments that would repeal these measures if the Proposition 47 repeal is passed by the voters this November.  

Outrage at this ruse cuts across party lines, with Democrat authors committing to abandon their bills if the poison pill language is passed.  

The Legislature is doing Californians a disservice by meddling in the Prop 47 repeal fight.  We need clean bills without poison pills to address retail theft and other public safety measures. And the voters should decide the outcome of the proposition – it is wrong for politicians to intimidate Californians before the vote.  

n the past, the California Attorney General has put his or her thumb on the scale by writing misleading titles for ballot propositions. The Attorney General needs to commit to keeping the title and summary as is. Using deceitful language on naming and summarizing propositions is a shameful ploy to pre-determine electoral outcomes.

When it comes to public safety, the Legislature should not take anything off the table. We can work on meaningful and bipartisan criminal justice legislation while voters consider the merits of Proposition 47 at the ballot box.

It’s not too late to realize that the pendulum has swung too far and urgent reforms are needed that deter criminal activity and make crime illegal again.  

Tri Ta: The California Legislature must stop playing games and take crime seriously

Tri Ta represents the 70th Assembly District.