Should Prop 47 be repealed? CA lawmakers to debate 3 new bills aiming to reform crime law

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ByLiz Kreutz via KGO logo
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
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Should California's Proposition 47 be repealed or reformed? Some lawmakers say it's a necessary step if the state wants to crack down on crime.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Should California's Proposition 47 be repealed or reformed?

That's the question up for debate at the State Capitol Tuesday. Some lawmakers say it's a necessary step if the state wants to crack down on crime. But supporters of the law say the law has had no impact on crime and that the proposition has been more successful than people realize.

On Tuesday morning, members of the Assembly's Public Safety Committee will discuss three bills: two that would reform Prop. 47 and one that would repeal it entirely.

Republican Assembly member Kevin Kiley is the author of AB 1599 -- which would repeal the 2014 law that recategorized some nonviolent offenses such as drug and property thefts to misdemeanors rather than felonies. For theft and shoplifting, it raised the threshold for what's considered a felony to $950.

Kiley, who is backed by the California Peace Officers Association, believes the law has led to more crime and less accountability. His slogan? "Make Crime Illegal Again."

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"It's one of those laws which has undermined public safety, made our communities a lot less safe," Kiley told ABC7 News. "I mean, it's not much of an exaggeration to say that the point of this bill is to make crime illegal again."

But supporters of the bill say Republicans are twisting the facts and that Prop. 47 has not increased crime.

"The high level coordinated, very sophisticated smash and grabs we've seen and that have been grabbing headlines across California are serious problems. And they're also felonious examples of felonious behavior," Will Matthews, the spokesperson for Californians for Safety and Justice, said. "People involved in any of those incidents can be, and have in fact been, charged with felonies. They have absolutely nothing to do with Proposition 47."

According to data from the California Department of Justice, which has data through 2020, property crime has decreased in California since the proposition passed in 2014. Property crime did increase in 2015, the first year the law went into effect, but it has decreased every year since.

Violent crime has increased since 2014, however Proposition 47 addresses low-level drug and property crimes. Under the proposition, any violent crime is still considered a felony.

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Matthews said Prop. 47 has led to millions of dollars in spending on crime prevention programs.

"Proposition 47 has been an extraordinary success in California," Matthews said. "In the seven plus years since Prop. 47 went on the books, it has saved $600 million that has been reallocated back into local communities and funded the creation of programs up and down the state that are providing drug treatment, mental health services, reentry service, job training and housing support."

Still, communities across California say they feel their cities have become less safe and it appears public opinion around Prop. 47, which passed in 2014 with nearly 60% support, is shifting. A recent poll from the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies shows California voters by a two-to-one margin now support changing Prop. 47.

Two other bills that lawmakers will debate on Tuesday include one that would lower the threshold for a shoplifting felony from $950 to $400. Another bill would increase penalties for repeat offenders.

If Kiley's bill passes the Public Safety Committee, it will still need to go to the full assembly and then the senate for a vote. If would then make it on the ballot in November.

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