Lawmakers will vote to add another crime initiative to the California ballot


California lawmakers are expected to vote this week on a last-minute, fast-moving crime initiative that could result in voters seeing not one, but two crime-related questions on the November ballot. Governor Gavin Newsom and a handful of Democratic lawmakers put the finishing touches on their proposed initiative Sunday night, which seeks to compete with an initiative backed by law enforcement and business groups to toughen penalties for thieves and drug dealers. The initiative that has already qualified is known as the Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act (Previous coverage in video player above: Governor Newsom, legislative leaders consider putting new crime initiative on ballot) Legislature leaders and the governor have repeatedly said they don't think changes are needed to Proposition 47 this year, nor have they commented yet on the effort to bring the competing initiatives together, which KCRA 3 first reported last week. Multiple sources told KCRA 3 on Sunday that the governor had spent the weekend gathering support from Democratic lawmakers for the legislative initiative. For drug dealers, the legislative initiative would create a new crime for those who mix fentanyl into other drugs, punishable by up to six years in county jail. It would also require courts to issue a warning to convicted fentanyl dealers that if they do it again and someone dies, they could face murder charges. This is known as Alexandra's Law. For repeat thieves, the legislative measure would establish new penalties for those who commit three acts of petty theft or shoplifting within three years of each other. They could receive up to three years in prison and face either a misdemeanor or felony conviction. It would create a new felony if a person has previously been punished under that provision within 3 years. The legislative measure would also send money established through Proposition 47 to be used to expand mental health and drug treatment programs. To voters, the legislative initiative and the law enforcement-backed initiative may seem very similar. Critics of the measure that has already qualified have said it is too harsh. The legislative measure includes jail time in penalties, while the other initiative is more sweeping and gives judges discretion to decide whether to send drug offenders to county jail or prison. The measure that has already qualified also requires jail time for some crimes. Normally, to put a measure on the ballot immediately, the proposed initiative would need a 2/3 vote from the legislature. The bill carrying the legislative initiative also calls for a “special election” to consider the measure on Election Day, so only a simple majority vote is needed to send it to the ballot. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the measure Wednesday night. Governor Newsom and legislative leaders attempted to negotiate to remove the already qualified measure from the ballot, but those negotiations failed as the crucial ballot deadline approached. Lawmakers attempted to leverage a set of retail theft bills by adding controversial amendments to eliminate the proposed laws if voters had approved the Proposition 47 reform initiative. At first, lawmakers claimed the retail theft bills and the initiative conflicted. Support for the retail theft bills waned and by early last week, the package did not receive enough votes to pass. Legislative leaders were forced to remove the amendments Saturday night and finalize a new strategy, which was officially implemented Sunday night. It is unclear whether the legislative initiative will get the votes to land on the November ballot.

California lawmakers are expected to vote this week on a last-minute, fast-tracked crime initiative that could result in voters seeing not one, but two crime-related questions on the November ballot.

Governor Gavin Newsom and some Democratic lawmakers on Sunday night finalized their proposed initiative, which seeks to compete with an initiative backed by law enforcement and business groups to toughen penalties for thieves and drug dealers. The initiative, which has already qualified, is known as the Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act

(Previous coverage in video player above: Governor Newsom, legislative leaders consider putting new crime initiative on ballot)

At the center of the issue is Proposition 47, approved by voters a decade ago, which relaxed penalties for drug and theft offenses. Critics have blamed the law for rising crime, drug use and homelessness.

Legislature leaders and the governor have repeatedly said this year they don’t think changes to Proposition 47 are needed, and neither has commented yet on the effort to bring together the competing initiatives, which KCRA 3 first reported on last week. Multiple sources told KCRA 3 on Sunday that the governor spent the weekend gathering support from Democratic lawmakers for the legislative initiative.

For drug dealers, the legislative initiative would create a new crime for those who mix fentanyl into other drugs, punishable by up to six years in county jail. It would also require courts to issue a warning to convicted fentanyl dealers that if they do it again and someone dies, they could be charged with murder. This is known as Alexandra's Law.

For repeat offenders, the legislative measure would establish new penalties for people who commit three acts of petty theft or shoplifting within three years of each other. They could face up to three years in prison and either a misdemeanor or felony conviction. It would create a new felony if a person has previously been punished under that provision within 3 years.

The legislative measure would also receive funding established through Proposition 47 that would be used to expand mental health and drug treatment programs.

Voters may find the legislative initiative and the law enforcement-backed initiative very similar. Critics of the measure that has already been qualified have said it is too harsh. The legislative measure includes jail time in penalties, while the other initiative is more sweeping and gives judges discretion to decide whether to send drug offenders to county jail or prison. The measure that has already been qualified also requires jail time for some crimes.

Normally, in order to place a measure on the ballot immediately, the proposed initiative would need a 2/3 vote from the legislature. The bill incorporating the legislative initiative also calls for a “special election” to consider the measure on Election Day, so only a simple majority vote is needed to send it to the ballot.

Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the measure Wednesday night.

Governor Newsom and legislative leaders attempted to negotiate to remove the already qualified bill from the ballot, but those talks broke down as the critical voting deadline approached.

Lawmakers attempted to leverage a set of retail theft bills by adding controversial amendments to eliminate proposed laws that would have been passed if voters had approved the Proposition 47 reform initiative. At first, lawmakers claimed the retail theft bill and the initiative conflicted.

Support for the retail theft bill waned and by early last week, the package did not receive enough votes to pass. Legislative leaders were forced to strip out amendments Saturday night and finalize a new strategy, which was officially implemented Sunday night.

It’s unclear if the legislative initiative will receive a vote on the November ballot.


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