California’s Democratic leaders are clashing with businesses over reducing shoplifting. Here’s what you need to know – ABC4 Utah

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — With retail thefts on the rise, California’s Democratic leadership is clashing with a coalition of law enforcement and business groups in a fierce political battle over how to tackle the problem. State lawmakers are trying to preserve progressive policies and prevent more people from being put behind bars.

The two most likely paths under consideration this year are a ballot initiative to introduce tougher penalties for repeat offenders, and a legislative package aimed at making it easier to go after professional crime gangs.

The leaders behind the two efforts have accused each other of misleading voters and being unwilling to work toward compromise.

How did we get here?

Both sides agree that tough action is needed, especially when it comes to large-scale thefts where groups of people brazenly storm into stores and take goods in plain sight.

At the center of the escalating political fight is Proposition 47, a progressive ballot measure passed by voters in 2014 that reduced certain theft and drug possession offenses from misdemeanors to misdemeanors — in part to reduce prison overcrowding. This also applies to non-violent property crimes, such as thefts under $950.

It has made it harder to arrest and punish people who shoplift, police said. Researchers told lawmakers there is no evidence linking the proposal to increased violent crime rates.

How do the two solutions differ?

A coalition of prosecutors and companies, largely funded by major retailers, is pushing an initiative to impose tough penalties for shoplifting and drug crimes. It would make theft of any amount a crime if the person already has two convictions for theft.

Possession of fentanyl would also become a misdemeanor, and those with multiple charges would have to undergo treatment.

The ballot measure must still be certified by the Secretary of State before it can be placed on the ballot later this month.

California’s Democratic leadership, backed by Governor Gavin Newsom, wants to keep tough-on-crime policies out of November’s ballots. They worry that the proposed ballot measure would disproportionately criminalize low-income people and those with substance abuse problems, rather than targeting leaders who hire large groups of people to steal goods that they can then resell online.

Instead, lawmakers are pursuing a 14-bill legislative package that would target organized online reseller schemes and car thieves and provide funding for drug addiction counselors. These proposals could become law as soon as this month.

Do the efforts conflict with each other?

If voters approve the tough-on-crime ballot initiative, Democratic leaders plan to invalidate most measures in their own legislative package, citing potential conflicts.

Lawmakers had few details earlier this week about how the two paths conflict. They later said they feared that if both efforts were successful, law enforcement would be able to pile up sentences and send more people to prison, leading to mass incarceration and overcrowded prisons.

About a third of the measures in the package pose potential legal conflicts with the proposals in the ballot initiative, according to lawmakers.

The ballot initiative campaign accused lawmakers of holding the proposals hostage to break up the coalition. Local prosecutors who supported the ballot campaign said the two efforts could work together, with the ballot measure overriding the legislative package in case of legal conflicts.

What happens now?

The ballot initiative’s proponents said they are still open to working with Democratic leadership but will only consider solutions that include rolling back Proposition 47.

“We are still ready to sit down with everyone in leadership to talk about the measure, but I don’t want to compromise,” Greg Totten, a retired prosecutor and leader of the ballot initiative campaign, said during a press conference. week.

Newsom and Democratic Party leaders have until June 27 to negotiate to get the initiative off the ballot. Meanwhile, lawmakers plan to deliver the legislative package to Newsom’s desk for signature next week, despite growing concerns from moderate Democrats.

“If you look at the package that we put together, it is very comprehensive and goes into a number of details within the existing framework of the law,” Assemblymember Rick Zbur, author of a shoplifting bill, told reporters. “It was never intended to be something that would be piled onto a ballot measure, taking away the foundation of the Basic Law that we were trying to reform.”