By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — After a series of retail thefts at high-profile stores last year, several lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have introduced new legislation this week seeking reforms to a 2014 ballot initiative that increased the felony threshold for petty theft.
Assemblymember Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, introduced legislation this week that, if passed by legislators and a majority of voters, would lower the felony threshold for petty theft and shoplifting from $950 to $400. Under Proposition 47, which was passed by voters via a ballot initiative in 2014, certain thefts were reclassified to misdemeanors when the value of stolen goods was less than $950.
“Enough is enough, we need to fight back against the criminals who are stealing from our communities,” Assemblymember Salas said in a statement on Tuesday. “We have seen the unintended consequences of Prop 47’s weakening of our theft laws, and I believe California voters are ready to make their voices heard on this issue again. AB 1603 provides that opportunity and will allow us to take a stand against the theft and criminal gangs who are plaguing our state.”
Hours after Mr. Salas introduced his bill, several Republican Assembly members — including Kevin Kiley of Rocklin, James Gallagher of Yuba City and James Patterson of-Fresno – unveiled a proposal to do away with Prop 47 altogether. The proposal, which was introduced Tuesday, is expected to be heard in committee Feb. 3.
“I’ve officially introduced legislation to repeal Prop. 47,” Assemblymember Kiley tweeted on Wednesday. “It’s a quaint notion, but I think stealing things should be treated as criminal conduct.”
Mr. Kiley, among other GOP lawmakers, has repeatedly pointed to Proposition 47 as a key player in the recent rise in retail theft across the state. But some prominent Democrats, including Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta, say the law has nothing to do with the state’s rise in smash-and-grab robberies.
During a Dec. 17 press conference, Gov. Newsom vowed to hold those who commit thefts accountable for their crimes and promised budget investments to address retail theft.
Madison Hirneisen covers California for The Center Square.