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Bills aim to bring back harsher theft penalties
Democrats, Republicans introduce legislation to repeal Prop 47
sacramento capitol

Democrats and Republicans in the California State Legislature both introduced bills meant to reverse Proposition 47 to the Assembly this week, but one would take a substantially harder stance against the law that raised the monetary limit for felony theft nearly a decade ago. 

Prop 47 was passed by California voters in 2014, with 59.6% supporting the sweeping reformative legislation which implemented three broad changes to felony sentencing laws and changed certain low-level crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. As part of the law, the felony threshold rate for theft in retail establishments was increased from over $400 to over $950. Prop 47 also lowered jail time for misdemeanor thefts to six months. 

On Tuesday, Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas introduced Assembly Bill 1603, which aims to reduce the threshold amount for petty theft and shoplifting back down to $400 and would allow shoplifting to once again be tried as a felony if the accused has prior convictions. 

On the other side of the aisle, Republican Assemblymembers Kevin Kiley and James Gallagher authored and introduced AB 1599 — a bill which would repeal Prop 47 almost in its entirety, except changes the law made to reduce penalties for possession of cannabis. 

Should either bill be passed and signed by the Governor, voters would still need to approve the bills’ language through another ballot proposition. 

The bills come as “smash and grab” robberies make headlines in California and waves of crime ripple across highly-populated areas, with videos of luxury store robberies in San Francisco and Walnut Creek going viral on social media. 

Turlock’s Assemblymember Heath Flora, also a Republican, stated that he supports Salas’ bill but has signed on to AB 1599 because he supports it “even more.”

“The sad reality is Prop 47, combined with one party Progressive Democrat rule in California, has ushered in this crime wave. It's a direct result of radical progressive prosecutors pushing ideological agendas instead of common sense law enforcement. It's also a real shame it took Gucci, Chanel and other luxury stores being hit to get the Governor's and Progressives' attention,” Flora told the Journal. “Small business owners have been screaming about this problem for the last couple of years. This is not a new crime problem to the working class, it's just new to out of touch partisan California Progressives."

Through September 2021, there were 43 robberies committed in Turlock since the beginning of the year compared to 54 in all of 2020, according to the most recent report released by the Turlock Police Department. Both numbers are a reduction from 81 robberies in 2019. 

Additionally, January through September 2021 saw 808 larceny thefts take place and 191 burglaries.

Former Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christiansen opposed Prop 47 when it went into effect over seven years ago, as 218 inmates were released from jail in the month following its approval. Rob Jackson, who served as Turlock Police Chief at the time, said the law resulted in less accountability for criminals and provided little incentive for them to change their behavior.

“Prop 47 is a game changer for law enforcement in our Valley,” Jackson told the Journal in 2014. “There are people out on the streets now that shouldn’t be.”