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Prop 47 Reformers Send Nearly a Million Signatures to Sacramento
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By Edward Smith
Published 1 month ago on
April 18, 2024
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A Prop. 47 reform measure received 900,000 signatures and appears headed to the November ballot. It is backed by many DAs, including Fresno County's Lisa Smittcamp and Tulare County's Tim Ward. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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A bipartisan group looking to undo what Proposition 47 did to California’s legal environment submitted more than 900,000 signatures in Sacramento on Thursday for the ballot measure reformers say will reduce theft, homelessness, and drug addiction.

Pamela Smith, founder of Mothers in Grief Support Group, said the reform provides treatment to drug addicts, a solution she says is desperately needed. In 2016, her son Jackson Smith died after taking a counterfeit oxycodone pill laced with fentanyl.

Proponents of the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act need just under 550,000 verified signatures from registered voters to qualify for the November ballot.

District attorneys throughout California said the measure gives more discretion to prosecutors and judges in penalizing criminals and creates pathways to treatment for drug addicts.

“With the submission of what we hope will be the necessary signatures for this ballot measure, Californians have quickly and decisively made their voices heard that our state needs a return to accountability,” said Tim Ward, district attorney for Tulare County. “The glaring deficiencies of Proposition 47 can only be fixed at the ballot box.”

Prop 47 Revise Returns Felony Punishments for Theft, Offers Addiction Treatment

Pamela Smith, founder of Mothers in Grief Support Group, said the reform provides treatment to drug addicts, a solution she says is desperately needed. In 2016, her son Jackson Smith died after taking a counterfeit oxycodone pill laced with fentanyl.

“He died that day at the age of 22,” Smith said. “So ever since then, I have been fighting this fentanyl crisis and doing as much as I can in the community to educate others on the dangers of fentanyl and the use of Narcan.”

Smith gets the medication Narcan — used to reverse drug overdoses — from the state. She attends regular conferences with government agencies such as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency on drug trends.

Homeless rates increased drastically after the passage of Prop. 47. Smith said much of that can be attributed to the increase of drug addiction. Prop. 47 not only stopped thefts of goods worth less than $950 from being prosecuted as felonies, it also stopped many drug possession crimes from being prosecuted as felonies.

Under the measure, those caught in possession of hard drugs can be charged with felonies. People can choose to either go through drug rehabilitation programs or go to prison.

Smith said access to treatment can get people beyond their addiction.

“Drug addiction is not a moral failing,” Smith said. “It is a disease and they need treatment. So it’s really important and then I think what will happen is hopefully the homelessness rate will drop, the theft rate will drop because if we have less addicted, we’re going to have less problems in these areas.”

District Attorneys, Mayors, Business Leaders Back Prop 47 Reform

Carlos Mendoza owns Bird Dog Cards and Comix at Bullard and Fresno avenues. Since opening a year-and-a-half ago, he has had three break-ins.

After losing $10,000 in product, Mendoza spent another $8,000 on a retractable gate to prevent break ins at night.

“We’re just trying to build a space so families can come and enjoy card games and hang out, you know? But we have to deal with all that stuff,” Mendoza said.

The measure gives prosecutors and judges more discretion in increasing punishments to felonies. District attorneys have said the inability to threaten serious punishments for thefts incentivizes more theft.

“The overwhelming number of people who eagerly lined up to sign these petitions are speaking to the legislators in Sacramento to tell them they are not satisfied with their soft-on-crime policies and that they want repeat offenders to be held accountable by police, prosecutors, and judges,” said Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp.

“We are moving with great momentum to the November ballot, where Californians will have their chance to vote for change.”

Huge Election Issue Across California

California’s approach to crime is poised to be a major political issue in November’s election. Beyond the ballot measure, Democratic San Francisco Mayor London Breed faces a tough reelection bid against competitors who say she’s allowed the city to spiral out of control. Meanwhile, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price faces a recall election, and Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón faces a challenger who has criticized his progressive approach to crime and punishment.

Top Democratic state leaders, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, have repeatedly shut down calls to repeal Proposition 47. Newsom argued California already has tools to sufficiently go after criminals and urged lawmakers to bolster existing laws and go after motor vehicle thefts and resellers of stolen merchandise. Lawmakers have introduced a slew of bills aiming to tackle retail theft and online resellers.

Opponents of the ballot initiative called the effort a misinformation campaign by giant retailers that would undo criminal justice progress in the state.

(Associated Press contributed to this article.)

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Edward Smith,
Multimedia Journalist
Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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