California Group Push to Reform Prop 49 to Get Tough on Crime 

A petition to reform Proposition 47 in California will find its way onto the ballot in November, California’s Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced Tuesday.

Voters approved the Prop 47 initiative back in 2014, which loosened penalties for crimes of theft and drugs in the state. Since it was passed, Prop 47 has been blamed for the theft problems that are rampant throughout the state.

A bipartisan group called Californians for Safer Communities — which is comprised of business leaders, elected officials and law enforcement members — said they were able to collect in excess of 900,000 signatures to support a proposed amendment that would reform Prop 47.

The proposal would ultimately increase the penalties that criminals face. 

The office of the Secretary of State in California notified county election officials on Tuesday that the measure officially qualified to be on November’s ballot.

In California, petitioners need to gain the signatures of at least 5% of the total number of votes for governor in the 2022 general election. That means that all prospective petitioners need to gain 546,651 total signatures. 

The group collected 910,441 signatures total. Through random sampling, 652,100 of those signatures were labeled as valid, which exceeds the required total of 601,317.

This means that unless the bill’s proponents decide to withdraw their measure before it’s certified on June 27, it will appear on the ballot on November 5.

When Prop 47 was passed, multiple crimes were downgraded to a misdemeanor rather than a felony, as long as the value of the property stolen was $950 or less. Some of the crimes included were receiving stolen property, grand theft and shoplifting. 

The penalty for personal use of many illegal drugs was also lowered, as long as the amount of drugs that are on a person are below a specific weight.

Many officials in law enforcement agencies around the state have said that Prop 47 is to blame for the significant increase in theft that has been a big issue for California ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Many Democrats in California, including Governor Gavin Newsom, don’t support the effort of reforming Prop 47. They are pushing other public safety legislation that’s circulating in the state to try to address crimes such as break-ins to cars and organized retail theft.

Liberals in the state prefer that those bills appear before voters instead of the reform measure that will now be on the ballot.

Some Democrats have gone as far as saying that they would introduce inoperability clauses into some proposed public safety bills that would prevent them from taking effect if voters end up approving the reforms to Prop 47.

These lawmakers say that would ensure there are no inconsistencies within state law.

In 2023, Newsome announced the state would be approving more than $267 million in funding that would go toward increasing the number of arrests and prosecutions for organized retail crime.