Assembly Public Safety Committee votes down Proposition 47 reform

Apr 19, 2023

AB 1708 (Muratsuchi) could be heard again later this year, so cities should keep pushing.

Despite robust support from the League of California Cities and other stakeholders, a bill that proposed modest, but meaningful reforms to Proposition 47 failed to pass out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. It could be taken up at another hearing later this year.

AB 1708 (Muratsuchi) would have increased accountability for repeat theft offenders and offered pathways for pre-plea diversion programming. If passed, it would have sent the issue to voters for approval at the next statewide general election.

Prop. 47 (2014) relaxed criminal prosecution for petty thefts and other nonviolent offenses. Crucially, repeat offenders do not face escalating penalties.

The measure promised safe neighborhoods, but the unintended consequences that followed have undermined that promise. A 2023 study found that a majority of Californians worry their family will be a victim of a crime.

This sentiment is not without reason. The city of Paramount saw an 11% increase in petty thefts following the implementation of Prop 47. Grand theft autos also spiked by 47%.

“We agree with you and do not want to return to the days of over-incarceration,” said Paramount Mayor Isabel Aguayo, who testified on behalf of Cal Cities in support of the bill. “But reform needs to happen. We support strategies and resources to address not only crime but its underlying causes. … We believe this combination will be truly effective in increasing community safety and wellness.”

California has become a hot spot for repeated retail theft in recent years. According to the National Retail Foundation, three of the top 10 cities for retail crime are in California.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee granted reconsideration for the measure, meaning it could be taken up again for discussion at a future hearing later this year. Cities are encouraged to keep sending letters of support to the Committee.

Earlier this week, local government officials and associations joined Asm. Al Muratsuchi at a press conference urging the Committee to pass the bill.

"When a person can steal again and again without facing meaningful consequences, or without having to commit to rehabilitative programming, we see those individuals cycle through our criminal justice system, to their own detriment and our communities,” said Chief Alex Gammelgard, president of California Police Chiefs Association.

Cal Cities will keep up the momentum and work with other statewide organizations to seek out common-sense solutions that improve public safety throughout the state.