Dems Are Placing Their Own Prop 47 Reform Measure On the Ballot. Here’s What It Would Do.

UPDATE: The competing measure has been tossed.

Democratic lawmakers introduced a last-minute ballot measure Sunday night to compete with the Homelessness Drug and Theft Reduction Act — a Prop 47 reform initiative that has already qualified for the November ballot. You can read the text of the counter-measure here. It was released in the form of Senate Bill 1381, authored by Senator Aisha Wahab (D-Hayward), Senator Angelique Ashby (D-Sacramento), and Assemblyman Rick Chavez Zbur (D-West Hollywood).

The counter-measure represents a watered-down version of the initial measure that was sponsored by local district attorneys. The version supported by Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers would be the first initiative on the ballot, designated as Proposition 2.

Prop 2 would allow felony charges for petty theft or shoplifting if the person has two or more theft convictions within the past three years. Felony charges could also be filed if stolen goods within three years add up to more than $950.

Prop 2 would make it a felony, punishable by up to six years in county jail, to knowingly sell someone a product containing fentanyl without their knowledge. As with the original Prop 47 reform measure, courts would be required to advise a person who is convicted of selling fentanyl that they can be charged with homicide if their product kills someone. 

There are important contrasts between the two initiatives. These are some of the differences:

  • Although Prop 2 would increase penalties for repeat thefts, those theft-related convictions must happen within three years of each other. The original measure includes no such requirement.
  • The original measure increases penalties for distribution of numerous hard drugs. Prop 2 narrows the crackdown to distributors of fentanyl. 
  • Prop 2 increases penalties for the distribution of fentanyl only when the purchaser is unaware of its presence. The original measure doesn’t make this distinction. 
  • Prop 2 specifies county jail time for these drug offenders. The original measure gives judges discretion to determine whether a distributor should be sent to county jail or state prison.
  • The original measure creates a new class of "treatment-mandated” felonies. If a person gets caught possessing “hard drugs” following two previous drug convictions, they need to complete a treatment program to avoid the felony. The competing measure does not contain this provision.
  • The original measure adds fentanyl to the list of drugs that warrant a felony charge if the possessor is carrying a loaded firearm. The measure crafted by lawmakers does not.

On Monday, law enforcement groups sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to reject the new measure. Read the letter here.

Lawmakers are expected to vote Wednesday to place the competing measure on the ballot. They only need a simple majority because they’ve called for a special election to push this measure through. Whichever measure receives the most votes in November will take precedence and the other initiative will be void. 

Newsom and Democratic leaders in the Legislature have been pulling out all the stops to prevent Prop 47 reform, at least in its strictest form. Previously, Democratic lawmakers added a series of so-called “poison pill” amendments to an anticipated anti-crime legislative package. Those amendments would have triggered the bills’ nullification if voters were to pass the original Prop 47 reform initiative. There was a flurry of outrage, even from some Democrats. Over the weekend, the controversial amendments were removed.

This article has been updated.