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California Democrats hold back controversial retail theft legislation amendment as Prop 47 fight continues

Poison pill amendment not added to legislation in controversial Prop 47 fight in California
Poison pill amendment not added to legislation in controversial Prop 47 fight in California 02:49

SACRAMENTO — A day after Democratic leaders rolled out a controversial inoperability amendment that could repeal their own legislation to address retail theft, that amendment was not added.

Prop 47 was passed by California voters a decade ago and loosened penalties for non-violent property crimes and drug possession.  

Democratic legislative leaders recently fast-tracked legislation they believed was better than a district attorney-backed statewide initiative to reform Prop 47. Additionally, they rolled out a controversial proposed amendment, a so-called poison pill, stating that if voters pass the state initiative to reform Prop 47, their own legislative reforms would be immediately repealed.

On Tuesday, the California Secretary of State's Office announced that the district attorney-backed initiative to reform Prop 47 had gained enough signatures to make the November ballot. Prior to that announcement, in a surprise twist, Democratic leaders announced that the poison pill amendment would not be added to their proposed legislation.

At the center of the surprise was the chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee who also happens to be running for Sacramento mayor: California Assemblyman Kevin McCarty.

"For this bill and the other three bills, they are not being amended today in the public safety committee. They're being heard as is," McCarty said Tuesday.

McCarty announced that he would steer clear of controversial amendments to retail theft legislation in his committee and, when asked by a reporter, even announced that he does not support them.

"We didn't support them in committee today. I didn't support them. I support the bills as is," McCarty said.

"I think that Kevin McCarty has stepped into the middle of a really major fight," Sacramento Region Business Association CEO Josh Wood said. 

Wood said McCarty's duel role of also running for Sacramento mayor put him in a tough spot with pressure from the local business community.

"McCarty is a prolific fundraiser and I think he made the right choice as far as the long-term viability of his campaign," Wood said.

This controversy between Democratic leaders and Republicans has led to farm-themed name-calling.

"You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," Republican Assemblymember James Gallagher said. "And this is quite an oinker."

"There has been some hogwash," Democratic State Senator Mike McGuire said during Monday's announcement.

Democratic leaders say they still plan to introduce their inoperability clause during appropriation committee hearings in the next two weeks. 

Democrats said they do not want the district attorney-backed state initiative to pass because they fear it could lead to mass incarceration.

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