By Michele Hanisee
Governor Gavin Newsom enters office with a liberal resume and promises to fulfill a progressive agenda. But this doesn’t condemn the Governor to stumbling down the dangerous path that his predecessor carved out. This path is littered with a series of public safety experiments that former Gov. Jerry Brown championed and signed, including Props 47 and 57, AB109 and SBs 1437. The cumulative result of these measures have severely eroded public safety by drastically reducing the consequences for criminally victimizing the residents of California.
In addition, there have been a series of inconsistent messages, such as enacting more restrictions on the lawful possession of guns in California while lessening the penalties for those who use guns to commit crimes.
It’s unrealistic to think that Gov. Newsom and the Democratic-dominated Legislature would completely scrap these measures. But Newsom could – and should – adopt a hybrid approach that maintains the spirit of the initiatives while fixing some of their more egregious flaws. In doing so, he would show that he is a compassionate pragmatist who cares deeply about public safety. He also would show that he’s a governor for all Californians.
It’s unclear where Newsom stands on reforming the so-called reforms. He expressed his support for Prop. 47. At the same time, he said he believes Prop. 47 can be improved. Several state lawmakers have attempted to do exactly that. But all legislation that would have addressed the most glaring problems with Prop. 47 and its equally dangerous cousins was scuttled by Brown or the Legislature.
Gov. Newsom and the Legislature would be wise to heed the lessons offered by our state’s history. It was not that long ago that a furious voter backlash resulted in the removal of California Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Bird because of her obstinate soft-on-crime agenda.
As we wait to see which course Newsom pursues, the ADDA will continue to be a vocal advocate for public safety. A key element of our advocacy is our strong support for the “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act” which will appear on the 2020 ballot. The Act will make reasonable changes to fix some of the problems caused by Props 47 and 57 and AB109, including provisions that unanimously passed the Legislature before being inexplicably vetoed by Governor Brown. It would be the sign of a new day for commonsense criminal justice in California if Governor Newsom was to urge the Legislature to again pass those changes so he could sign them into law.
Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.