California cools on criminal justice reform


THE BUZZ — TOUGH SELL: Statewide frustrations over public safety are roiling some of California’s deepest-blue pockets – and frustrating the efforts of reform advocates in state government.

The Democratic-led Legislature’s refusal last week to back proposals to ease sentencing, limit solitary confinement and halt minor traffic stops reflects the pressure many lawmakers face from constituents and police unions — even in liberal enclaves — and has sparked concern that the hard-fought gains of the past several years may have stalled.

“There are members of the Legislature who are more concerned with how you treat a farm animal than how you house a prisoner in solitary confinement,” said state Sen. Steven Bradford.

Bradford, whose bill about traffic stops stalled at the 11th hour Thursday, said some fellow Democrats told him they couldn’t back the measure because the party had done “too much” on criminal justice in recent years — pointing to the passing of a police decertification bill and limits on the use of deadly force for police.

Similar tensions have played out in other arenas this year amid growing calls for more tough-on-crime policies. A late-in-the-session fight over a Republican bill about the trafficking of minors led to the first expansion in almost a decade of the list of offenses included under the Three Strikes law. Democrats across the state are vowing to crack down on crime and shore up police. In Los Angeles, Mayor Karen Bass sidestepped progressive pushback and approved a pay hike for the LAPD.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins ended the Legislative session by saying the body still needs to find a way to achieve balance — and that it’s clear there’s frustration on all sides.

The state has seen a shift in recent years as concerns about crime have risen and Democratic voters demand tougher action from their elected officials. The ousting of progressive San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin last year was dismissed by some California reform advocates as a one-off, but we’ve continued to see those sentiments percolate in other parts of the state.

In nearby Oakland, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price is under her own threat of recall, and residents are growing increasingly angry at a spike in thefts and violent crime.

In Bradford’s view, the momentum from high-profile killings of George Floyd and others seems to be slipping away. “We have to quit legislating based on the flavor of the day,” he said.

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WHERE’S GAVIN? In New York City for Climate Week. Also in attendance this week: state Sens. Scott Wiener, Henry Stern, and Lena Gonzalez.

The governor is also doing an interview with NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo tonight at 6 p.m. PT.

THAT’S COMMITMENT — Forget about a simple letter or testimony at a committee hearing. A National City woman is so supportive of Assemblymember David Alvarez’s bill to decriminalize cruising that she got it tattooed on her arm.

As soon as we heard about Marisa Rosales’ tattoo of Assembly Bill 436, we knew we had to talk to her. Rosales, a 53-year-old child abuse investigator, has been riding in her cherry red 1949Hudson Brougham for three decades, and was instrumental in a local push to repeal National City’s ban on cruising, which the city passed in 1992 amid concerns about traffic congestion. She also has a tattoo of a resolution by Assemblymember Luz Rivas recognizing cruising as a significant cultural and historical practice.

AB 436 would repeal local governments’ ability to regulate cruising and now sits on Newsom’s desk. Rosales said she’s still proud to have the bill number permanently etched on her arm even if the governor doesn’t sign the measure into law.

“People would ask me, ‘What? Why Marisa? The bill hasn’t even passed,’” she said. “And I would tell them it doesn’t matter to me whether it passed or not, it was just because we had never gotten this far.”

PAGING DR. DOLITTLE — Animal welfare activists are urging Newsom to sign legislation that would legalize veterinary telemedicine. Assembly Bill 1399, by Assemblymember Laura Friedman, would allow telehealth for animals. It is already legal for humans.

The bill faces opposition from the American Veterinary Medical Association, which argues that telemedicine isn’t appropriate because “animals, unlike people, cannot speak to express what they are feeling, and in fact instinctively hide pain and illness.”

A coalition of animal rights groups, including the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the San Diego Humane Society, have urged Newsom to make the bill law to make veterinary care more affordable and accessible.

SELLING TOUGHER PENALTIES: With bills cracking down on theft and fentanyl faltering in the Legislature, a deep-pocketed player hopes to go directly to voters.

The California Retailers Association has backed a new ballot committee for a proposed initiative bolstering criminal penalties for property crimes and drug-related offenses. It includes language that could lead to murder charges for fentanyl dealers – an idea that failed in Sacramento despite bipartisan support as Democrats balked.

A LONG ROAD: The bombshell lawsuit accusing former County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher of the sexual assault of a San Diego Metropolitan Transit District employee is shaping up to be a contentious and lengthy legal battle. The case is already on its third judge, and parties have been “bickering and posturing over nearly every aspect of the pending trial, from the lurid allegations to the evidence they each need to prevail.” (The San Diego Union-Tribune).

DESPERATE CONDITIONS: Another stillborn fetus was found in an outdoor public toilet in downtown San Francisco last month. The incident highlights harrowing street conditions in the city’s Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods — as well as a startling number of pregnant homeless women. (San Francisco Chronicle)

IN CUSTODY: Law enforcement in Los Angeles on Monday arrested 29-year-old Kevin Cataneo Salazar as a suspect in the ambush of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer, who was shot and killed Saturday. Sheriff Robert Luna told reporters he believes “we have the murderer of our deputy in custody.” (Los Angeles Times)

TRANSITIONS — Bob Hartnagel is leaving his post as Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur’s chief of staff to join Speaker Robert Rivas’ office as a deputy chief of staff, taking over the duties of Alicia Isaacs-Lee, who is on maternity leave. Replacing Hartnagel in Zbur’s office is Tami Martin, who has served as his legislative director since 2022.

BIRTHDAYS — Meta’s Andrea Saul Spencer Garrett

(was Monday): Léo ApothekerBrian Greene

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