In case you missed it — What, you like sleeping or something? — the bill to overhaul California’s crowded prisons system officially stalled in the Assembly just after midnight, when the lawmakers adjourned without taking action.
AB 14XXX squeaked out of the state Senate Thursday afternoon on a partisan 21-19 vote. But any momentum the bill might have had was immediately doused in the Assembly, where Republicans are united in their opposition and a sizable squad of Democrats is balking at supporting provisions that they fear will make them look soft on crime.
Dicey issues for some Democrats, after the jump.
The creation of a sentencing commission, whose membership would include a non-voting ex-felon, which would recommend changes in certain prison terms. Opponents want to weaken the commission’s power and/or strip the convict from the membership roll.
Plans to change a handful of “wobbler” crimes to solely misdemeanor offenses.
A provision that would allow the corrections secretary to transfer thousands of prisoners, including some with less than 12 months on their prison sentences, to electronically monitored home detention. This is the item that is attracting loud opposition from crime victims groups as well as politically powerful local law enforcement officials and district attorneys.
The bill has placed three Democratic attorney general candidates in the Assembly — Ted Lieu, Pedro Nava and Alberto Torrico, all normally reliable votes for their caucus — in an untenable position. Other Democrats represent politically competitive districts where a GOP opponent might use their “yea” votes as an election cudgel. Still others are eying future campaigns for higher office and weighing the risk. Add all that together and it doesn’t equal the required 41 votes.
The clock on the 45 days a three-judge federal panel gave state leaders to announce how they’ll cut the prison population by 40,000 over two years is ticking.
“We have been taking into account many of the concerns raised by law enforcement, and are working toward a bill that that the people of California can agree makes sense,” Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said in a prepared statement released in the wee hours this morning. “Our target remains a responsible approach that will achieve our public safety and budgetary goals, and allow us to prevent the wholesale release of prisoners by federal judges.”
Both houses of the Legislature return Monday.
— Cheryl Miller