On Tuesday, May 30, the California Senate approved a bill eliminating the deadline by which people must apply to reduce old felony convictions to misdemeanors for low level, non-violent crimes, under voter-approved Proposition 47.
Of course the bill must be approved by the state assembly, and be signed by the governor. But this is a big first step.
The new bill, SB 749, introduced by Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles), would allow more Californians to remove the long list of restrictions and barriers placed on the lives of people living with an old felony conviction.
This new legislation, sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ), which is one of the original co-authors of Prop. 47.
As most readers likely know, the 2014 state ballot proposition known as Prop. 47 changed the penalty for simple drug possession, and five petty-theft related crimes, from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Pre Prop 47, California law placed approximately 5000 permanent restrictions on people living with an old felony conviction. Many of the restrictions created barriers to jobs, housing, educational opportunities, economic security, and other arenas that are important elements of redirecting the trajectory of one’s life to find a stable and legal future.
After the passage of Prop. 47, on November 4, 2014, the new law also allowed those with prior felony convictions for the same crimes that the ballot proposition reclassified as misdemeanors, to petition to have those convictions retroactively reclassified.
But, there was a deadline. Those seeking this reclassification had to file their petitions on or before November 4, 2022. If one missed the deadline, one could petition at a later date “upon showing of good cause,” and keep your fingers crossed that your good cause was good enough.
Supporters of the new bill say that, rather than keeping communities safer, these post-conviction restrictions, particularly those relating to employment and housing, cannot help but it harder for Californians to rebuild productive and full lives.
The original Proposition 47 does, however, authorize its provisions to be amended by a statute “that is consistent with and furthers its intent and that is passed by a 23 vote of each house of the Legislature.”
Authors and supporters of SB 749, say that it is indeed “consistent with” and furthers the intent of Prop 47, by amending the existing status to remove the now-past deadline and the showing of good cause requirement, allowing an estimated 390,000 plus people to file applications for record reduction.
“After someone has fully completed their sentence, we cannot continue to allow old legal records to create barriers to opportunity that destabilize families, undermine our economy, and worsen racial injustices,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice.
“As a society,” Hollins said, if “we believe in a person’s ability to rehabilitate themselves and return to the community, we cannot continue blocking them from opportunities to do so.”
Again, there are two big steps before it can become a law.
Post script: We just heard from the chief of staff for Assemblymember Juan Alan who told us that his boss has amended AB 335, and added Asm. Jones-Sawyer to the legislation. Now AB 335 is a Study Bill on Prop 47, Chief of Staff Joshua Whitfield told us, “instead of an overturn of the law altogether.”
More as we know it.