by Thomas D. Elias August 23, 2023
Here’s a reality that needs to soak into the consciousness of California lawmakers, the governor and voters who put them in office: This state needs far better analysis and vetting of new laws if it’s to avoid negative unintended consequences.
And when we get solid analysis and reliable predictions of some consequences, we need to pay heed, not ignore reality.
These facts of life are perhaps best illustrated by 2014’s Prop. 47, which ended felony status for thefts and burglaries involving less than $950 worth of goods and reduced some other felonies, like stealing a gun, to misdemeanors.
One unintended consequence has been closure of some stores, notably Walgreens and Whole Foods outlets that suffered constant shoplifting and no penalties for thieves caught red-handed. That’s an inconvenience making life more complex from San Francisco to San Diego.
This was predicted right in the ballot arguments on Prop. 47 mailed to all voters. “Reducing penalties for theft, receiving stolen property and forgery could cost retailers and consumers millions of dollars,” wrote Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Association.
Whether many voters noticed his analysis is questionable, considering the initiative passed 59%-41%.
That’s just one example of a law supported by politicians — including then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who wanted to cut prison populations — having severe consequences.
For Prop. 47, these also include a major contribution to inflation, as many stores now factor losses from frequent and brazen shoplifting into prices and store closure decisions.
At the same time, increased rates of rape and human trafficking have followed the 2016 passage of Prop. 57, which allows early releases of rapists, child molesters, hostage takers and those convicted of hate crimes.
So…hate crimes last year reached record levels in California, and there is every indication that trafficking of prostitutes is also more common than before.
Ballot arguments against 57 predicted both increases, but the measure, also backed by Brown as a prison-clearing measure, passed 64%-36%.
State legislators and the governors who sign their bills into law have been just as derelict as the voters.
Take last year’s Senate Bill 357, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, currently angling for the congressional seat of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, if she retires.
The openly gay Wiener’s bills often are expressly aimed to further his perception of an LGBTQ+ agenda.
When SB 357 decriminalized loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, his aim was to let gay men and women hang out on street corners trying to entice one another.
It’s too soon for statistics, but police around the state say that the moment Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the measure, old-fashioned pimp-driven prostitution increased markedly.
“On social media, the pimps were saying, ‘You better get out there and work because the streets are ours,’” one Los Angeles vice detective told the magazine City Journal.
The pimps were right, the detective reported: Once the bill was signed, cops ceased arresting virtually anyone for this former crime, even before the law took formal effect.
Police also reported pimps became more visible, often standing on nearby side streets as their “girls” worked streets long known as hooker hot spots. “It took away an enforcement tool,” said one Oakland anti-trafficking activist.
The reported near doubling in numbers of young women loitering in fish-net dresses over skimpy G-strings was surely not Wiener’s intention, but it’s reality, as drivers can see when passing through vice-ridden parts of California cities.
It’s an unintended but foreseeable consequence that many feel outweighs new rights for seekers of gay partners.
Wiener and his allies have also produced unintended consequences with housing density bills they’ve pushed through: California now sports myriad new apartment buildings, most carrying large “vacancy” signs because rents remain too high for many of those who need housing most.
Wiener and fellow density advocates like Newsom, state Attorney General Rob Bonta and state Senate President Toni Atkins didn’t intend that, but those thousands of signs are mute testimony to the emptiness within many new buildings.
That’s another predictable scene lawmakers didn’t notice ahead of time, and further evidence that rushed, minimally analyzed laws often work poorly.
Email Thomas Elias at email@example.com.