Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Criminal Justice Bills Vetoed by Gov. Brown in 2013

Image courtesy the Los Angeles Times.
Our first post in this series reviewed the bills signed into law by Gov. Brown in 2013. This edition examines some of the bills vetoed by the Governor, complete with veto memos and some thoughts about the future of the ideas behind the bills.

We all heard, of course, with great disappointment about the vetoing of SB 649, which would have reclassified simple drug possession offenses as "wobblers", thus allowing their prosecution as either felonies or misdemeanors. The passage of the bill would have put California on par with several other states. Not all, however, is lost. Gov. Brown's veto message indicated that, while he wasn't comfortable with this change, he might be open to other drug law reform (a good example is his signing of AB 721, which effectively decriminalizes drug transportation for personal use.)

There were other disappointments, and they were for the most part along the lines of failed attempts to create broad health-care and rehabilitation reforms or to curb police power. Examples of the former are AB 994, which proposed creating a postplea misdemeanor diversion program in each county; AB 1263, addressing Medi-Cal for low-income people, which would have had important implications for formerly incarcerated folks and their families, as it would establish CommuniCal, which would dispense information to folks with low proficiency in English; and AB 999, which would require CDCR to develop a 5-year plan to extend the availability of condoms in all CA prisons. An example of the latter is the veto on SB 467, which would prohibit a governmental entity from obtaining information from an electronic communication service provider without a warrant, and require that the subscriber/customer receive a copy of the warrant.

Some of these vetoes are deeply disappointing, but it is important to observe that they addressed extensive medical reforms, which the Governor may believe he is solving with his proposition to spend an enormous sum of money on privatizing prisons and thus reducing overcrowding.

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