Tag Archives: Sally Lieber

Remember Way Back to 2007 When the Assembly Supported A Sentencing Commission?

Back in 2007, former Assembly member Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View) wrote a Sentencing Commission bill, AB 160.  You can read an analysis of that bill here. Like the current proposal, it had teeth. It didn’t give the Legislature ratification authority. It had wide support of progressives, but not much support from either the Governor or from the Senate. In fact, on the Senate, it got only 10 votes, mostly from progressives like Carole Migden and Shiela Kuehl, but, somewhat suprisingly, also from moderates like Sen. Ron Calderon. Good on you Sen. Calderon.

On the Assembly side, it got 43 votes, including many members who are now protesting the inclusion of a Sentencing Commission today. For example, Asms. Huffman, Ma, Nava, Torrico all voted for the bill. For his part, the other AG candidate, Asm. Ted Lieu apparently was against solid prison reform back in 2007 too.

Now, turn the calendar a few years forward, to about last week. Basically many in the current Assembly Democratic caucus are walking away from a bill they ALREADY supported.

I’m not sure how at least two of these folks square their past votes with their public positions today.  Take Asm. Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), who voted for AB 160 in 2007:

“You essentially would be contracting out your duties as a legislator,”Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, said of the Senate-passed plan. (SacBee 8/25/09)

Or from Asm. Torrico (D-Newark), who also voted for AB 160:

“The notion that the Legislature would not be required to vote on a sentencing commission proposal, I just think it’s real problematic,” Torrico said. (LA Times)

I don’t want to give Asm. Lieu a pass here, as he is also stonewalling good policy here. Yet, how is that removing sentencing from the Legislature was good in 2007 but not today when the crisis is far more acute?  

Could it be that this time it actually has a chance of succeeding?  Back in 2007, Asm. Lieber’s bill didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting through the Senate, let alone to be signed by Governor Toughie McActionStar. It is only today, with the very real possibility of this actually going into law that these legislators are balking at voting for real prison reform.

Sorry, but that smacks of the cynicism that has plagued Sacramento for so long. It is this cynicism that is why our prisons are under a slew of federal court orders and we can’t manage our house. Blame it on fear of the prison guard’s union (CCPOA) or the “law and order” vote or what you will, but the fact is that we need real reform that will allow our prisons to get back to the business for which they were intended: keeping California safe.

If it plays in Kansas, it can play here.  It just requires leaders who are willing to stand up for their own values and for the voters who put them there. This should be past the point of politics now. I know, it’s probably not possible for the Republicans, but I expect more from our Democratic Legislators. Do the right thing for our state and your political fortunes will follow.

Today Is The Day For Leadership To Shine Through On Prison Reform

Sentencing reform is one of the many bills on the docket today, which looks to be the last day for the California Legislature, though that’s subject to change.  In my view this is the signature issue the legislature faces: will they step up and respond to an crisis, or will they cower in the face of having to be “tough on crime” and reject anything but building our way out of the prison problem.  Frank Russo defines the terms here.  Basically there are two bills, each of which has passed their respective chamber.  SB 110 (by Sen. Gloria Romero) calls for an independent sentencing commission without restrictions on what sentences they can look at; AB 160 appears to restrict anything passed through the initiative process, which shields three strikes.  Apparently there’s a third bill in the mix:

• Both SB 110 (Romero), which failed on the Assembly floor 34 to 38 and which can be brought up under reconsideration, and AB 160 (Lieber), which had been holed up in the Senate Rules Committee and has been sprung to the Senate floor, can be voted on. If Romero’s bill advances, there is a play with AB 1708 (Swanson) on the Senate floor that could amend SB 110, clean it up, and perhaps make it more acceptable to the Assembly. Both houses of the legislature have passed fairly similar sentencing commission bills, although with heated debates and opposition from Republicans.

Whether it’s intra-legislative jealousy between the chambers or a desire to look tough to voters, if nothing moves on sentencing today, our representatives will have a lot to answer for.  This is worth a phone call to your Assemblymember and Senator today.