- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A key legislative panel on Thursday shelved several attempts to scale back a ballot measure that California voters approved to reduce penalties for some crimes, including stalling a bill that would have made stealing firearms a felony once again.

They were among bills held by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which is tasked with deciding whether legislation is too expensive to move forward. The committee was also the end of the road for multiple police overhaul bills introduced in the wake of protests over the slayings of unarmed minority men.

Several of the bills that stalled Thursday attempted to counter voters’ approval of Proposition 47 in November, which reduced a range of felony crimes to misdemeanors. Lawmakers of both parties have said the criminal sentencing measure has brought about unintended consequences.

Two bills introduced by Republican lawmakers that would have restored some felony punishments were blocked Thursday.

AB150 by Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, would have restored penalties for stealing firearms valued under $950. That provision was a central point of opposition to Proposition 47.

“They just made it easier for a criminal to do harm to an innocent victim,” said Melendez.

AB46 by Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, would have increased punishment for possessing date rape drugs. However, an identical bill, SB333 by Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, advanced Thursday to a floor vote in the Senate.

Law enforcement groups also wanted to continue collecting DNA samples from suspects convicted of crimes that used to be felonies until Proposition 47. The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved legislation allowing them to do so, but limited the DNA collections called for in AB390 by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, to criminals who were previously convicted of other misdemeanor crimes including sexual assault and domestic violence.

Legislation introduced to increase accountability in investigations of police shootings and to reduce tensions between minority communities and law enforcement continued to struggle Thursday.

The committee shelved AB86 by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, which would have required independent investigations of police shootings with reports made public. It also blocked AB619 by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, to require an annual report about deaths in police custody.

The committee did move forward another Weber bill, AB953, to collect data on police stops across California in an attempt to reduce racial profiling.

Equipping police officers with body cameras has also been promoted as a reform. But a proposal for a grant program for California law enforcement agencies looking to add cameras was rejected when the committee held AB65 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville.

A separate bill that would regulate police body camera use, AB66 also by Weber, is at a standstill. She has been unable to reach agreement with law enforcement and civil liberties groups over whether officers should be allowed to review footage before making reports.

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Follow Fenit Nirappil on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FenitN


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