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HomeWorld newsState senators respond to fentanyl, retail theft with legislation

State senators respond to fentanyl, retail theft with legislation

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the California senate on Monday announced a package of legislation to address the growing fentanyl crisis and untamed outbreak of organized retail thefts.

Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), who was sworn in as president pro tempore last month, recited sobering statistics to reporters as he introduced proposals he said will remedy the issues through a more rehabilitative approach.

“There are more than 12,000 drug overdose deaths a year in California. More than half of those deaths are fentanyl-related,” McGuire said. “Black and Latino communities have seen a 200% increase in overdose deaths since 2017. Native Americans had a 150% increase in overdose deaths in the same period. The Hoopa Valley tribe faces a fentanyl death rate eight times greater than the state average.”

The senate’s action comes after Assembly leaders this month presented their plans to remedy the issues, an indication that the drug and theft crises will be priorities this legislative session — and in California’s 2024 election.

The set of 14 bills announced by McGuire and other Democrat and Republican Senate leaders takes a sweeping approach. The legislation, if passed and signed by the governor, would increase access to treatment, enhance addiction services for those in the criminal justice system and penalize criminal trafficking of xylazine, or “tranq,” a horse tranquilizer laced in fentanyl.

Among those bills is SB 1144, authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), which will tighten regulations to help prevent stolen goods from being sold online.

Tinisch Hollins, executive director of the nonprofit Californians for Safety and Justice, called the package a “thoughtful approach to nuanced challenges.”

Hollins said the package is needed “in an environment where special interests are gaslighting Californians with destructive and ineffective rollbacks.”

She was referring to law enforcement agencies that have lobbied for changes to Proposition 47, a contentious ballot measure that reduced certain retail theft and drug offense charges to misdemeanors.

Contra Costa County Dist. Atty. Diana Becton called for a strategic approach that strays from a one-size-fits-all approach to public safety.

“I have seen firsthand the need to reimagine our approach to criminal justice,” she said. “To reexamine and reproach it through a lens of racial and socioeconomic disparity, with an eye to restorative justice programs and rehabilitation programs for nonviolent offenses.”

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