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One day after turning thumbs down, the Assembly today passed legislation that would ask voters to alter California's "three strikes" criminal sentencing law.

Assembly Bill 327, approved by a vote of 41-33, now goes to the Senate.

Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, sought the re-vote after his measure lacked five votes for passage Monday, when 10 members either were absent or opted not to cast a vote.

"We have the opportunity not only to be tough on crime but to be smart on crime," Davis said in floor debate today.

But Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, countered that passing AB 327 would amount to "trivializing violent criminal acts."

AB 327 would ask voters to require that a third strike be a serious or violent felony before an offender could be sentenced to a 25-to-life prison term under California's three strikes law.

Exceptions would be made under AB 327, however, for offenders whose previous crimes included murder, a sex crime against a child, a sexually violent offense, or various other heinous acts.

AB 327 also would disqualify felons whose most recent offense involved certain types of violations, including various sex offenses, a substantial quantity of drugs, or was intended to cause great bodily harm,

The bill could reduce the state's "lifer" prison population by about 60 inmates per year, growing to about 1,000 in 20 years. The state could save $15 million annually within 10 years, and about $50 million annually within 20 years, according to an Assembly analysis of AB 327.


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