Living Wage for Shoplifters?

Today’s Albuquerque Journal reports on HB80, Equitable Sentencing Schedule, which among other things doubles the threshold at which shoplifting becomes a felony from $250 to $500. This bill was passed during the 2006 legislative session and is set to go into effect on July 1.
The bill’s sponsor, Hector H. Balderas (D), argues the change is necessary to keep up with inflation, one of the chief tools in the belts of those seeking higher minimum wages at the local, state, and federal levels. Professional shoplifters will now be able to steal just under $500 at a time to avoid a felony arrest, instead of the presumably inadequate bundles of grifted goods available today. I guess even Jane’s Addiction needs to make a decent living.
But it’s certainly not good for New Mexico retail businesses and their law abiding customers. According to the Online Lawyer Source:

The consequences of shoplifting cause one third of all new businesses to fail. Businesses lose sixteen billion dollars annually in lost revenue as a result of shoplifting. In addition to lost profits, the consequences of shoplifting also force businesses to raise prices and take other costly preventative measures to reduce their vulnerability to shoplifting… The average family in America spends $300 every year in order to subsidize the cost of what shoplifters steal.

So who does benefit, beside those employing the five-finger discount ? Following the nail-bitingly close presidential election in 2000, Richard Romero’s 2001 Restoration of Felony Voting Rights act allowed an estimated 50,000 convicted felons to return to the polls after completing their sentences, and passed after:

Every Democratic member of both the House and the Senate received copies of a study in progress which demonstrated that Democratic defeats in several close elections in various states could be attributed directly to felony disenfranchisement.

Apparently, removing some shoplifters from the voter rolls during the maximum 18 month sentence for a fourth degree felony conviction is too much a burden for the state’s politicians to bear, especially with mid-term elections coming up. Maybe this post should be titled “The Voting Rights Act for Shoplifters.”
Lawmakers should concentrate on protecting the property of the state’s businesses and providing a secure environment in which residents can engage in mutually-beneficial trade. Easing the lives of criminals, and their voter eligibility, in order to maintain entrenched political power is as perverted as special interest politics can get.

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