Thursday, 14 September 2023

Child Sex Trafficking Bill Classifying Crime As Serious Felony Passes CA State Legislature

 California lawmakers sent a high-profile bill to classify child sex trafficking as a serious felony to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk on Wednesday after the legislature unanimously approved the once-divisive measure.

The California legislature passed SB 14 in its final vote of approval in the State Senate to increase penalties for child traffickers, which allows state authorities to pursue life sentences under its “three strikes” law in some cases.

“SB 14 will serve to protect future generations by stopping people from engaging in this horrific crime,” Republican state Sen. Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, who wrote the bill, said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “SB 14 will send a direct message to those committing this horrific crime of selling our children for sex in the state of California that we will no longer stand by and tolerate this, and you will serve a lengthy prison sentence.”

Democrat state Senator Susan Rubio of Baldwin Park reportedly said the passage of the bill sends a message to victims that California lawmakers “see you . . . hear you . . . [and] are here to help you.”

State Senators had unanimously passed the bill earlier this year, but it became controversial among State Assembly Democrats over the summer when the left-wing members of the Public Safety Committee took issue with certain language in the legislation that could potentially prosecute victims forced to help traffickers.

Grove reportedly said in response to the criticism from Democrat lawmakers that she changed the bill several times to reconcile the concerns.


“We don’t want anyone who is a victim of violent crime like human trafficking to be charged or put in prison for that,” Grove said. “That is not my intent — that is not what the bill says.”

After facing heavy backlash nationally, including from Governor Newsom, the Assembly Public Safety Committee reversed course and approved the measure in a forced emergency hearing days after initially blocking it.

“When proposed policies punish more individuals than intended, the collateral damage to specific communities can cause a domino effect of irreparable injustice,” Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) said during an Assembly debate before he voted for SB 14 in July.

Newsom and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) reportedly weighed in on the matter and encouraged the committee members to approve the measure.

“Good to see. Thank you, @RobertRivas_CA for your leadership,” Newsom wrote in an X-post after the Assembly passed SB 14.

Newsom told reporters in July that he had contacted Senator Grove in appreciation of her “efforts on this and wanted to make sure she knew that today,” adding that the issue is one “I care deeply about. Have since my time as (San Francisco) mayor, as a supervisor, working then with District Attorney Kamala Harris.”

The California governor, who signaled his support for the legisaltion, has an October 14 deadline to sign or veto SB 14 and hundreds of other bills.

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