Assembly panel “running political interference for the cartels,” kill fentanyl bills

Democrats rejected measures to stiffen penalties on fentanyl dealers, prompting criticism they were soft on crime.

The California Assembly Public Safety Committee killed a bill authored by Asm. Jim Patterson (R–Fresno) that would stiffen penalties for drug dealers over their peddling of fentanyl.

Patterson’s bill was one of six bills heard by the committee on Thursday regarding fentanyl during a special hearing sparked after the GOP overcame a legislative blockade.


The backstory: Under committee chairman Asm. Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D–Los Angeles), the committee was initially scheduled to hear the bills in June. 

  • While the bills were mostly authored by Democrats, the GOP threatened to withdraw the bills from the Public Safety Committee and force an immediate vote on the floor. 
  • The Assembly’s Democrat leadership met with Republicans last week and struck a deal to hold a special hearing on Thursday to discuss the bills. 

Driving the news: Patterson introduced Assembly Bill 1058, which would change the sentences for drug dealers, increasing penalties for people who possess large quantities of fentanyl. 

  • State law currently only takes into account how much drugs weigh, leaving a loophole where a drug dealer could possess 1,000 pills and face a minimal drug charge. 

The big picture: The committee, led by Jones-Sawyer, proposed amendments to Patterson that would have instituted a maximum of a $50,000 fine instead of increased prison sentences. That fine, though, would only be levied if the defendant was capable of paying it. 

  • Two other bills failed to pass through the committee on Thursday. AB 367, authored by Asm. Brian Maienschein (D–San Diego) would have added sentencing enhancements for fentanyl dealers who kill or seriously injure the people they sell to. AB 955, introduced by Asm. Cottie Petrie-Norris (D–Irvine), would have enhanced penalties for fentanyl dealers who target children by selling drugs on social media. 

State of play: The committee passed the other three bills that it heard Thursday. 

  • Asm. Jasmeet Bains (D–Bakersfield) introduced AB 33, which creates a Fentanyl Addiction and Overdose Prevention Task Force. 
  • AB 474, introduced by Asm. Freddie Rodriguez ( D–Pomona), requires state emergency management agencies to work together to fight criminal drug trafficking networks. 
  • Asm. Esmeralda Soria (D–Fresno) proposed AB 675, which prohibits anyone in possession of fentanyl from carrying a loaded firearm. 

What they’re saying: Patterson had harsh words for Jones-Sawyer and the other Democrats on the committee after the hearing, saying in a statement that the decision was pathetic and a terrible injustice to the name of the Public Safety Committee. 

  • We just saw today along a majority vote that the Public Safety Committee of the California State Assembly literally running political interference for the cartels and the drug dealers, and they turn their back on the pain that this is inflicting on people because they’re losing children,” Patterson said. “And they’re more interested not in justice, but they are interested in injustice. They’re not really interested in public safety.” 
  • Patterson said he rejected the proposed amendments because it would have allowed drug dealers to buy their way out of any consequences. 
  • “If I’d accepted those amendments and gotten the bill passed, I would’ve been part of the problem, not part of the solution,” Patterson said. “And that’s what we have to deal with up here in Sacramento. It was a very difficult hearing because they turned their back on victimes, and they welcomed the dealers with open arms. We should be welcoming those dealers into closed jail cells.” 
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