The California Assembly has passed a bill which classifies sex trafficking as a serious felony months after public uproar caused Democrats to reconsider the bill.
With the Assembly’s approval, Senate Bill 14 will now head back to the Senate for a final vote before heading to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature.
The backstory: Senators Shannon Grove (R–Bakersfield), Anna Caballero (D–Merced) and Susan Rubio (D–Baldwin Park) introduced SB 14 last year to classify sex trafficking as a serious felony, making repeat offenders eligible for longer sentences.
- But in July, the Assembly Public Safety Committee failed to move the bill forward as every Democrat on the committee abstained from voting.
- That came despite the fact that it had already passed the Senate with unanimous support in May.
- After significant public pressure, Assembly Democrats revisited the bill and forced the Public Safety Committee to reconsider it just a couple days later, and the committee reversed course and passed the bill.
The big picture: SB 14 also adds enhanced penalties to sex trafficking of a minor under the three strikes law, something that members of the Public Safety Committee opposed in July.
- Asm. Mia Bonta (D–Alameda), who voted for the bill on Monday after not supporting it as a member of the Public Safety Committee, noted that there are still issues with the bill given its involvement with the three strikes law.
- Before the vote Democrats and Republicans criticized the committee for the various proposals that it has stalled, including proposals surrounding the fentanyl crisis.
- After the vote Bonta said she will introduce the Human Trafficking Survivors Protection Act of 2024 to increase the focus on human trafficking victims.
What they’re saying: “It’s appalling that we had to fight this hard to pass a common sense measure holding traffickers accountable for some of the most horrific crimes imaginable,” Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher said. “It shouldn’t take nationwide outrage for Democrats to finally stand with victims. With today’s vote, we are one step closer to delivering justice, but the fight isn’t over. Assembly Republicans will continue working to put victims first and protect Californians from crime.”