Top Calif. Dem backtracks on fentanyl measures after “running interference for cartels.”

Asm. Reggie Jones-Sawyer, the controversial chair of California’s Assembly Public Safety Committee, is taking a different approach after eschewing tougher penalties for fentanyl dealers.

Months after fentanyl prevention bills hit a flashpoint in Sacramento – and met an untimely demise at the hands of Democrats – one Central Valley Republican is teaming up with one of California’s top Democrats to push for billions of dollars to fight fentanyl overdose deaths. 

It is a different approach for Asm. Juan Alanis (R–Modesto) and Asm. Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D–Los Angeles), the latter of which opposed stronger penalties for fentanyl dealers. 


The big picture: Alanis and Jones-Sawyer are pitching Assembly Bill 1510, a $5 billion bond that would ultimately require approval from California voters. 

  • AB 1510 would allocate $2 billion for substance abuse treatment and programs and $400 million for harm reduction programs, including those that demonstrate how to use fentanyl test kits and syringe services programs, as well as how to identify and respond to overdoses. 
  • The bill would also grant $100 million to the State Department of Public Health to fund and expand programs that monitor and research emerging drugs, $2 billion for education and awareness and $500 million for focused deterrence and violence reduction. 
  • Part of that last $500 million would fund and expand programs that identify and target high-level drug traffickers and dealers. 

The backstory: As part of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, Alanis has been supportive of legislation that would impose stricter penalties for fentanyl dealers. 

  • Yet Jones-Sawyer, who serves as the chair of the committee, has opposed bills like Assembly Bill 1058, which was proposed by Asm. Jim Patterson (R–Fresno) and would have increased penalties for people who possess large quantities of fentanyl. 
  • After his bill was shot down, Patterson accused Jones-Sawyer and other Democrats of “running political interference for the cartels and the drug dealers.” 

What we’re watching: If approved by the Legislature, AB 1510 will appear on either the March ballot or the November ballot next year. 

  • The bill could be one of many that voters decide on next year as the Legislature is looking at putting billions of dollars in bond funding in front of Californians for various other issues, including education and homelessness. 

What they’re saying: Jones-Sawyer called AB 1510 a comprehensive approach to California’s fentanyl crisis, as opposed to tackling the issue with a bill-by-bill approach. 

  • “We do have to make sure that everyone has skin in the game to get this done – that everyone’s on board,” Jones-Sawyer told McClatchy. “I just feel that doing a bond and having voters vote for it, that is really the best way. It’s a good way to use taxpayers’ money, because if they’re willing to go and vote for this, that means it is a priority for them.”
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