Following backlash from the public and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), a bill that would classify the trafficking of a minor as a serious felony in the state of California was brought back to the state legislature after being held up earlier this week.
SB 14 was introduced to the California Legislature by Republican state Sen. Shannon Grove and other Republicans in December of 2022. The law would classify the trafficking of a minor as a serious felony. Under California’s “three strikes” law, if an individual is convicted of three serious or violent felonies, they are sentenced to a minimum of 25 years to life in prison.
However, on Tuesday, the bill was held up in the Assembly Public Safety Committee when six Democrats abstained and only two Republicans voted to move the bill forward.
Several Democratic Senators including Liz Ortega and Bryan Isaac gave comments in opposition to the bill. Ortega insisted on a “holistic approach” to the issue instead. She once said, “Sending someone to prison for the rest of their lives is not going to fix the harm moving forward.”
Ortega continued, claiming that “three strikes has failed many in our community” and instead emphasized jobs, mental health and other topics to fix the problem.
Following the bill’s stalling on Tuesday, Newsom sided with Republican lawmakers, saying he “cares deeply” about the topic of trafficking. “I want to understand exactly what happened yesterday. … I take it very seriously.” Newsom pushed to get the bill back on the floor of the Committee.
Following pushback from the public, the California Assembly Democrats Twitter account posted a thread attempting to explain their decision on Wednesday. The thread was deleted shortly after.
Among the thread’s claims, it stated that, “Preventing a crime in the first place is our goal. Our priority is protecting sex trafficking victims, especially children.”
The thread also attacked the three-strike model saying it “disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, & People of Color communities, so any bill that builds on this system needs to ensure equity & that unforeseen consequences do not lead to trafficked children being punished.”
The bill was subjected to a last-minute hearing to determine if it would be brought back to the Committee floor on Thursday, and passed.
The bill must now be vetted by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where chair Reggie Jones-Sawyer said he will ask for amendments to make sure victims of child trafficking are not penalized and that the legislation doesn’t disproportionately affect people of color.