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Tougher sentencing for trafficking minors poised to move forward in California

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Though SB 14, a bill to make trafficking minors a “serious felony” in California that would qualify under the state’s “three strikes” law, was placed in suspense in mid-August, it now has a chance to make it to a State Assembly general floor vote if members of the 16-member Assembly Appropriations Committee opt to allow the bill to move forward during their September 1 session.

SB 14 had been placed into the suspense file, a procedure committee leaders can use to quash a bill if it has a fiscal impact of more than $150,000, and must be removed from the suspense file by September 1 to have any chance at becoming law this year. Unanimously passed in the California Senate, SB 14 is supported by a broad coalition ranging from law enforcement, human rights organizations, faith groups, municipalities, corporations such as UPS, and even California Governor Gavin Newsom.

While the bill failed its first vote on the California Assembly Public Safety Committee due to Assembly Majority Leader Isaac Bryan’s (D-Los Angeles) concerns that “longer sentences…increase our investment in systems of harm and subjugation at the expense of the investments that the communities need to not have this problem to begin with,” the bill readily passed on its second vote after the failure of its first vote generated national attention from prominent Democrats and Republicans alike.

During the summer recess, bill author Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) conducted significant outreach to members of the State Assembly, bringing the total number of coauthors to 64, a majority of California legislators. Importantly, this outreach increased the number of co-authors in the Assembly Appropriations Committee up to nine out of the 16 members on the committee, which requires a majority vote to move forward.

“If you were to ask Californians — Democrat, Republican, or independent — if sex trafficking a minor should be a serious felony in the state of California, I can pretty much guarantee that almost everyone would say yes,” Grove said in a news conference.

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