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California Democrats move to strengthen sentencing for trafficking minors

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(The Center Square) – California Democrats reversed course and moved to strengthen sentencing for trafficking minors after public outrage over the Assembly Public Safety Committee’s initial failure to approve the bill. With a final vote of 6-0, including two abstentions from progressive Democrats, the bill now moves to the Appropriations Committee, after which, if it is approved, can move the bill to be voted upon by the entire State Assembly.

If passed, SB 14 will make trafficking of minors a serious felony that would qualify under California’s three strikes law, which keeps dangerous, serial criminals off the streets, and make individuals convicted of the crime ineligible for early release.

Public figures from across the nation and political spectrum came out against the Public Safety Committee’s initial vote by all its Democratic members to deny the SB 14’s passage out of committee. With figures ranging from California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Salinas), California governor Gavin Newsom, and even billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk questioning the vote, SB 14 quickly was brought back to the table.

Progressive Democrats, including Assembly Majority Leader Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) opposed the bill on grounds that it would increase incarceration, which they believe does little to deter crime.

“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,” Bryan, who abstained from the July 13 vote after voting no on July 12, said.

Capturing some of the public sentiment presented by citizens confused why the measure did not pass, Assemblymember Heath Flora (R-Manteca) took to the floor during the debate on whether or not to send SB 14 back to committee or skip committees and achieve a full floor vote, saying, “You can choose a team. Pick pedophiles, or children.”

Senator Shanon Grove (R-Bakersfield), author of the bill, celebrated the bill’s approval in more measured terms, noting, “This is a bill with strong bipartisan support, and protecting victims of child sex trafficking should not be a partisan issue. Today is a victory for every survivor. However, the battle is not over—SB 14 must still go through the Assembly Appropriations Committee when legislators return from Summer recess. I believe most Assembly Democrats want to vote for this bill if they are given a chance, and I am hopeful we can succeed in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. I urge every Californian to stay engaged until the bill is signed into law.”

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