California Dems bring back anti-human trafficking bill after backlash over cancellation

The law would classify the trafficking of a minor as a serious felony.

After pressure from the public and California Governor Gavin Newsom (D), a bill that would classify the trafficking of a minor as a serious felony in the state of California was revived by the state legislature after first being held up earlier this week. 

The bill, SB 14, was introduced by California 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. In the state of California, under the "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. 

The bill was held up on Tuesday in the Assembly Public Safety Committee where 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."

She said that "three strikes has failed many in our community" and instead emphasized jobs, mental health, and other topics to fix the problem. 

Since the bill did not pass Tuesday, Newsom, siding with the Republican lawmakers, said he "cares deeply" about the topic of trafficking. "I want to understand exactly what happened yesterday... I take it very seriously." He moved to get the bill back on the floor of the Committee. 

After pushback from the public, the California Assembly Democrats Twitter account posted a thread attempting to explain their decision on Wednesday.

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 thread was deleted after posting. 

A last-minute hearing to bring the bill back onto the Committee floor on Thursday, where it passed.
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