SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday signed into law two high profile bills: one making child sex trafficking a serious felony and another that cracks down on censorship in public schools.
Assembly Bill 1078 — by Assemblyman Corey Jackson, a Moreno Valley Democrat — prohibits school boards from banning textbooks, library books and other instructional materials on the basis of their inclusion of racial and LGBTQ+ topics. The requirements of the bill reflect current state law that requires instruction and school materials that accurately portray the state's cultural and racial diversity.
“It is the responsibility of every generation to continue the fight for civil and human rights against those who seek to take them away,” Jackson said in a statement. “Today, California has met this historical imperative and we will be ready to meet the next one.”
The new law gives the state superintendent of public instruction authority to purchase textbooks for a school district, recoup those costs and assess a monetary fee if a school board opts against providing sufficient instructional materials to its students.
“From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools,” Newsom said. “With this new law, we’re cementing California’s role as the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them.”
Opposition to the bill was fierce at times. At a July hearing, Kasia Williams, legislative director of the California Parents Union, likened the bill’s added layer of state oversight to micromanagement. One parent said a book in her son’s school library explained sex acts in detail.
Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, a Los Angeles-area Republican, said at the hearing that too much focus was placed on race, gender and sexuality, as opposed to content of character in education and that when individuals expressed concern about what's being taught in schools, they are vilified.
The bill passed both the Assembly and Senate by two-thirds, and it is effective immediately.
California has some 5.9 million students in its school system, from transitional kindergarten through 12th grade, in over 10,000 schools.
Newsom on Monday also signed a bill making child sex trafficking a serious felony.
Senate Bill 14 — written by Senator Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican — adds “human trafficking of a minor for purposes of a commercial sex act” to a list of felonies that have greater penalties and are part of the state’s three strikes law. Under that law, an offender will face life in prison after a third strike.
Child sex trafficking will join the list of serious felonies that include murder, attempted murder, rape and arson.
“I want to thank the governor for signing SB 14, today is a huge victory for California’s children and the survivors of sex trafficking who have long fought for justice,” Grove said in a statement. “With the passage of this bill, we are sending a clear message to child traffickers — we intend to put you out of business and behind bars where you belong.”
In addition to adding the offense to the serious felony list, Grove’s bill strengthens protections for victims of sex and labor trafficking. California regularly ranks top in the country for the number of human trafficking cases reported to a national hotline. The state’s attorney general has said it is a hotspot for human trafficking — which is an estimated $150 billion-a-year criminal enterprise across the world.
“Human trafficking is a sick crime,” Newsom said. “With this new law, California is going further to protect kids.”
Grove’s bill faced significant hurdles on its way to the governor’s desk. The Assembly Public Safety Committee in July voted down the bill when six Democrats abstained. The committee’s chairman, Los Angeles Democrat Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer Sr., later said that the three strikes model is ineffective at preventing crime, and that he didn’t want to build on a flawed sentencing system that unfairly hurts disadvantaged communities.
Newsom said after the committee vote that he called Grove to discuss the bill. Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas also spoke with Grove.
The bill then returned to the Public Safety Committee for another vote, passing 6-0, with two members abstaining. It passed the Assembly unanimously and the Senate 39-0.
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