SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — The state Assembly’s Public Safety Committee did an about-face on Thursday, voting to pass a sex trafficking bill after receiving blowback earlier this week when it failed to advance the legislation.
A contentious but quick battle on the Assembly floor over proper order pushed Senate Bill 14 to the committee immediately after that morning’s session.
The committee previously voted down the bill Tuesday when six Democrats abstained and two Republicans voted for passage.
The bill, which unanimously passed the Senate, was granted reconsideration, meaning it could return to the committee for another vote. The committee held no discussion Thursday and passed it 6-0, with two members abstaining.
“The measure’s for vote only,” said Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer Sr., a Los Angeles Democrat and the committee’s chairman. “This is not debatable.”
Onlookers erupted into applause after the vote passed, sending the bill to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The bill — authored by state Senator Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican — would add “human trafficking of a minor for purposes of a commercial sex act” to a list of serious felonies. Those felonies have greater penalties and fall under the state’s three strikes law. Under the law, an offender is sentenced to life imprisonment following a third strike.
“The fastest growing criminal industry in the world is the buying and selling of human beings and California is one of the largest hubs for human trafficking,” Grove said in a statement in the bill’s analysis.
She added: “It will also help strengthen protections for the millions of victims of sex trafficking and serve as a deterrent for those that wish to perpetuate this horrendous crime.”
In a statement, Jones-Sawyer said the three strikes model is ineffective in preventing crime.
“We will not build on a deeply flawed sentencing system that unfairly punishes disadvantaged communities. SB 14 makes no new corrective actions or enhancements to laws already in place. Ultimately, members of the Assembly's Public Safety Committee understood the author's intent but recognized this bill needs considerable work and granted reconsideration,” he said.
Governor Gavin Newsom told reporters after the failed vote Tuesday that he "cares deeply" about the issue and called Grove to discuss the bill. Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas also said he had talked with Grove.
During Thursday’s Assembly session, Majority Leader Isaac Bryan, a Los Angeles Democrat and committee member, moved for the committee to meet to take up SB 14. Assemblyman Heath Flora, a Republican representing the northern San Joaquin Valley, countered with an attempt to bring the bill to the Assembly floor.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Flora said. “This is an issue we can work on together.”
An Assembly vote pushed the bill to the committee, a move Flora said in a tweet was “a messy process, but a good outcome.”
Jones-Sawyer started the committee meeting by saying SB 14 was its only item of business. He stated there would be no discussion. The members then voted, with Assemblywoman Mia Bonta, a Democrat from Oakland, and Bryan abstaining.
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