After bipartisan backlash, California legislators vote trafficking bill through committee

California capitol Credit  Sundry Photography   Shutterstock California State Capitol. | Sundry photography/shutterstock

California Democratic legislators on Thursday hastily voted an anti-child-trafficking bill through a key committee after significant backlash to their initial scuttling of the measure. 

Legislators on the state Assembly’s Public Safety Committee had earlier this week voted down Senate Bill 14, which would elevate child trafficking to a “serious felony” in the state. The committee is controlled by six Democrats, with two Republicans also sitting on the panel. 

Committee Chair Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer said in a statement earlier this week that the committee was unwilling to “build on a deeply flawed sentencing system that unfairly punishes disadvantaged communities.” 

But the decision to vote the measure down led to bipartisan backlash, with spectators openly criticizing the committee after the vote, Republican politicians slamming the Democratic members for the decision, and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom vowing to help get the bill passed. 

On Thursday evening the Public Safety Committee voted to pass the bill, with the measure receiving near-unanimous approval.

Elisa Arcidiacono, the chief of staff for Assembly member and Public Safety Committee vice chairman Tom Lackey, told CNA that following the bill’s initial failure, assembly Republicans spearheaded a procedural motion “to pull the bill from the Public Safety Committee and bring it to the Assembly floor for a vote by the full body.”

“Rather than approving this motion, Assembly Democrats introduced their own motion to instead hold an emergency Public Safety Committee hearing following the floor session,” Arcidiacono said. “That motion was passed with 43 votes and several abstentions.”

“The bill was then taken up in an emergency hearing [Thursday] morning in the Assembly Public Safety Committee,” she said. “There was no discussion or debate on the bill; it was vote-only.” 

The measure subsequently passed the committee with six members voting in favor and two Democratic members abstaining. “The bill will now move to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and then to the floor,” Arcidiacono said. 

Following the passage of the bill, state Sen. Shannon Grove — SB14’s original sponsor — said in a statement that the vote represented “a victory for every survivor” of trafficking.

Grove noted that SB14 “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,” she said, “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.”

The bill will next be considered by the Appropriations Committee in August.

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