Democrats on the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee have blocked a bill that would make the trafficking of minors a serious felony.
The inexplicable move was met with outrage from human trafficking victims who have been advocating for the bill.
The bill, HB 14, noted that “California consistently ranks number one in the nation in the number of human trafficking cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.”
“Human trafficking is among the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprises and is estimated to be a $150,000,000,000 a year global industry,” it adds.
The legislation would have made human trafficking of a minor subject to California’s Three Strikes Law.
Under the law, someone convicted twice could be sentenced to life in prison.
The bill had already passed unanimously in the State Senate.
However, not even one of the six Democrats on the committee would vote on the bill.
The only yes votes were cast by two Republicans, Assemblymen Juan Alanis and Tom Lackey.
Los Angeles Democrat Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, the Assembly Public Safety Committee’s chairman, opposed the bill.
GOP state Sen. Shannon Grove, who co-authored the bill, said she had spoken with Democrats on the committee prior to the hearing.
“They all thought it was a good bill and said they would consider it, but there is this issue of rolling the chair, so I don’t think anyone was going to stand up against the chair,” she said.
“You’re horrible!” yelled members of the audience at the meeting.
Victims of human trafficking who attended the vote broke down in tears.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves!” they shouted at the Democrats.
“I am profoundly disappointed that committee Democrats couldn’t bring themselves to support the bill, with their stubborn and misguided objection to any penalty increase regardless of how heinous the crime,” Grove said.
“You can pass a note to a bank and rob a bank, you can commit arson, and that’s considered a serious felony.
“But to traffic a minor child in the state of California is not. That’s wrong.”
Grove told KCRA 3 that she had tried three times to call Jones-Sawyer on his cellphone and her staff tried six or seven times, but he would not meet with her.
“The Assemblymember’s office is aware of a single call from Senator Grove’s staff to his legislative director on Friday, July 7, to advise that the Senator had spoken with the Public Safety Committee’s staff about amendments,” Jones-Sawyer’s office stated.
“The conversation was brief, resulting in no changes to either office’s positions on the bill.
“The committee has also rejected other measures that would increase penalties for domestic violence offenders, rapists of developmentally disabled children, and other sexually violent crimes,” KCRA noted.