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California Democrats revived a stalled bill on child trafficking after public pressure

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Posted at 1:14 PM, Jul 13, 2023

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Democrats in the California Legislature on Thursday revived a bill that would increase penalties for child traffickers following pressure from the public and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The bill by Republican state Sen. Shannon Grove would add child trafficking to a list of serious felonies in California. Anyone convicted of at least three serious felonies faces a prison sentence of between 25 years to life in prison under the state’s three strikes law.

Earlier this week, Democrats on the Assembly Public Safety Committee chose not to advance the bill because they opposed longer prison sentences, which they say is not an effective deterrent of crime.

But Democrats quickly changed course on Thursday amid a chorus of concern from the public and Newsom, who took the unusual step of publicly supporting the proposal against members of his own political party.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee met Thursday morning to advance the bill with no amendments. Four Democratic committee members, including committee chair Reggie Jones-Sawyer, joined Republicans in supporting the bill after they voted down the bill earlier this week. The bill must now be vetted by the Appropriations Committee before heading to vote on the Assembly floor.

Even with the reversal, Republicans were still not happy. The Appropriations Committee process is mysterious, where even bills with lots of support are often gutted or rejected. Republicans attempted to bypass the Appropriations Committee on Thursday by forcing the full Assembly to vote on the bill.

“Today we have a choice to make. You can choose a team, pick pedophiles or children,” Republican Assemblymember Heath Flora said.

Democrats rejected the Republican request, with Assembly Majority Leader Isaac Bryan, a Democrat from Los Angeles, chastising Flora for insinuating some Democrats supported pedophiles.