The California legislature voted unanimously Wednesday to pass a bill that would classify child sex trafficking as a "serious felony," an issue that divided Democrats earlier this year.
Senate Bill 14 will now head to Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom's desk. The governor has already expressed support for the measure.
If signed into law by Newsom, it would mark the first time California has voted to add a crime to the state's three-strikes law. Repeat "serious felony" offenders could face up to life in prison. Under current law, child sex traffickers are eligible for early release credits based on behavior, which could take years off their sentencing.
In July, all six Democratic members of the California Assembly Committee on Public Safety blocked Senate Bill 14 by refusing to vote on the measure, which was introduced by Republican state Senator Shannon Grove.
At the time, Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D) claimed that the bill failed to "address the root of the problem," but noted that he would be willing to work with Grove.
The divided Democrats faced bipartisan blowback for their decision, prompting them to reverse course days later.
Newsom announced that he would contact Grove to help get the legislation passed.
"I appreciate Shannon Grove's efforts on this and wanted to make sure she knew that," he stated.
Democratic Assembly Member Liz Ortega expressed regret for blocking the measure, noting that she had "made a bad decision."
"Voting against legislation targeting really bad people who traffic children was wrong. I regret doing that and I am going to help get this important legislation passed into law," Ortega posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The Assembly Public Safety Committee held a special hearing to vote on the proposed legislation again. This time, the measure passed in a 6-0 decision despite several Democratic members still refusing to vote.
The bill then advanced to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and was passed by the California legislature on Wednesday afternoon.
"Today is a huge victory for every survivor who has shared their story in hopes of making a change with Senate Bill 14," Grove said. "With the passage of this bill, we are sending a clear message to repeat child traffickers — we intend to put you out of business and into prison."
Newsom has until October 14 to sign or veto the proposed legislation.
California legislature approves child sex trafficking billyoutu.be
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