Republican State Senator Shannon Grove (Image Source: KCRA-TV YouTube video screenshot)
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Democratic members of the California Assembly Committee on Public Safety blocked a bill on Tuesday that would have made child trafficking a "serious felony."
Under California law, serious felonies are subjected to the state's three-strikes laws. If the measure had passed, repeat offenders would have faced harsher penalties, including up to life in prison.
Currently, traffickers who target underage victims are eligible for early release credits based on behavior, which could take years off their sentencing.
Republican members Juan Alanis and Tom Lackey voted in support of Senate Bill 14 this week. All six Democratic members refused to vote on the measure, blocking its passage.
Human trafficking victims in the audience on Tuesday during the vote responded with sobs. "You're horrible!" they cried out to the Democratic lawmakers. "You should be ashamed of yourselves!"
Republican state Senator Shannon Grove told KCRA-TV that she was surprised by the outcome of the vote, considering several Democratic members told her "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," Grove added, referring to Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D).
Jones-Sawyer did not vote in favor of the measure because he claimed it failed to "address the root of the problem," KCRA reported.
"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 stated. "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."
Grove added that the average age of child trafficking victims is 10.
Following the vote, Jones-Sawyer stated he would be willing to work with Grove on the bill. However, Grove claimed that she attempted unsuccessfully to contact Jones-Sawyer several times before.
Jones-Sawyer told KCRA, "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. The conversation was brief, resulting in no changes to either office's positions on the bill."
Key California Assembly committee blocks bill to make child trafficking a 'serious felony'youtu.be
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Candace Hathaway is a staff writer for Blaze News.