Major victory for child sex trafficking victims as Assembly Committee reverses course, passes SB 14

Yesterday, 1st District Assemblywoman Megan Dahle, a co-sponsor of SB 14, blasted the Assembly Public Safety Committee for voting against the bill designed to prioritize justice and protect the most vulnerable among us by making the heinous act of sex trafficking a minor a serious felony.

“The Assembly Public Safety Committee’s decision is a shocking betrayal of our commitment to protect the innocent and hold criminals accountable,” Dahle said yesterday. “We must send a clear message that the exploitation of minors will not be tolerated in California, and that the legislature values the safety of our children.”

Today, Dahle and legislative Republicans are celebrating a major victory for victims of sex trafficking as the California Assembly Public Safety Committee passed SB14 that would make sex trafficking of minors a serious crime in California. Initially, Democrats in the Assembly Public Safety Committee blocked its passage on a 2-0 vote earlier this week with six Democrats not voting.

The measure passed, thanks to continual pressure by legislative Republicans, former victims of trafficking, their families and a big coalition of advocates, law enforcement and the public demanding action be taken against traffickers. Today, Assembly Democrats, on a party-line vote, rejected a Republican attempt to have the entire Assembly vote on SB 14, bypassing the Public Safety Committee. In a rare move, however, the Speaker of the Assembly called for an emergency Public Safety Committee hearing to reconsider the bill where it passed with unanimous support.

“Democrats on the Assembly Public Safety Committee today reconsidered the merits of Senate Bill 14 and voted to let it out of committee,” said Senator Shannon Grove, the bill’s author and champion of this issue. “This is a bill with strong bipartisan support, and protecting victims of child sex trafficking should not be a partisan issue. Today is a victory for every survivor. However, the battle is not over—SB 14 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, 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.”

“Bipartisan outrage has finally forced Democrats to act,” said Assemblyman Joe Patterson. “This is a victory for regular Californians, but it doesn’t excuse Democrats’ repeated votes to kill common-sense legislation, including my AB 229, to hold traffickers accountable.”

When the bill was first rejected by the Assembly Public Safety Committee, Democrats in that committee received extreme backlash from local, state and national figures who questioned why those on the committee would reject a measure that had received unanimous support up to that point.

SB 14 was carefully crafted to meet concerns of previous legislative efforts and received unanimous support in the state Senate as it passed 40 to 0 out of the upper house of the legislature.

“In the end, my Democrat colleagues in the Assembly Public Safety Committee did the right thing and passed SB 14 that will make sure repeat offenders of child sex trafficking are held accountable,” said Senate Minority Leader Brian W. Jones. “If it were not for the extraordinary pushback from figures around the state and nation, I fear the Democrats’ one-party rule and some of their radical ideologies would have prevailed. I’m grateful for the efforts of Senator Grove who has been a fearless leader on this issue and to my Senate Democrat colleagues who saw the need for this measure.”

“It’s taken days of public shaming for Democrats to do the right thing, but thanks to Republican pressure, we’re seeing progress,” said Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher. “The choice here is clear: child sex traffickers or victims. Anyone who fails to support SB 14 is choosing the traffickers.”

“A child’s vulnerability is not meant to be a profitable transaction. I’m proud I was able to witness this bill passing the legislature today and hope that this will save children’s lives,” said Dominique Brown, human trafficking victim, present today in the Assembly gallery.

For more information on SB 14, click here. To view stories of survivors and advocates, click here.