Gov. Gavin Newsom has decided the fate of two more high-profile bills — one on criminal justice and the other on public schools.
On Monday, Sept. 25, the governor signed Senate Bill 14 into law, reclassifying child sex trafficking into a serious felony that increases prison sentences, saying that “California is going further to protect kids.” Sen. Shannon Grove, a Republican from Bakersfield and author of the bill, said in a statement that the measure is a “huge victory for California’s children and the survivors of sex trafficking.”
Grove said, “I want to thank the thousands of Californians who called or visited legislative offices, signed petitions, and spoke out on social media. We are here today because of the overwhelming public outrage that propelled this bill through the legislature and ultimately helped protect our children from predators.”
During an online press conference after the signing, Grove said “it should have never been this hard” to get the bill through, referring to the political fireworks as the measure journeyed to Newsom’s desk. In July, the Assembly public safety committee, led by Democratic Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles, initially stalled the bill in part due to criticisms from civil rights and progressive criminal justice groups. They argued that harsher sentences do not deter crime; that there are already laws that sufficiently punish traffickers; and that those at the lowest rungs, who may be trafficked themselves, will bear the brunt of legal punishments.
The blocking of the bill led to an uproar from Assembly Republicans; new Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas and Newsom also got involved. During a debate to send the bill back to the committee (which reversed course and passed the measure), Assemblymember Heath Flora, a Republican from Ripon, urged his fellow lawmakers to “choose your team — pick pedophiles or children.” Jones-Sawyer reported that women on the committee received death threats as well.
Also Monday, Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1078 to penalize school boards that ban books and other education materials based solely on the materials’ inclusion of history related to Black, Latino, Asian, Native American, LGBTQ people and other groups. The bill is one response by Democratic legislators and leaders to a wave of local school boards passing policies on books and transgender students.
Standing alongside Assemblymember Corey Jackson, a Moreno Valley Democrat and author of the bill, Newsom called the measure “long overdue.”
Newsom, in a video, said, “It’s remarkable that we’re living in a country right now in this banning binge, this cultural purge that we’re experiencing all throughout America and now increasingly here in the state of California where we have school districts, large and small, that are banning books, banning free speech, criminalizing librarians and teachers. And we want to do more than just push back rhetorically against that, and that’s what this legislation provides.”