By The Signal Editorial Board
Sacramento is broken.
The latest evidence of it came this week, when controversy erupted after a state Assembly committee blocked a bill that would make child trafficking a serious felony in California. The bill would result in lengthier sentences for repeat offenders.
Yes, the questions that popped into your mind are perfectly valid. Such as:
Wait. What? Child trafficking isn’t ALREADY a serious felony in California?
What legislator in his or her right mind would side with sex traffickers over children?
That, ladies and gentlemen, is just how broken our state Legislature is: What should have been a no-brainer of a bill — making the trafficking of children a serious felony — became controversial when hard-core leftist ideologues tried to stop it in its tracks, and almost succeeded.
How did we get here? It’s largely because California has allowed itself to become run by a single political party, so there’s not a whole lot of consensus building and compromise happening in our state Capitol.
In what could have been seen as a glimmer of hope, Senate Bill 14 actually had cleared the state Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support, but on Tuesday it failed to clear the Assembly Public Safety Committee when the committee’s six Democrats abstained from voting. It received two votes in favor — from the committee’s two Republicans, including Tom Lackey of Palmdale, whose district includes some eastern portions of the Santa Clarita Valley.
After that vote, all hell broke loose. Republicans in the Legislature and victims’ advocates who support SB 14 all cried foul, and loudly.
Even Gov. Gavin Newsom, recognizing the horrible optics of a decision that favors sex traffickers over children, weighed in publicly in favor of the bill, and did some arm-twisting to get the committee to reverse course.
Assembly Republicans tried to force a floor vote on SB 14, to no avail. However, the Assembly did vote 43-17 to send it back to the Public Safety Committee.
The committee then approved the bill on a 6-0 vote with no discussion. (Two Democrats, Mia Bonta of Oakland and Isaac Bryan from Culver City, still abstained.) SB 14 next goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
There are a couple of practical and unfortunate realities that made up a chunk of the block wall SB 14 faced in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
First, it’s basically de rigueur for a bill from a minority-party lawmaker in one house of the Legislature to face roadblocks in the other house, even if it had bipartisan support in the house of origin. SB 14 is authored by Republican Sen. Shannon Grove, of Bakersfield. If the bill’s author had a “D” after her name instead of an “R,” its path in the Assembly would be much less obstructed.
And second, the chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee happens to be one of those Democrats who are obsessed with the idea of draining the prisons. They say they would rather expend resources on social programs that will prevent such crimes from happening in the first place.
It sounds nice, and we of course would favor anything that reduces crime. But when you couple that philosophy with a refusal to appropriately mete out justice for crimes that have already occurred, it’s like promising to install fire sprinklers after the barn has already burned down, and ignoring the guy standing next to the smoking ruins who’s holding a gasoline can and a pack of matches.
That is exactly what we have in California with one political party exercising so much control, essentially unchecked, with a Democratic governor and Democratic supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature.
They’re letting our barn burn down, promising to fix it later, and setting the bad guys free.