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Sacramento Report: A Tangled Web of Human Trafficking Bills

It’s a rare problem in Sacramento – or anywhere – when legislators agree too much on an issue.

But that’s what’s happening, in a way, when it comes to the long list of bills being offered in the Legislature this session that address human trafficking, including measures from several members of the San Diego delegation.

Sacramento Report logo [1]Many of the bills overlap or address the same issues. Several, for example, focus on decriminalization for victims who face criminal charges for activities they were forced into. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez told me she ended up taking decriminalization language out one of her bills because there were so many others that did the same thing.

A bill from Assemblywoman Toni Atkins that’s attracted support from Attorney General Kamala Harris [2] would create an interagency task force to help different agencies coordinate their efforts to target trafficking. But another bill would create a “State Plan to Serve and Protect Child Trafficking Victims” that would also facilitate coordination between agencies.

“Invariably, there’s not coordination. Everybody wants to do something,” Gonzalez said.

She said that many of the bills are being held in the appropriations committee so they can be sorted out, combined and shaped into a coherent package.

“Some of it’s a little sensitive, because you have two identical bills and somebody’s got to be the author. … It’ a work in progress for sure,” Gonzalez said.

Both Atkins and Gonzalez said that part of the rush among San Diego members to offer bills comes from the region’s position as a leader on human trafficking advocacy.

“That’s why several members of the San Diego delegation became energized – along with numerous other legislators around the state. The momentum built naturally,” said a spokesperson for Atkins. “Members chose their bills depending on how they think the problem should be addressed. As with any issue, there’s both consistency and conflict in the various approaches, which is to be expected when there are 25 to 30 bills on the same topic.”

Summer Stephan, chief deputy district attorney for San Diego County who’s long worked on trafficking, sees a silver lining to the deluge of bills. More than a decade ago, there simply weren’t any measures addressing the issue.

“I really like that this has become a priority … but I also think that it’s encouraging when you see several of the legislators getting the expert opinions of people that are on the ground, and are willing to listen and make those amendments and work together. I think it’s a long process, and we’re gonna see more of those bills consolidate and move in the right direction,” she said.

Stephan testified last week in favor of Gonzalez’s AB 1708, which would give harsher penalties to those purchasing sex.

“It’s the one bill that stands out in trying to address the demand side,” Stephan told me.

Most of the other bills address victims, including Sen. Marty Block’s SB 823, which would help victims vacate charges from their records that were related to being trafficked. Block has offered several bills addressing trafficking over his career.

Block got the idea for this bill after attending a meeting last fall in which victims “spoke of their hope to have these crimes and arrests ‘vacated’ from their record, which means having them removed altogether. California currently only allows expungement for solicitation and prostitution,” said Block spokeswoman Maria Lopez.

Despite the wave of bills, there are still enforcement issues that have gone untouched, said Stephan.

Human trafficking isn’t designated as a violent crime – something Stephan was hoping a bill would address this year, but none do.

The School Accountability Fight Heats Back Up

Or maybe it never cooled off.

Either way, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber is at the center of it all. Weber has written a bill that would create an accountability system for the relatively new Local Control Funding Formula, a method for distributing cash to schools with more low-income and high-need students. (A good explainer of how that system works can be found here [3]. Locally, there’s already been dissatisfaction over how the process has played out [4].)

“Weber said the state needs ‘a single coherent system of accountability,’ echoing complaints that the ‘multiple measures’ system being considered by the state school board sidesteps direct accountability for outcomes under the new LCFF financing system,” writes Sac Bee’s Dan Walters [5].

The California Teachers Association strongly opposes the bill.

The Wilson Effect

Pete Wilson, San Diego’s former mayor/senator/governor, is being used as a cautionary tale as the California presidential primary approaches. Republicans pushing an anti-immigrant platform should remember how that worked out for Wilson, Rep. Xavier Becerra told reporters this week, according to Politico [6].

Wilson’s divisive tactics only served to “forever [condemn] the Republican Party to minority status in California,” Becerra said.

A former Wilson aide rushed to his old boss’s defense with a letter celebrating his legacy [7].

Locked Out of the Primary?

San Diego has a big chunk of voters registered as “no party preference.”

If those voters want to vote in the Democratic presidential primary this year, they “must request that ballot, otherwise they’ll receive one without the candidates. Cards notifying voters of that choice were sent out already and the deadline to reply has passed,” notes Capitol Public Radio [8].

Not all hope is lost, though. Voters who missed the deadline have at least two options: They can request a second ballot (they’ve gotta destroy the first one they received), or they can request a Democratic ballot in person on Election Day.

Vince Hall, executive director of the Future of California Elections, explained the various presidential primary hoops voters must jump through on a recent episode of our elections podcast, San Diego Decides [9].

Meanwhile, political data guru Paul Mitchell reports some stunning facts about a big spike in voter registration statewide [10] (emphasis mine):

This skyrocketing registration can be broken out by partisanship, ethnicity and age, and shows some striking differences by group.  In a traditional election year, a 65% growth from the same period of last year would be remarkable. But this year we are seeing a doubling of registration growth among Latinos, and a more than 150% increase for some young voters, and a near-tripling for Democrats.

Golden State News

• Drug companies are expected to pump $100 million into the effort to beat back an initiative that would “require the state to pay no more for prescription drugs than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs [11] — one of the few federal agencies allowed to negotiate drug prices,” according to Politico. The measure is being viewed as a test balloon – if it succeeds, it could open a door to other measures across the country.

 “More children of legislators now serve in the Legislature [12] than at any point in the last hundred years,” notes CalMatters.

• Jurors who tweet or use the internet during trials could face far stiffer penalties [13] under a new state bill. (AP)

 “Californians will pay (UC Davis Chancellor Linda) Katehi roughly $106,000 in salary to fulfill zero responsibilities [14] for three months while investigators figure out whether she should be fired.” (The Atlantic)

I Read Social Media So You Don’t Have to

Sen. Barbara Boxer handily beat Carly Fiorina in the 2010 U.S. Senate race. She had some thoughts about Fiorina being named Ted Cruz’s running mate.

I like this Sen. Joel Anderson take on the difference between failed bills from Dems and failed bills from Republicans: