California lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill that would classify child sex trafficking as a serious felony following controversy that briefly stalled the legislation and became a divisive issue among state Democrats.
The California legislature passed Senate Bill 14 in a unanimous vote of approval in the state Senate. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has signaled support for it in the past.
Under the terms of the bill, child sex trafficking would be classified as a serious felony and would be a strike-able offense, meaning some offenders could receive significant prison time.
"Today is a huge victory for every survivor who has shared their story in hopes of making a change with Senate Bill 14," state Sen. Shannon Grove, who authored SB 14, posted on X, formally known as Twitter. "With the passage of this bill, we are sending a clear message to repeat child traffickers— we intend to put you out of business and into prison.
The bill was expected to sail through the state Legislature until Assembly Democrats on the powerful Assembly Public Safety Committee chose not to advance it over concerns that it would have possibly penalized trafficking victims and ensnare them in the criminal justice system.
The issue led to public outrage and death threats against some committee members. The rift prompted Newsom to publicly weigh in on the matter.
Wednesday's bill passed with minor amendments, such as exempting human trafficking victims are not criminalized.
The passage was a win for state Republicans in a Legislature dominated by Democrats that has rolled back tough-on-crime policies in recent years.