California: Anticipating an Onslaught

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letters to the editorThere is a strange phenomenon in the science behind tsunamis. As history has recorded, including the 2004 beast that devastated India’s coastline, the ocean often deceptively retreats revealing the beauty of the naked beach as the sea appears to take a nap.

It’s alluring in its lull.

Within minutes, though, the waves reverse direction, thrusting its massive power upon the shore, and everything in their wake. As it presses forward, the wall of water’s volume and strength is exponentially more devastating than its pre-retreat form.

Over the next 10 business days—in advance of the Feb. 22 deadline to submit bills for this session—the legislative action in the Capitol will agitate with much of the same rigor. In the past few weeks, dozens of bills have trickled in, far less than the hundred-plus proposals history tells us to expect each day over the next two weeks.

In the lull, we have seen several promising bills designed to protect families from the seedy undercurrent of human trafficking.

Senate Bill (SB) 955 (Mitchell D-Culver City) would add human trafficking to the list of legal uses for wiretapping. The bill is similar in scope to last year’s Assembly Bill (AB) 156 (Holden, D-Pasadena), which failed to advance out of the assembly. Like other crimes allowed on the wiretap list, SB 955 requires a judge to sign off on a written request by an attorney general, chief deputy attorney general or a district attorney.

With its clearly defined checks and balances, such a tool could prove to be an invaluable asset in taking down trafficking networks perpetuating modern-day slavery.

Another bill, AB 1585 (Alejo D-Salinas), would provide a way for victims of human trafficking who were convicted of solicitation or prostitution to have their record sealed in an effort to protect their chances for gainful employment, seeking public office or even adopting.

The proposal is an amended version of AB 795, which Alejo unsuccessfully introduced last year. The newest version adds language that requires victims to complete any term of probation for their crime and disallows a victim’s sealed record from being used as part of adoption screening.

As written the law provides compassionate relief to victims of human trafficking.

Two other laws that we are keeping an eye on are SB 924 and SB 926, statue of limits measures addressing sexual abuse cases. Both introduced by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), SB 924 would raise the current age limit to file civil cases from 26 to 40 and extend the time period a survivor has to file a civil claim—once they have made the connection between their adult injuries and the abuse they suffered as children—from 3 to 5 years.

Beall’s companion bill, SB 926, raises the age at which an adult survivor of childhood sex abuse can seek prosecution from age 28 to 40. This bill, Beall maintains, would apply to the most egregious sex crimes against children.

While Beall’s twin bills appear to benefit victims of sexual abuse, we will continue to monitor them to be sure that, in the pursuit of justice, the pendulum does not swing too wide as to inadvertently inflict injury to innocent parties, an unfortunate and all-too common byproduct of the repressed memory movement.

We have no idea what the legislative waves will bring us over the next two weeks, but be assured we are monitoring the situation from the bluff and are ready to jump into action.

submitted by Lori Arnold