SACRAMENTO – The Senate Public Safety Committee yesterday rejected an amended version of Senate Bill 1204 by Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) that would have doubled the penalty (from a maximum of 6 months to a maximum of 12 months in county jail) for directing, supervising, or recruiting another person into prostitution.
Senator Bates amended her bill after the chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), asked her to try to address the concerns of the bill’s opponents. Trying to reach a bipartisan consensus, Senator Bates agreed to accept Senator Skinner’s amendments. In the end, SB 1204 failed to win enough support in the seven member committee, only earning three votes in favor that included Senator Skinner and the committee’s two Republican members. One senator voted “no” and the remaining three members abstained. Click here to access the final vote tally.
“Unfortunately a majority of the members of the Senate Public Safety Committee sided with human traffickers rather than trying to protect Californians from the scourge of human trafficking,” said Senator Bates. “It’s sad that a majority of the committee could not even vote for a watered down version of my bill to combat the exploitation of vulnerable people engaged in prostitution. The original version of SB 1204 was focused on human trafficking. It did not in any way criminalize the distribution of condoms to sex workers as claimed by the bill’s opponents. I will continue to work with stakeholders to do everything we can to keep our communities safe.”
Senator Bates’ original bill would have clarified Penal Code Section 266i, relating to “pandering” in human trafficking cases, by simplifying the theories prosecutors can use from six to one. Specifically, the original measure combined the six existing theories of pandering into a single easy-to-understand theory which would simplify charging and jury instructions. Senator Bates agreed to author SB 1204 after receiving a request from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to help prosecutors combat human trafficking.
Some people in the sex industry and advocates for legalized prostitution have interpreted the original version of SB 1204 to mean that it would criminalize the distribution of condoms and health information to prostitutes and legal sex workers, thus putting their lives at greater risk. This was not Senator Bates’ intent nor was it the intent of the original bill.
Existing “pandering” laws are aimed at preventing someone from engaging in societal harm or recruiting someone into prostitution. The original version of SB 1204 did not change this and would not criminalize the giving of condoms or educational material to prostitutes and other sex workers.
Human trafficking has been called modern-day slavery. Federal reports estimate that 14,500 to 17,500 victims are trafficked into the United States each year. California, though, is one of the largest sites of human trafficking in the U.S. with 1,331 cases reported in 2016.