California progressive chides fellow Democrats before voting to make child solicitation a felony: 'I'm done'

California Democratic state Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman urged her progressive colleagues to pass a Republican-led bill that would make it a felony to solicit a child for sex. 

“I’d like to say as a progressive, proud member of this body for the last 12 years, I’m done,” Eggman said on the Senate floor before voting for the bill last week. “I’m done with us protecting people who would buy and abuse our children. I’m done. I don’t want to send more Black and brown men to prison. I don’t want more people in prison, but I don’t want people buying girls.

“I don’t want people buying little girls anymore, and I’m tired of saying it’s OK and that we have to protect the men who do it.” 

Senate Bill 1414, introduced by Republican state Sen. Shannon Grove along with Democratic state senators Anna Caballero and Susan Rubio, classifies soliciting or purchasing sex from children 15 and under as either a misdemeanor or felony with the possibility of jail time. 

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For those aged 16-17, it’s considered a misdemeanor. While a felony charge entails prison time, repeat offenders with a substantial age gap with the victim must register as tier one sex offenders on their second offense.

“As a mental health professional and as a social worker, I can tell you I’ve spent my entire career working with people who have been wounded,” Eggman added. “I’m not gonna say beyond repair, but they have been wounded to their core by the abuse that’s been heaped on them oftentimes by those that they love and look to protect them.”

Grove’s bill toughens the punishment for child trafficking and increased it from a misdemeanor charge to a felony, carrying a maximum penalty of four years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Unlike current law, the penalties would apply regardless of whether the adult was aware of the child’s age. 

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Last month, Democrats on the Public Safety Committee “mutilated” portions of Grove’s bill and added several amendments that only made proposed charges applicable if the child is younger than 15. The bill cleared the state Senate last week without Grove’s original language in a 36-0 vote. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom also signaled his support for the bill, which now heads to the Assembly, where Grove hopes to reinsert a few of the bill’s original proposals.

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Grove had also proposed amendments to classify solicitation or purchasing sex from a child of any age as a prison felony and eliminate the 10-year age gap requirement for the sex offender registry.

“The crime of purchasing a child of any age for sex in the state of California should be a prison felony. I am incredibly disappointed in the Senate Pro Tem and Senate leadership for, once again, passing on an opportunity to restore amendments to the bill and stand up for all of California’s children,” Grove said in a statement. 

“This outcome is a failure on the part of legislative leadership who caved to political pressure and did not prioritize the safety of our children. We must restore this bill in the Assembly to protect every child in the state of California from the horrific crime of sex trafficking.”

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