Politics

California lawmakers weighed scores of bills in the last weeks of the legislative session. We followed 10 of the biggest issues closely, including an effort to respond to a former Stanford swimmer's six-month jail sentence for sexual assault, an attempt to make ride hailing easier and safer, and an effort to legalize Internet poker. Check our Essential Politics news feed for in-the-moment updates on news from Sacramento.

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The punishment of sex crimes against women and minors

What the legislation would do: A number of California bills proposed this session seek to enhance punishment and repercussions for those who commit sex crimes, particularly against women and minors.

The bills include: 

• AB 2888, AB 701 and AB 29: In response to the Stanford sexual assault case, these bills would implement a new mandatory punishment for the crime of rape or expand the existing law so that all forms of nonconsensual sexual assault crimes may be considered rape.

The latest: AB 2888 and AB 701 have been sent to the governor’s desk. AB 29 was proposed late, and may not clear its legislative hurdles before the Aug. 31 adjournment.

Back story: Public outrage after a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge sentenced a Stanford University student to six months in jail for sexual assault led California lawmakers to respond with calls to increase punishment for rape offenders. Bills AB 2888 and AB 701 are supported by crime victims advocates and some law enforcement groups. But the American Civil Liberties Union opposes AB 2888, calling it a hastily-drafted reactionary measure. Even so, both bills had overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans when passing out of the Assembly.

•  AB 1276 and AB 1708: These bills would impose minimum fines and mandatory minimum county jail terms for persons convicted of paying for sex and allow minors ages 15 or younger to testify through closed-circuit televisions outside the courtroom, where they can share their experiences away from the presence of the jury and the defendant.

The latest: AB 1276 and AB 1708 have been sent to the governor’s desk.

Back story: More than 30 bills this legislative session have attempted to curb human trafficking through increased penalties for the buyers and sellers in the multibillion-dollar industry. AB 1276 and AB 1708 have drawn major support from advocates and some law enforcement agencies who say the legislation would increase accountability for offenders and extend protections for vulnerable victims, many of them young women and children swept into the criminal justice system. But the ACLU, public defenders and other law enforcement agencies contend the laws could erode the constitutional rights of defendants.

• AB 2199: This bill would give prosecutors an optional two-year sentence enhancement for a defendant who holds a "position of authority" and commits a sex crime against a minor.

The latest: This bill was shelved in the Senate Appropriation Committee, as some lawmakers saw it as a costly proposal that could place a burden on the court system and lead to prison overcrowding.

Back story: AB 2199 had strong backing from the law enforcement community and was proposed in response to what lawmakers say is an alarming pattern of adults in a position of authority using their power for sexual gain. Proponents say adults with power have the ability to shape their victims' feelings about the relationship and should be held to greater accountability. But as with the previous bills, this proposal faced opposition from the ACLU.

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