Brown signs bills on human trafficking, elephant ivory, butterflies and DNA collection


Victims of human trafficking or torture will get more time to sue their abusers, mass transit will receive a boost in the San Fernando Valley, and elephants and butterflies will acquire new protection under bills signed Sunday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The governor accepted an extended statute of limitations for civil lawsuits by victims of human rights abuses in California. They will have 10 years, rather than the two to five years now allowed, to file such actions starting Jan. 1, the effective date for all 22 bills Brown signed.

California is a top destination for human traffickers, and two years is often inadequate for gathering evidence in complex abuse cases, said Assembly Majority Leader Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), author of the measure.


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“I think it’s important to understand that victims of human trafficking and other abuses often suffer mental and physical problems that prevent them from filing these cases quickly,” Holden said. “It often takes many years for them to find their way out of perilous circumstances.”

The bill was widely supported by human rights and law enforcement groups including Amnesty International USA, the California Police Chiefs Assn. and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable.

Brown also agreed to limit the collection of DNA samples from suspected criminals — a change that will take effect only if the California Supreme Court rules that existing standards are improper. The high court is reviewing a lower court decision declaring the state’s DNA-collection program unconstitutional.

That program broadly allows for DNA samples from those arrested on suspicion of or charged with any felony. The bill signed by Brown excludes people held in nonserious felonies, such as nonviolent drug crimes; only those arrested on suspicion of the most serious felonies could have their DNA taken.

To address the court’s concerns, the new standards include a provision to protect the wrongfully accused or convicted by requiring that samples be destroyed in any case that is dismissed or in which the accused is exonerated.


The bill Brown signed is intended “to ensure that there is a system for DNA collection from felony arrestees in place should the California Supreme Court uphold the lower court’s decision,” said the author, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale).

In the San Fernando Valley, bus riders may have shorter waits once the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority begins operating longer buses on the 14-mile Orange Line in the valley. Brown approved a bill permitting buses in exclusive lanes to be up to 82 feet long. The route currently features 65-foot buses.

The measure will “address the growing public transportation needs of the San Fernando Valley, alleviate congestion and take advantage of available transportation resources,” said the author, valley Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks).

For those using pricier transportation, there will be new safety standards for limousines, including a requirement that those in operation before July 1, 2015, have windows that can be pushed out for exit in an emergency.

A 2013 limousine fire on a Bay Area bridge killed five passengers who were unable to escape the vehicle.

Brown also closed a legal loophole that allows some elephant ivory to be bought and sold in California as long as it was originally obtained before 1977.

The loophole makes the ban difficult to enforce, because authorities have a hard time determining the age of ivory, according to Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), the measure’s author.

Some people caught with new ivory claim they have had it since before 1977. There is a limited exemption for musical instruments that contain ivory as well as antiques that are more than 100 years old.

The new law, which also outlaws the purchase or sale of rhinoceros horn in California, provides for fines of up to $5,000.

“Buying ivory trinkets or rhino potion is something of a death warrant for elephants and rhinos back in their native lands,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, who praised Brown for helping California fight a “murderous trade.”

The measure is opposed by the National Rifle Assn. and California Rifle and Pistol. Assn. because of concern that it will harm collectors of firearms, knives and other items made with ivory and “will not save any elephants.”

With the number of Monarch butterflies in California in decline, the governor also signed a bill clarifying that the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has the power to take action to conserve the insects and their habitats.

The measure encourages the state agency to work with a protection group called Monarch Joint Venture to identify necessary actions.

The four-year drought is thought to be contributing to the insects’ decline, according to Assemblywoman Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando), the bill’s author.

Twitter: @mcgreevy99

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