Governor signs Jordan Cunningham bill to fight human trafficking

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed into law one of several bills written by Central Coast Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham that aim to combat human sex and labor trafficking.

The bill was one of four Cunningham introduced in January related to human trafficking; two of those bills died in committee and a third is pending in the state Senate.

Brown's office announced Monday that the governor signed 33 bills into law, including Cunningham's Assembly Bill 1736, which gives prosecutors more leeway in using victims' statements against a defendant in trial.

According to Cunningham's office, the law has allowed prosecutors to introduce prior sworn testimony of a victim as evidence against a defendant if that victim is legally unavailable to testify at trial. Prior to the passage of Cunningham's bill, however, those non-sworn statements were not admissible as evidence if those statements contradicted other, non-sworn statements the victim made before the sworn statements. Cunningham’s bill now allows prosecutors to inform jurors of a victim’s prior inconsistent statements at trial.

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“I’m proud to have this legislation signed into law and look forward to seeing it used by those supporting the fight to end human trafficking,” Cunningham said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

Passage of the bill comes after two other Cunningham anti-human trafficking bills failed to make it past the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

In April, the committee voted 5-2 to kill Assembly Bill 1738, which would have required 20-year registration in California’s Megan’s Law public sex offender registry for anyone convicted of the actual commission or soliciting of a sexual act with a minor, if the person knew the victim was both underage and being trafficked.

“To effectively combat human trafficking, we need to attack the problem from both the supply side and the demand side, as well as give victims protection and support. AB 1738 was a common-sense proposal to address the demand side," Cunningham wrote in an email Tuesday. "I was disappointed that the majority of the Public Safety Committee stalled the legislation but am committed to working with all local and statewide leaders on finding bipartisan solutions to end human trafficking."

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He added: "This isn’t a problem we will solve in one year."

Another Cunningham bill, Assembly Bill 1737, which would have simplified the legal definition of pandering, also died in committee in April on a 5-2 vote.

But Cunningham on Tuesday said the good news is that a fourth piece of legislation regarding protective orders for victims has passed all committees thus far.

Assembly Bill 1735 would authorize optional 10-year protection orders for victims of labor trafficking. That bill is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will not have a hearing on the bill until the Legislature reconvenes in August.

Cunningham, a Republican, is facing a challenge in the Nov. 6 General Election from Democrat Bill Ostrander. Cunningham represents the 35th Assembly District which includes San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties.

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Matt Fountain 781-7909, @mattfountain1