Beginning on Jan. 1, prostitution by minors will be legal in California. Yes, you read that right.
SB 1322 bars law enforcement from arresting sex workers who are under the age of 18 for soliciting or engaging in prostitution, or loitering with the intent to do so. So teenage girls (and boys) in California will soon be free to have sex in exchange for money without fear of arrest or prosecution.
This terribly destructive legislation was written and passed by the progressive Democrats who control California’s state government with a two-thirds “supermajority.” To their credit, they are sincere in their belief that decriminalizing underage prostitution is good public policy that will help victims of sex trafficking. Unfortunately, the reality is that the legalization of underage prostitution suffers from the fatal defect endemic to progressive-left policymaking: it ignores experience, common sense and most of all human nature — especially its darker side.
The unintended but predictable consequence of how the real villains — pimps and other traffickers in human misery — will respond to this new law isn’t difficult to foresee. Pimping and pandering will still be against the law whether it involves running adult women or young girls. But legalizing child prostitution will only incentivize the increased exploitation of underage girls. Immunity from arrest means law enforcement can’t interfere with minors engaging in prostitution — which translates into bigger and better cash flow for the pimps. Simply put, more time on the street and less time in jail means more money for pimps, and more victims for them to exploit.
As Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, a national leader on human trafficking issues, told the media, “It just opens up the door for traffickers to use these kids to commit crimes and exploit them even worse.” Another prosecutor insightfully observed that if traffickers wrote legislation to protect themselves, it would read like SB 1322.
Minors involved in prostitution are clearly victims, and allowing our law enforcement officers to pick these minors up and get them away from their pimps and into custody is a dramatically better solution than making it legal for them to sell themselves for sex. That only deepens their victimization and renders law enforcement powerless to stop the cycle of abuse. SB 1322 is not simply misguided — its consequences are immoral.
Unfortunately for Californians, SB 1322 isn’t an outlier — it’s only the tip of the liberal iceberg. 2017 will see the Golden State subjected to wave after wave of laws taking effect that are well-intentioned but disastrous embodiments of progressive utopianism.
One such new Democratic-authored law throws open the door to even greater government dependency on the part of the poor by rolling back proven reforms. In 1996, welfare reform was one of the greatest social legislation achievements of the last century, ending the lifetime welfare system and putting millions of Americans on the road to self-reliance and self-respect. In its wake, California lawmakers passed a law barring increased payments to women who have more children while still on welfare, in order to encourage women to achieve independence before having more children.
It’s a tough provision that works — which was apparently irrelevant to Gov. Jerry Brown, who just signed a bill repealing that prohibition. Henceforth, no matter how many children someone has while on welfare, the state government will ratchet up payments with each child, with no limit. Incredibly, the Democratic author of this bill claims she wants to discourage women from having more children while on welfare — but instead passed legislation replacing that effective reform with a law that restarts the cycle of welfare dependency.
In similarly inverted fashion, state Democrats have taken action to make California’s youth unemployment rate — one of the nation’s highest — even worse by boosting the minimum wage. It is an empirical fact that minimum-wage hikes increase unemployment among those who are the least skilled and most in need of entry-level jobs — our youth. Like other misguided liberal policies, this latest minimum-wage legislation will only lead to fewer jobs for our youth.
And the list goes on. Thanks to other new Democratic-sponsored bills, an estimated 50,000 felons will be voting in the next state election, many from their jail cells; if you go hunting with a buddy and lend him your shotgun, you’ll be breaking the law; state employees will be forbidden from traveling on business to states which prohibit transgender bathrooms. The parade of inane and idiotic legislation in California is virtually unending.
The common thread running through this avalanche of liberal-left legislation is the total absence of common sense and a stubborn insistence on ignoring human nature. On a certain level, we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, progressives still believe eliminating poverty is a matter of spending enough money on enough government programs. Despite spending $15 trillion on anti-poverty and welfare programs since 1965, our national poverty rate is actually slightly higher today than it was then.
California is loaded with natural resources and talented people who want to work hard, be successful and enjoy the fruits of that success. The tragedy is that California is in the grip of liberal politicians who believe we can help underage prostitutes by making it legal for them to be prostitutes; who believe we can reduce welfare dependence by increasing opportunities to become dependent; and who think we can increase employment by making it more expensive to hire people. California is ruled by a political party that places a higher priority on dictating to public schools their mascot choices than enabling parents to send their kids to the school of their choice.
Do Brown and the Democrat politicians behind this wave of bad legislation mean well? I believe they do, but unfortunately they’re only succeeding in proving that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s the bad luck of Californians that they’re dragging the rest of our state down that road with them.
Travis Allen, a Republican, represents the 72nd Assembly District in the California legislature. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.