California Republicans Attempt to Force Floor Vote on Fentanyl Legislation

California Republicans Attempt to Force Floor Vote on Fentanyl Legislation

California Assemblymembers, law enforcement officials, and local representatives met on June 6, 2023, in front of the Capitol in Sacramento to announce a proposed constitutional amendment that would put stricter fentanyl enforcement on the upcoming 2024 presidential election ballot. (Courtesy of Assembly Republican Caucus)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

9/6/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

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With a fentanyl-related bill stalled in committee, California state Republican lawmakers sought an alternative solution Sept. 5 in Sacramento and tried to bring the matter directly to the Assembly floor—only to meet stiff resistance, with all but one Democratic member voting in opposition.
“I’m greatly disappointed because it is evident to all Californians that we have a public health crisis with the toxic drug known as fentanyl,” co-author of the proposal Assemblywoman Diane Dixon (R-Newport Beach) told The Epoch Times after the floor vote.
The entire process took less than two minutes, as Assemblyman Heath Flora (R-Lodi) moved, and Assemblywoman Kate Sanchez (R-Rancho Santa Margarita) seconded to suspend procedural rules and move Assembly Constitutional Amendment 12—designed to advise those convicted of distributing fentanyl that such future activity leading to the death of another could result in murder charges—from the Assembly’s Rules Committee to the floor for immediate consideration.
Assemblyman Isaac Bryan (D-Culver City) rose quickly in opposition and forcefully inquired—called a parliamentary inquiry—the necessity of the Republican’s proposal.
“Madame Speaker, isn’t it true that there are several bills related to the sale, distribution, accountability, and networking around fentanyl still to be dealt with on this floor by Sept. 14, and in fact, this body has passed more legislation related to fentanyl than any body in California’s legislative history?” Mr. Bryan asked.
“That is correct, Mr. Majority Leader,” Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Davis) responded before calling for a roll call vote with no debate or discussion allowed.
The motion subsequently failed, on an 18-42 vote against. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) was the lone Democrat that voted in favor.
“I’m very disappointed that this constitutional amendment is not moving forward, and I’m disappointed with the way it was handled, in terms of procedurally on the floor, that debate is not welcome on the Assembly floor to hear opposing points of view,” Ms. Dixon said.
Matt Capelouto, the father of fentanyl poisoning victim Alexandra—the namesake of California's Senate Bill 44—speaks at a press conference to propose to put stricter fentanyl enforcement on the upcoming 2024 ballot, in front of the Capitol in Sacramento on June 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Assembly Republican Caucus)

Matt Capelouto, the father of fentanyl poisoning victim Alexandra—the namesake of California's Senate Bill 44—speaks at a press conference to propose to put stricter fentanyl enforcement on the upcoming 2024 ballot, in front of the Capitol in Sacramento on June 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Assembly Republican Caucus)

ACA 12 was crafted to mirror the language of Senate Bill 44, a bipartisan measure introduced earlier this year by Senators Tom Umberg (D-Orange) and Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Redlands) and subsequently killed by the Senate Public Safety Committee in April.
Originally introduced as Senate Bill 350 by former Sen. Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) and also killed by the same public safety committee, the legislation is better known as Alexandra’s Law—named for 20-year-old fentanyl poisoning victim Alexandra Capelouto who died the day before Christmas in 2019 after unknowingly taking a counterfeit pharmaceutical pill.
After that bill failed to pass the safety committee, authors introduced ACA 12 in an attempt to bring the matter to the Assembly’s attention, where it has been stuck in that chamber’s Rules Committee.
“I introduced this in June, and it’s been held hostage in the Rules Committee, and I haven’t been able to get it out of rules,” Ms. Dixon said. “I’ve tried to talk with the chair of the committee and the speaker ... and they just don’t want to move any kind of bill that would require accountability.”
Nine bills designed to strengthen penalties for fentanyl distribution were introduced in the Legislature this year, and all but one were killed.
Assembly Bill 701—authored by Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua (D-Stockton) to add possession of one kilogram or more of fentanyl to the list of controlled substances that qualify for longer prison sentences—is the only one remaining.
The bill was amended Sept. 1 to add prior knowledge of the illegality of the controlled substance as a requisite factor for sentencing and will next be considered by the Senate.
California Assemblywoman Diane Dixon, R-Newport Beach, speaks at a press conference to propose to put stricter fentanyl enforcement on the upcoming 2024 ballot, in front of the Capitol in Sacramento on June 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Assembly Republican Caucus)

California Assemblywoman Diane Dixon, R-Newport Beach, speaks at a press conference to propose to put stricter fentanyl enforcement on the upcoming 2024 ballot, in front of the Capitol in Sacramento on June 6, 2023. (Courtesy of Assembly Republican Caucus)

Debates between lawmakers about how best to address the fentanyl crisis have stalled and watered down proposals, according to critics.
“Holding fentanyl dealers accountable for the harm they cause is just common sense—it shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” co-author of ACA 12 Assemblyman Juan Alanis (R-Modesto) said in a statement emailed Sept. 5 to The Epoch Times. “We need to put politics aside and work together to fight fentanyl and save lives. Continued inaction on fentanyl is as outrageous as it is dangerous. This is unacceptable, and Sacramento should be ashamed.”
Opponents of the proposal have repeatedly mentioned their preference for education and rehabilitation instead of punitive measures, but some feel more needs to be done now.
“They want community programs to stop crime,” fellow co-author Ms. Dixon told The Epoch Times. “That sounds nice on paper, but that’s not going to stop the dealer who’s killing people today and tomorrow in California.”
She said the matter is urgent, because thousands of Californians are dying, and said compassion is needed to understand that the numbers represent more than just statistics, as people are losing loved ones across the state.
“This is decimating and affecting all elements of our communities,” Ms. Dixon said. “Fentanyl knows no limits. It’s nonpartisan, it’s equal opportunity—city, urban, rural, suburban—it’s affecting our communities and victims’ families, and our Legislature has blinders on and refuses to act.”
California Assembly members, law enforcement officials, and local representatives meet on June 6, 2023, in front of the Capitol in Sacramento to announce a proposed constitutional amendment that would put stricter fentanyl enforcement on the upcoming 2024 presidential election ballot. (Courtesy of Assembly Republican Caucus)

California Assembly members, law enforcement officials, and local representatives meet on June 6, 2023, in front of the Capitol in Sacramento to announce a proposed constitutional amendment that would put stricter fentanyl enforcement on the upcoming 2024 presidential election ballot. (Courtesy of Assembly Republican Caucus)

Given the lack of progress at the Legislative level, supporters of the proposal are moving to bring the matter to the electorate in 2024.
A coalition is currently working to fold the language of ACA 12 into a ballot measure now under review by the Secretary of State.
“Let the voters decide what level of accountability they want for criminals who deal and are killing people in our communities,” Ms. Dixon said. “The supermajority who has ultimate control in a non-democratic system—the two-party system is not alive and well in Sacramento—and they can summarily dismiss this proposal, and so we will take it to the people.”
Victims’ family members and friends lined the Capitol walkway in support of the measure Tuesday, with signs and pictures of those lost to fentanyl displayed along the path.
Speakers talked of intense emotions and hoped lawmakers and the public would come together to find solutions for the fentanyl crisis.
One voice rang clear from the microphone: 11-year-old Sonovah Hillman, Jr.—the daughter of musician DMX—who lost her father to a drug overdose in 2021 and her aunt and uncle to fentanyl the same year.
“It takes a lot to make a change, and we are here taking the steps. There are so many parents out there losing their children and children losing their parents,” she said. “I want my peers to have a shot at life. Please show love and say no to drugs. Let’s get this bill passed.”
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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