GOP pressure forces Calif. Dems to hear fentanyl prevention bills

A handful of tough-on-crime measures targeting the ongoing fentanyl crisis were set to be ignored in 2023. GOP lawmakers balked over the carnage caused by inaction.

In a surprise move, the California Assembly Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing next week on five bills that address the fentanyl crisis. 

Next week’s scheduled hearing comes in the wake of Republicans threatening to force a vote on the Assembly floor. 

The backstory: Initially, Assembly Public Safety Committee Chairman Asm. Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D–Los Angeles) said the committee would hear the bills in June. 

  • With Jones-Sawyer delaying the bills, Assembly Republicans threatened to withdraw the bills from the Public Safety Committee and take them up for a vote on the floor, forcing lawmakers to make an immediate decision. 

The big picture: Thursday, Democrats joined Republicans on the Assembly floor to come to a deal to hold a special hearing on the five fentanyl-related bills next week. 

State of play: The majority of the bills were introduced by Democrats, three of the authors represent the Central Valley. 

  • AB 33 was introduced by Asm. Jasmeet Bains (D–Bakersfield) and would establish a Fentanyl Addiction and Overdose Prevention Task Force. 
  • AB 367 was introduced by Asm. Brian Maienshein (D–San Diego) and would add a sentencing enhancement for fentanyl dealers who kill or seriously injure people they sell the drug to. 
  • AB 675 was introduced by Asm. Esmeralda Soria (D–Fresno) and would prohibit people from carrying a gun while in possession of fentanyl. 
  • AB 955 was introduced by Asm. Cottie Petrie-Norris (D–Irvine) and would increase penalties for fentanyl dealers who sell on social media. 
  • AB 1085 was introduced by Asm. Jim Patterson (R–Fresno) and would increase penalties for those possessing large quantities of fentanyl. 

What we’re watching: The special hearing of the Public Safety Committee will be held on April 27. 

What they’re saying: After the deal was reached, Patterson said that he has never seen anything like this during his 10-year tenure in the Assembly. 

  • “The voice of the people broke through the obstruction and the bias against holding fentanyl drug dealers accountable,” Patterson said. 
  • Asm. Devon Mathis (R–Visalia) said in a statement that he was proud to join his fellow Republicans to call for a vote on the floor. 
  • “Our brave men and women in law enforcement have been working valiantly to protect our state from the destruction caused by the rapid spread of fentanyl, but this body has refused to give them the tools they need to keep us safe,” Mathis said. “I am calling on all legislators to put aside partisanship and come together to go after the predators who are pushing this dangerous substance onto our communities.”