Among the literally thousands of people I met and spoke with throughout my campaign for state Assembly last year, I was asked one question more often than any other. And it wasn’t, “Why are you running?”
It was, “Will you do in Sacramento what you promise back home?”
From day one of my campaign, I promised that if I had the opportunity, I would work to enact tougher laws against dangerous criminals, assist law enforcement with the tools they need to do their job and provide victims and their families a venue where their voices would be heard loud and clear.
I am a husband and father of young children and a teenager, and their personal safety and that of our community is job No. 1 for me.
Having never sought public office before, I was struck by the skepticism expressed by many voters when I laid out my agenda. While many of them eventually joined our cause, they said they were bewildered by a lack of common sense in Sacramento.
After a recent vote, I’m starting to get where they’re coming from.
With the support of many outstanding professionals, organizations and spirited citizens, last month I sponsored new legislation to allow judges — after a public hearing and full deliberative process — to return felony sex offenders to prison if they violate their parole. While crafting this new measure, I did not meet one person who opposed this common-sense change in the law. Some even thought it must already be on the books.
Supporters of my bill included John Lovell of the California Police Chiefs Association, who said, “If this program is to succeed, we need to constantly look at revisions that are needed.” After all, isn’t this why we’re sent to Sacramento in the first place? To constantly look for ways to make laws better, stronger and more sensible?
Given the serious crimes these individuals have already committed, and given that so many of their victims are women and children who carry their scars for life, I believe returning these felons to prison after violating parole is just about the least the Legislature can do.Turns out, this mainstream idea was asking far more than the system in Sacramento was willing to oblige. On a partisan vote of 4-2, my bill was defeated by the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee.
When the vote was cast and the bill went down to defeat, I saw more than a few shrugged shoulders and resigned expressions that seemed to say, “Well, what can you do?”
Maybe I haven’t learned to be cynical enough, because I do not understand what this committee would say to the families of my district — or any district — who believe that getting violent repeat sex offenders off the streets as soon as possible is a no-brainer.
I was informed that my bill did not fit into Gov. Brown’s prison reforms at this time and that “it’s a little early in the game” for a law that cracks down on sex offenders this way.
It should be noted that the same committee did take decisive action last week, voting to criminalize the practice of selling animals at a swap meet. It was apparently not “a little early in the game” for that.
What’s wrong here is not about just my bill. What happened last week was a definitive vote — by the Assembly Public Safety Committee — against a tougher stand, right now, that will make the most vulnerable among us a bit safer. It was also a revealing lesson about the scrambled priorities of Sacramento and the confused approach that passes for legislative action.
I am confident that good ideas and practical solutions can still carry the day.
But let’s face facts: If we cannot move quickly and cooperatively to enact tougher laws against the most dangerous criminals in California, is it any wonder that so much of the public has lost confidence in state government?
This isn’t over. Not even close.
Eric Linder, R-Corona, represents the 60th District in the California Assembly.