Assembly speaker says Senate should clear way for rape bill
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) says the state Senate should clear the way for legislation that would overhaul a law that makes it a crime to obtain sex by impersonating another only if the victim is a married woman.
The 19th century law required a state appeals court last week to overturn the rape conviction of a Los Angeles County man who entered a darkened bedroom where a woman was sleeping and had sex with her.
Legislation to change the law passed the Assembly in 2011 but died in the state Senate Public Safety Committee, where lawmakers have a long-standing policy of shelving bills that could exacerbate the state's prison overcrowding crisis.
In light of last week's controversial court ruling, Pérez said in an interview that lawmakers in the upper house should rethink the policy and consider new legislation that would "make sure that a heinous act is properly dealt with."
"I think it's a very problematic way to approach legislation –- to create broad-based rules without respect to the specific underlying facts," he said of the Senate policy. "We’ve gotta fix this, and hopefully the Senate will come to a more reasonable perspective as it deals with this important issue of public safety."
Mark Hedlund, a spokesman for state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), said senators would probably reexamine the public safety policy, adopted in 2007 to alleviate prison overcrowding and help the state comply with court-ordered inmate reductions. He noted drops in prison populations under a plan by Gov. Jerry Brown that makes low-level felons the responsibility of counties.
"With those reductions, it gives us a little more breathing room," Hedlund said.
Of the state's rape law, he said: "This obviously needs to be fixed."
-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D–Los Angeles), right, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D–Sacramento) discuss the state budget at the Capitol last year. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press