Alexandra’s Law Fails in Senate Committee
(Sacramento, CA) – Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana) announced today that his SB 44, jointly authored by Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Yucaipa), failed passage in the Senate Public Safety Committee.
SB 44, nicknamed Alexandra’s Law, proposed to implement a Fentanyl Admonishment in California similar to the state’s current Watson Advisement for DUIs.
“To say the least, I am really discouraged by today’s hearing,” said Senator Umberg. “We are facing untold devastation in terms of fentanyl and to know that parents, nurses, teachers, and law enforcement officials will have to endure this tragedy is, to me, unforgiveable. Complex problems like drug use and homelessness require complex solutions and immeasurable levels of diplomacy -- conversations that must be had in the face of epidemics like this. Delay or denial of the exponential increase in the fentanyl devastation will only serve to kill thousands of Californians and devastate their families.”
According to recent reports, approximately 107,477 people died from drug overdoses overall in the U.S. in the 12-month period ending in August 2022, making it the leading cause of injury-related deaths. California accounts for approximately 20% of that statistic. To put those numbers in perspective, more people have died due to opioid overdose in the last year alone than the number of U.S. military personnel killed during the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
To make matters worse, youth under 24 account for the fastest rise in drug deaths. In California where fentanyl deaths were rare just five years ago, a young person under 24 is now dying every 12 hours. The biggest factor attributing to this danger is the undisclosed addition of fentanyl to other drugs which can, and does, often lend itself to fentanyl poisoning and death. Among teenagers, overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids like fentanyl tripled in the past two years, yet 73% have never heard of fake prescription pills being made with fentanyl.
SB 44, co-authored by 41 legislators and over half of the State Senate, required that a written advisory or admonishment be issued to a person convicted of a fentanyl-related drug offense notifying the person of the danger of manufacturing and distributing controlled substances and of potential future criminal liability if another person dies as a result of that person’s actions.
Joint author, Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, stated, “I’m heartbroken at the committee’s decision to not pass SB 44 today. Each of our communities have been affected by the fentanyl epidemic. In the Inland Empire, between 80-90% of our opioid deaths are fentanyl-related. This is not just a crisis; it’s thousands of individual tragedies. SB 44’s advisement would have been just one prong in the multifaceted approach we must take in addressing the fentanyl crisis. Let me be clear: this is not the end of our fight. I look forward to continuing this work with Senator Umberg to make common sense reforms to ensure our public safety and public health officials have all the tools necessary to address this epidemic.”
The measure is sponsored by San Diego Mayor, Todd Gloria, who noted, “Fentanyl is ravaging California’s cities, leading to a skyrocketing number of overdose deaths and supercharging our homelessness crisis. We have to treat this crisis with urgency it demands and hold predatory dealers accountable for the destruction they’re causing. SB 44 is common sense legislation that forces dealers to acknowledge that fentanyl is deadly and leads to more serious penalties for those who continue to traffic in this poison and kill someone. This shouldn’t be controversial.”
Substantive testimony in support of SB 44 was also provided by San Francisco District Attorney, Brooke Jenkins. She stated, “California and our entire country is suffering from the level of death and misery fentanyl is causing on our streets and in our communities,” said District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. “We must advance bold and creative solutions that will save lives and keep our streets and neighborhoods safe. Alexandra’s Law is a necessary deterrent that will warn people and dealers about the dangers of trafficking fentanyl while helping to ensure that repeat offenders are held accountable.”
When Driving Under the Influence (DUI) deaths peaked in the 1990s, the public demanded swift and comprehensive action by lawmakers. The Legislature rose to this occasion by passing a series of measures exemplifying a holistic and multi-pronged approach as a response. By addressing DUI deaths in a comprehensive manner through education, law enforcement, and harm reduction angles, California was able to turn the escalation of DUI-deaths around and preserve public safety.
“SB 44 was granted reconsideration,” finished Senator Umberg. “I can only hope that we can change some minds in the next two weeks.”
Senator Thomas J. Umberg represents the 34th Senate District, which includes the cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Fullerton, Garden Grove, La Habra, Long Beach, Orange, Placentia, Santa Ana, and East and South Whittier. Umberg is a retired U.S. Army Colonel, former federal prosecutor, and small businessman. He and his wife, Brigadier General Robin Umberg, USA (ret.), live in Orange County.