Scope and Content
Related Material at the California State Archives
Title: California State Senate Public Safety Committee Records
Collection number: LP373
Senate Public Safety Committee
82.5 cubic feet, 349 audiocassettes, 163 videocassettes (VHS), 100 audio discs (CD), 11 videodiscs (DVD)
California State Archives
Abstract: The Senate Public Safety Committee Records consist of 82.5 cubic feet of textual and audiovisual records. The Senate Public
Safety Committee was created in 1997, replacing and assuming the responsibilities of the Senate Criminal Procedure Committee.
Physical location: California State Archives
Languages represented in the collection:
While the majority of the records are open for research, any access restrictions are noted in the record series descriptions.
For permission to reproduce or publish, please consult California State Archives staff. Permission for reproduction or publication
is given on behalf of the California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, as the owner of the physical
items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement that may arise from reproduction or publication
of materials from the California State Archives collections.
[Identification of item], Senate Public Safety Committee Records, LP373:[folder number], California State Archives, Office
of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California.
Acquisition and Custodial History
The State Archives received these records in accordance with California Government Code 9080(b) which requires legislative
committees to transfer their records to the State Archives when they are no longer needed by the committee.
The Senate Public Safety Committee was created in 1997, replacing and assuming the responsibilities of the Senate Criminal
Procedure Committee. During the 1997-1998 legislative session, Senate Resolution 9 (Lockyer) changed the name at the request
of the committee chair. The committee originally consisted of eight members and hears bills relating to “the Evidence Code,
pertaining to criminal procedure, the Penal Code, statutes of a penal nature not related closely to a subject included in
another subdivision of this rule, and bills relating to the Youth and Adult Corrections Agency” (California Legislature at
Sacramento, 1997, p. 104).
The committee spent much of its time on drug enforcement issues, focusing on such areas as crystal methamphetamine, crystal
methamphetamine production and child endangerment, treatment and rehab versus punishment, marijuana, medical marijuana, and
ecstasy (MDMA or methylenedioxymethamphetamine). Many of the drug enforcement related bills indicate tension over punishing
first time, nonviolent drug offenders and providing rehabilitation. The committee also devoted significant time to issues
related to mentally ill offenders, sex offenders and human trafficking.
The committee faced significant challenges related to prison overcrowding. Beginning in the mid-1970s, California’s prison
population exploded, exacerbated in the 1990s by mandatory sentencing and "three-strikes" laws. This culminated in a 2010
federal three-judge panel issuing an order requiring the state to reduce its inmate population within a certain time frame.
As a result, in the 2000s, the committee required all bills presented before it to state how the bill may or may not impact
the prison overcrowding crisis. At times, the committee refused to hear bills that could potentially result in an increase
in the prison population.
By 1999, the committee had shrunk to six members (California Legislature at Sacramento, 1999-2000, p. 65). Yet, in 2005, the
committee changed to seven members then went back to six with the loss of committee chair Senator Alquist (California Legislature
at Sacramento, 2005-06, p. 118). In 2007, the committee shrunk again to five members but returned to seven members for 2009-2014.
The state senators to have held the position of Public Safety Committee chair are as follows:
John Vasconcellos (Democrat), 1997-2004
Elaine K. Alquist (Democrat), 2005
Carole V. Migden (Democrat), 2006
Gloria Romero (Democrat), 2007-2008
Mark Leno (Democrat), 2009-2010
Loni Hancock (Democrat), 2011-2014
Scope and Content
The Senate Public Safety Committee Records consist of 82.5 cubic feet of textual and audiovisual records. These records are
organized into three record series: Bill Files, 1997-2014, Hearing Files, 1997-2012, and Research Files, 1999-2005. It is
anticipated that the Archives will receive further records from the Senate Public Safety Committee. Researchers should check
for recently received, unprocessed records of this committee.
The bill files pertain to criminal law and general public safety issues. These issues include drug enforcement, sex crimes,
and "three strikes" laws. Additionally, this committee received many sex crime bills, including the following topics: monitoring,
recidivism, child molestation enhancements, Jessica's Law, Megan's Law, Internet pornography, child pornography, predator
activity, stalking, "one strike," and "good Samaritan" laws. Many sex crime bills were concerned with child safety and the
Internet. Multiple bills also covered human trafficking and managing convicted Sexually Violent Predators (SVP).
The Senate Public Safety Committee received many bills on identity theft and privacy in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Bill
and hearing topics included social security number protection, attempts at limiting credit card solicitations, and criminalizing
identity theft. Early attempts at limiting credit card solicitations did not succeed. While privacy was important, the legislature
favored background checks to enhanced public safety over the privacy of applicants for jobs at schools. As with privacy, the
legislature struggled over gang membership and public safety issues. In order to curb the influence of gangs, the legislature
saw many bills relating to membership and association, gangs in prisons, and sentence enhancements for committing a crime
while associated with a gang. Freedom of association and community level approaches to gang reduction often conflicted with
traditional approaches to policing, including mass arrests and profiling, in the bills the committee received.
The state prison system, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and the Division of Juvenile Justice
(DJJ), formerly the California Youth Authority (CYA), occupied much of the Senate Public Safety Committee's time. Specific
issues include prison reform, prisoner rehabilitation and recidivism, overcrowding, the building of new prisons and private
prisons, free speech and press access to prisons, prisoner abuse, holding prison guards accountable, medical care for inmates,
gang, racial discrimination, and county jail regulations. Education programs and the treatment of pregnant inmates and wards
were also a significant focus. The committee grappled with the prison overcrowding crisis in the 2000s, with California facing
a federal court order to substantially reduce its prison population. The Little Hoover Commission submitted several studies
in support of prison reform. The legislature made an attempt each year at overturning the CDCR’s rules restricting press access
to prisoners; however, the governor vetoed each bill.
Victim's rights became a national concern in the 1990s and California was no exception. The Public Safety Committee saw numerous
bills concerning victim’s rights, from integrating video conferencing into criminal hearings to increasing who has access
to restitution funds. The status of victims in the criminal process was controversial as the state struggled to ensure that
both the victim and the accused were represented equally in court. Concern for particularly vulnerable victims of crime, such
as elderly and dependent adults, as well as a focus on victims of domestic violence, continued in the committee's work from
Gun control remains a contentious issue. Such topics heard in committee were gun shows, assault weapon categories, pistols
and "Saturday night special" quality regulation, bullet serial numbers, concealed firearms permits, imitation firearms and
sentencing enhancements for crimes committed with a firearm. The legislature attempted to find a cost-effective method of
regulating firearms and preventing criminals and children from acquiring illegal and dangerous firearms. After the September
11, 2001 attack, terrorism became a national concern. The Public Safety Committee received bills and held hearings pertaining
to payment for terrorism responses.
Further accruals are expected.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
the library's online public access catalog.
Sex crimes - California
Prisons - California
Privacy, Right of
Drugs - Law and legislation - California
Related Material at the California State Archives
John Vasconcellos Papers
Assembly Public Safety Committee Records
Note to Researchers
Researchers interested in this committee are advised to check the papers of its Chairs. Committee Chairs often kept materials
relating to committee operations among their personal files. For Chair papers available at the California State Archives or
other repositories, this information can be found in the committee history.