A bipartisan bill supported by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria aimed at cracking down on fentanyl dealers whose customers die stalled in a state Senate committee Tuesday.
Senate Bill 44, also known as Alexandra’s Law, was sponsored by state Sen. Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, and state Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, R-Redlands, and has also drawn the support of San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.
The bill seeks to provide fentanyl dealers with a warning that if they get caught dealing again and one of their customers dies they could face an upgrade in punishment from manslaughter to second-degree murder. It has been compared to the so-called Watson Advisement given to drunk drivers.
Matt Capelouto, the father of Alexandra Capelouto, who the bill was named after, slammed the lawmakers at a news conference in Sacramento. His 20-year-old daughter died in December 2019 when she thought she was buying the prescription painkiller Percocet, but the drug turned out to be fentanyl-laced Oxycodone and she died while home in Temecula on a break from college. The dealer, Brandon Michael McDowell, has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison.
“I’m appalled to be standing here once again expressing disagreement with a decision of the public safety committee (that) refuses, absolutely refuses, to do anything about the epidemic ripping our communities apart,” Matt Capelouto said. “The first time I was stunned. The second time I was angry.”
Capelouto, who has led a national campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of fentanyl, said he and other advocates “went back to work on it,” and this time around earned the support of 41 co-sponsors.
“Over half the senate endorsed this measure,” Capelouto said. “We bent, we adjusted, to clear all of the hurdles and concerns this committee could have had with it.”
But the lawmakers “once again stopped a bill that would absolutely save the lives of Californians and protect our most vulnerable,” he said.
“They quibble about words and phrases and worry about how fair or unfair it might be to drug dealers. And while they do so people keep dying,” Capelouto added. “I am not here because I want revenge. My daughter was killed almost four years ago by a drug dealer and he’s spending nine years in prison for that crime.”
Capelouto said he would keep fighting for the legislation to protect others.
“This is a disappointment, but it is not the end,” Umberg said. “… This doesn’t mean the fight is over. My heart breaks for you… At this point, I’m somewhat stunned. I’m obviously disappointed, but I’m committed to working on this issue.”
City News Service contributed to this article.