Submitted by the Washington State Legislature
Several important anti-human trafficking bills have passed the Legislature and are on their way to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature.
“Reducing human trafficking, both labor and sex trafficking of minors, is a generational challenge,” Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said. “I have been working on trafficking policy in the Legislature since 1994 when former Rep. Velma Veloria began our work here. It’s always been a bipartisan effort with colleagues from both parties and in both chambers working together to find solutions to this scourge on our children and communities. But just this morning I read that the sex industry has grown significantly in the Seattle-Tacoma area – and with so many people still suffering, our work is not over. ”
Four bills and one Senate Joint Memorial (SJM 8003) were passed during the 2014 legislative session, and cover a wide range of issues regarding human trafficking.
“The joining of these two bills has resulted in better and more comprehensive legislation,” Rep. Kevin Parker, R-Spokane. “This stronger bill is a result of two sides of the aisle to make a meaningful difference for the common good.”
HB 1791, which was sponsored by Parker, adds sex trafficking to the existing definition of sex crimes, and was amended with language from SB 6017 (Kohl-Welles) to allow local law enforcement to recoup costs of investigating crimes related to prostitution and sexual exploitation of minors.
“I understand it is a common practice for victims to be forced into cheap labor, prostitution, and sexual exploitation by means of coercion,” Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, said. “I sponsored SB 6339 that will make coercion a felony. I hope it will serve as both a deterrent and penalty for those guilty of these life-destroying crimes.”
HB 1292 is a bill that will allow survivors of the commercial sex trade to petition a judge to vacate the penalty of prostitution from their record.
“Having this record is a huge hurdle to survivors when they are trying to start anew,” said HB 1292 prime sponsor Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines. “This bill will help them to find jobs or go to school and allow survivors to move on from the pain of the past.”
SB 6126 will align Washington with most other states and require courts to appoint an attorney to represent the nearly 10,000 children placed in foster care in Washington.
“Ensuring children are placed in safe and permanent foster homes is of utmost importance to keeping them from running away,” said Chair of the House Public Safety Committee, Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland. “Often these runaway children end up on the streets, where it is easy for pimps to coerce or force them into being abused or trafficked.”
An important request to the U.S. Congress also passed this session (SJM 8003 – Kohl-Welles), asking the Communications Decency Act be amended to better meet the challenges posed by new technologies.
“The internet in particular plays an increasingly central role in trafficking,” said Chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “Especially with regards to online advertising that basically sells minors for sex, our laws have not caught up with the abuse taking place through new technology.”
“The passage of SJM 8003 this year will, I hope, provide not just Washington, but the whole nation, a means to address sex-trafficking we now are seeing on the internet,” Kohl-Welles concluded.