State Representative William A. Petit, Jr. (R-22) recently joined legislative colleagues in the General Assembly in supporting a measure which will serve to strengthen current anti-human trafficking laws and increase awareness.
“It is imperative that we continue to increase education through public awareness on this issue,” said Petit, according to a press release from House Republicans. “The human sex trafficking of children happens across our state, not only in larger cities, but also in smaller towns and rural areas. Our focus must remain on helping the victims in these cases as they have been coerced into these situations where they are mentally and physically abused. I proudly stood with my colleagues in the legislature to pass this measure which will increase penalties for those engaged in the trafficking of persons and continue to strengthen our laws in order to protect and care for these children who are victims. ”
The measure, HB 7309, An Act Concerning Human Trafficking, would expand the membership of the state’s Trafficking in Persons Council, including adding an individual who has been a victim of sex trafficking, said the press release. The bill would also increase the penalty for trafficking persons from a class B to a class A felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison (in line with federal statute).
It would also create a new crime, “commercial sex abuse of a minor,” punishable by law as a class B felony, and a Class A felony if the minor if under 15 years of age. Patronizing a minor is currently a class C felony. Additionally, it would promote increased awareness by requiring an increased number of businesses to post signage with the Trafficking in Persons Council hotline number.
The bill would also provide and require training for state public safety, legal, and health care employees and public school employees for identifying and reporting human trafficking.
The news release said Petit has voiced his strong support for the comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation during a press conference held by the Trafficking in Persons Council on the measure, which had a public hearing in the legislature’s Judiciary Committee earlier this year.
The bill passed unanimously out of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bill awaits signing into law by the governor.