Both Democratic and Republican legislators have put out news releases today on the occasion of Gov. Bill Haslam signing bills that deal with sex trafficking.
In almost an oddity for this year, the legislation was sponsored on a bipartisan basis — Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, in the Senate and Rep. Jim Coley, R-Bartlett, in the House.
The releases are below.
News release from House Republican Caucus:
(Nashville, June 7, 2011) – On Tuesday, Tennessee leaders took a strong step towards ending human trafficking inside the State’s borders.
Governor Bill Haslam signed into law three key pieces of legislation that will greatly increase the penalties for human trafficking and raise awareness about the impact the crime has on Tennessee.
The new laws are as follows:
HB 35 – Enhances the penalties for patronizing prostitution and promoting prostitution of minors or persons who are have an intellectual disability; provides immunity for minors arrested for prostitution.
HB 171 – Provides that real and personal property used in commission of human trafficking offenses is subject to judicial forfeiture seizure and provides for disposition of funds from forfeited assets.
HB 172 – Requires certain establishments to post a sign with information regarding the national human trafficking resource center hotline
Representative Jim Coley (R–Bartlett) and Senator Beverly Marrerro (D–Memphis) authored two of the bills and applauded the action taken by the Governor. Rep. Coley serves as the Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee, a key legislative point that has direct oversight of human trafficking issues.
“These new laws send a strong message that we are serious about cracking down on human trafficking in Tennessee,” said Coley. “Families are being destroyed across the country because of this disturbing crime.”
A recent study released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Vanderbilt University Center for Community Studies revealed disturbing information about human trafficking in Tennessee. For instance:
Seventy-eight Tennessee counties reported at least one case of human sex trafficking.
Sixty-eight Tennessee counties reported at least one instance of minor human sex trafficking.
Chairman Coley concluded, “I believe more can and must be done to end this modern form of slavery that is hurting our State. To know that something like this occurs in America in this day and age is just unacceptable. I will continue working hard with the Governor to make sure we end this scourge.”
News release from Sen. Beverly Marrero:
NASHVILLE – Two bills sponsored by State Senator Beverly Marrero that fight human trafficking in Tennessee were signed by Governor Bill Haslam on Tuesday.
“Thousands of children, teenagers and women in Tennessee are bought and sold as slaves, and most of us have no idea it’s happening,” Marrero said. “These new laws will help victims and punish offenders, but hopefully they will also raise awareness of this crisis.”
Senate Bill 604 allows courts to confiscate property of human trafficking ring leaders and use the profits to train and educate law enforcement on identifying and stopping human trafficking. Senate Bill 605 establishes a hotline, administered by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, for victims of human trafficking to call and seek help.
Both bills were sponsored by Representative Jim Coley in the House, as lawmakers worked across party lines to pass the legislation with overwhelming majorities.
The property confiscation law will go into effect July 1. The hotline number is to be set up and distributed by October 1.