Legislative briefs: Panel OKs strengthening human trafficking law

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comFebruary 13, 2013 

Rep Sannie Overly D-Paris announced she is filing legislation to strengthen Kentucky's human trafficking laws at the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort, Ky., on Feb. 1, 2012. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

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Panel OKs strengthening human trafficking law

The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill Wednesday that would stiffen penalties for those convicted of human trafficking and ensure that victims receive counseling and other services rather than a jail sentence. The panel unanimously approved House Bill 3 Wednesday after little discussion. The House unanimously approved a similar bill in 2012 but it died in the Republican-led Senate.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, would encourage more training of police and prosecutors to fight human trafficking and allow prosecutors to seize property if a person is convicted of the crime. Seized assets could be used to pay for treating human trafficking victims.

Since Kentucky approved its first human trafficking law in 2008, more than 101 victims have been identified. Of the 101 victims, 44 were trafficked as children, according to the Kentucky Rescue and Restore Coalition. HB 3 now goes to the House for consideration.

Protection against dating violence clears first hurdle

A bill that would give domestic violence protections to dating couples passed out of a House committee on Wednesday for the fifth time in five years. Kentucky is one of only two states that does not allow domestic violence protections for dating couples. Civil protection orders are only available in Kentucky to people who have been married, have a child in common or live together.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 10 to 0 in favor of House Bill 9, but five members opted not to vote on the measure. It now heads to the full House. Similar bills have died in the Republican-led Senate in previous years.

Opponents of the proposal have pointed out that dating couples may file criminal charges in cases of domestic violence. Supporters counter that allowing couples to work through the civil court system could save the state as much as $85 million a year. In addition, advocates say that civil protective orders are generally served immediately, are often taken more seriously by police, and may last for an extended time.

Senate sends bill allowing Christian health plan to House

A bill that would allow a Christian health ministry to resume operating in Kentucky won approval in the Senate Tuesday in a 35-0 vote. Senate Bill 3 now goes to the House. The measure would grant Medi-Share an exemption to the state's insurance laws and require the health plan to tell subscribers that it is not an insurance company and does not guarantee the payment of medical bills.

Medi-Share, operated by Christian Care Ministries, was ordered by a judge to cease operations on Jan. 1 after a lengthy court battle with the Kentucky Department of Insurance over whether it should be regulated as an insurance company. Medi-Share's members pay a monthly fee, which is sent to other members to cover medical costs. Members agree to live a Christian lifestyle, pledging not to smoke, drink alcohol or have sex outside of marriage. Medi-Share had more than 700 Kentucky members before Jan. 1.

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, said he believes the House will add an emergency clause to the bill, allowing Medi-Share to resume coverage of members as soon as Gov. Steve Beshear signs the bill.

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