Politics & Government

House approves bill to crack down on human trafficking

FRANKFORT — A bill that would strengthen Kentucky's human-trafficking laws unanimously passed the Kentucky House on Friday.

"It is defined as modern-day slavery," said Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, one of the sponsors of the bill. "It is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the world. It is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in Kentucky."

House Bill 350 would increase training for police officers on human trafficking, create a special unit in the Kentucky State Police to investigate human trafficking, and strengthen current laws to help prosecutors convict human traffickers, said Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, a sponsor of the bill.

The House passed the bill 90-0 with no debate. The measure now heads to the Senate.

HB 350 also would make it a crime to patronize a prostitute or patronize a minor for prostitution. The state's forfeiture laws would apply to those convicted of human trafficking. Some of the money from forfeiture funds would be made available for social service agencies that serve human-trafficking victims.

The General Assembly passed a law in 2007 that made human trafficking a crime, but there has been little education about the law. There have been 67 documented cases of human trafficking and 12 indictments in Kentucky since 2007, but few convictions.

Approximately 52 percent of those victims were trafficked for sex, and 42 percent were trafficked for labor.

Tilley said after Friday's vote that he has talked to Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, about the measure.

"I think he would be a supportive of the issue; it's just a matter of getting a hearing," Tilley said.