A bill to ban human trafficking in Kentucky won final legislative passage in the House, a victory for groups that say cases of forced labor or exploitation have begun to surface in the state.
"I think it's a step in the right direction to help get protection to all those who are affected, especially the most vulnerable, the children," said Sen. David Boswell, D-Owensboro, the sponsor of Senate Bill 43. The bill passed the House unanimously and goes to Gov. Ernie Fletcher, whose office said he will review it before deciding whether to sign it.
The bill would make it a felony offense to force anyone into labor, domestic work or the sex trade. The federal government and 27 other states already have laws against human trafficking, and the U.S. Justice Department has urged all states to adopt such laws.
Advocates said they don't have specific numbers of such cases in Kentucky. But they say they have been getting anecdotal reports through women's shelters, legal aid lawyers, charitable organizations and other agencies around the state. The bill is supported by groups that include the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, the Kentucky Office of Legal Services and the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association.
The original bill called on the state to provide services -- such as counseling -- to victims of trafficking. But Boswell said he agreed to drop that because of concerns about its potential costs. If there is a need for such services, Boswell said, he will propose funding for them next year.
Adapted from: Deborah Yetter and Tom Loftus. "House gives final passage to human trafficking ban." The Courier-Journal. 10 March 2007.
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