Human trafficking legislation championed by Gov. Brian Kemp and a bill providing penalties for sexual extortion both moved out of the state Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday by unanimous votes.
Senate Bill 158, called the “Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act,” was filed Thursday by its lead sponsor, state Rep. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough.
“This is from the Kemp administration, and this is the next step for us in taking on human trafficking in our state — something that the governor’s cared a lot about, and in particular, the first lady has taken a lead on as well,” Strickland said. “I’ll walk through this bill with you. There is a similar bill that’s also in the House, that’s currently in House Judiciary, that’s carried by Chairman (Chuck) Efstration, as well. You may have heard of that bill over there — very similar bills.”
Section 1-2 in the bill gives authority to the state Division of Family and Children Services to provide, without a court order, emergency care and supervision to a child victim of trafficking for labor or sexual servitude, as defined in state law.
“This is simply giving more resources for these victims that are found when we get these busts in our state,” Strickland said. “Under Section 1-3, we’re saying where those children should be referred, and this code section confirms that a child that is suspected of being a victim of these crimes will be sent to a certified victim service organization that will provide the services that they need.
“And, Section 1-4 goes in the juvenile code and dependency proceedings and adds a child that is a victim of trafficking to the list of those orders where a child can be removed from a home without the consent of parents, if they’re the victim of that crime.”
An addition under Section 1-5 states that someone is guilty under the law if they knowingly benefit financially or receive something of value from the sexual servitude of another.
“We’re trying, again, to get to the source of these crimes and give prosecutors a tool of going after those who are knowingly benefitting financially from these offenses taking place,” Strickland said.
Senate Bill 9, advanced by state Sen. Harold Jones II, D-Augusta, outlaws using photographs or video of someone in a compromising position to elicit a desired behavior. The legislation approved Monday is a substitute developed to tighten up the language used in the originally filed bill.
Jones said that “what we’ve done is we’ve tightened up how a person can coerce somebody, and we basically concluded three levels of coercion — the ability to coerce orally, in writing or electronically. So, ’No person shall intentionally coerce orally, in writing or electronically another individual who is more than 18 years of age, to distribute any photograph, video or other image that depicts any individual in a state of nudity or engaged in sexually explicit conduct.’
“The punishment follows the revenge porn statute. First lifetime offense is punished as a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature — that is on line 34-35 (in the substitute bill). And then a second, it follows revenge porn statute 16-11-90, which is lines 36-37. Upon a second offense, or subsequent offense, guilty of a felony, and that is punishment of not more than 1-5 years.”
The original language had a felony sentencing guideline of 1-10 years, but Jones said that in aligning it with the revenge porn law, 1-5 years is appropriate. Also, the term “coerce” was defined as “exposing or threatening to expose any fact or information that would tend to subject an individual to hatred, contempt or ridicule,” which Jones said follows the state extortion law.
Both bills now head to the Senate Rules Committee.