AUSTIN (March 13, 2015) — Working with local anti-human trafficking non-profit organizations, Texas State Senator Van Taylor filed Senate Bill (SB) 1653, the Proactively Combat Human Trafficking Act.
In 2013, Senator Taylor, then a House member, co-authored House Bill 8, which significantly increased the penalties for human trafficking. While human trafficking is a horrendous crime with strict penalties, state law makes it difficult for law enforcement to infiltrate facilities predominantly known to harbor victims.
"It is an honor to work alongside groups like For the Sake of One, Activism for Empowerment, New Friends New Life, Traffick911 and Rescue Her to author this important legislation," stated Taylor. "These organizations fight the evils of human trafficking every day and, with their help, we have crafted legislation that will shine a light on those preying on women and children. I am incredibly grateful for the work these organizations do and look forward to working with them and my colleagues in the Texas Senate to combat the unthinkable evil of human trafficking."
As conversations continue with anti-human trafficking advocates, Taylor will fine tune the filed legislation prior to a committee hearing. The final version of this legislation will require all owners of sexually oriented businesses, as well as any individual they employ, to obtain licensure. This proactive approach to combating human trafficking would serve two objectives. The first would verify the individual is of age, and the second would require the individual applying for license to identify themselves, in person, before an agent to affirm that they are there under their own free will. Licensees would also be required to complete a human trafficking education course to teach them how to identify and report cases of human trafficking. The substance of the educational course will be designed in concert with anti-human trafficking non-profit organizations.
Melissa Woodward, a trafficking survivor and Founder of For the Sake of One, said of Taylor's legislation, "Two years ago, Van Taylor asked me how he could help stop human trafficking and make a difference for Collin County and Texas. Van not only listened, he took action. This is a huge step in the right direction to protecting women and teenage girls from the sex industry as a whole. Thank you Van Taylor for listening."
Stephanie Henry-Ricchi, Founder of Activism for Empowerment, added, “This bill will not only serve as a way to further protect victims of Human Trafficking, it is a bold statement about the fact that the state of Texas has zero tolerance for traffickers and their horrific crimes. Much gratitude to Senator Van Taylor."
Katie Pedigo, Executive Director of New Friends New Life, said, "As a non-profit whose mission is to restore and empower formerly trafficked teen girls and exploited women and their children, New Friends New Life supports these policy reforms and legislative initiatives to make Texas hostile ground for human trafficking."
Importantly, this legislation will allow law enforcement the ability to perform routine checks of sexually orientated businesses to verify that all workers are licensed, and by extension have previously attested that they are not being coerced. Of significant importance to non-profit organizations aimed at stopping human trafficking, all fines and penalties for invalid or fraudulent licensure, or failure to have a license, will be assessed on the establishment, not the employee.
The U.S. Department of Justice identified the I-10 corridor as the number one human trafficking route in the U.S., with as many as one in four victims passing through Texas. Human trafficking in Texas has been known to predominantly occur in sexually oriented businesses. To this end, according to Taylor, it is imperative that the Legislature not only enforce the crime but find a way to proactively target those running trafficking rings and eradicate practices that enable human sex trafficking.
About Texas State Senator Van Taylor
A seventh generation Texan, local small businessman, and decorated Marine Officer, Van Taylor serves the majority of Collin County and a portion of Dallas County in the Texas Senate where he is widely recognized as a conservative leader. Taylor was named Vice-Chairman of the Nominations Committee and also appointed to serve on the Education, Health and Human Services, and Transportation Committees. Van and his wife, Anne, married after his return from Iraq and are the proud parents of three young girls. Van and his family reside in Plano near the land his great-grandfather farmed during the Great Depression. For more information, visit Sen. Taylor website at senate.state.tx.us.