Lawmakers nix human trafficking legislation

By JORDAN SPARR/Montana State News

The 2017 Montana legislative session rejected two bills directed toward fighting human trafficking when worries arose over complicating issues for which laws are already in place.

House Bill 378 was written to revise criminal laws which regard minors and human trafficking, while House Bill 379 set to revise laws requiring escort services and similar industries to verify identities and store records of employees at the risk of a penalty for non-compliance.

House Bill 379 specifically addressed people who advertise on websites such as Backpage and Craigslist with photos for the purpose of marketing. House Bill 278 would have made a change in specifying that exposing a minor to prostitution in any form is illegal.

While trying to crack down on human trafficking in Montana as much as possible, opposition to the bills were centralized around the idea that these revisions needed further revision, and that they didn’t add anything of real value to the existing legislation on the issue.

Minority leader Rep. Jenny Eck, D-Helena, spoke to the unproductive nature of these bills. Eck raised concerns over going after prostitutes themselves instead of the customers and criminals behind the scenes who create the problem. Rep. Casey Knudsen, R-Malta, spoke to the delicate nature of HB 378 when he raised concerns over the many ways through which the legislation could be circumvented by those perpetrating the crimes.

Rep. Kim Dudik, D-Missoula, introduced the two bills to the committee. Her intention for HB 379 was to disallow from getting around human trafficking legislation and use a database of identification records for all persons in advertisements for escort services to be created and maintained for seven years. The hope behind this is that it closes a few ways human traffickers avoid getting caught. Using an up-to-date database would put a stop to alleged criminals from claiming ignorance on the age of escorts and the use of aliases.

Dudik introduced House Bill 378 in an attempt to put an end to certain practices within the human trafficking industry. Practices such as exposing children to the illegal sex industry to get the child comfortable with the crime.

– edited by Zachary Coe


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