Georgia House advances bills to support sex trafficking victims

Convicted human traffickers would be forced to register as sex offenders and pay into a state fund for victims under two bills Georgia’s House approved Tuesday.

Combined, Senate Bill 8 and Senate Resolution 7 would establish a new Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, which would get money through new $2,500 fines on convicted traffickers and an annual $5,000 fee on adult entertainment establishments.

That money would pay for healthcare, housing and other services for victims. SB 8 also mandates that convicted traffickers register as sex offenders. The bill is named the “Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law Act” in honor of a young sex trafficking victim who testified during a committee hearing on the measure.

SR 7 – which required the approval of two-thirds of the House membership – advanced on a 151-18 vote Tuesday morning. After breaking for lunch, the House reconvened and approved SB 8 on a 150-22 vote.

Sponsored by Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, both measures passed the Senate last month. They were amended in the House, so they must return to the Senate for consideration. SR proposes to amend the state Constitution and would need voter approval before going into effect.

Opponents in the House argued singling out strip clubs for new fees would set a bad precedent and do little or nothing to crack down on sex trafficking. They said much of the problem occurs through the Internet. Supporters condemned strip clubs, saying they contribute to the state’s problems.

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