Bipartisan measure focused on protecting children, combating commercial sex trade
OLYMPIA… The state Senate’s latest salvo in the ongoing fight against human trafficking will be heard Wednesday when Senate Bill 5669 goes before the Senate Law and Justice Committee. The committee meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Hearing Room 2, with the comprehensive, bipartisan anti-trafficking measure introduced by Sen. Mike Padden, the committee’s chairman, second on the two-bill agenda.
“This year the Legislature moves into its second decade of battling the scourge of human trafficking. On one hand that’s sobering, because every year we have to come up with a response to some new way that people, especially children, are being victimized,” noted Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “On the other hand it’s uplifting to see the Legislature rise to this fight year after year — there’s nothing that brings us together across philosophical lines the way these anti-trafficking bills do.”
Padden’s committee will start with a public hearing on another bipartisan anti-trafficking bill: Senate Bill 5488, which would add a $5,000 fee to any other penalties for people convicted of using online advertising in connection with the commercial sexual abuse of a child. Proceeds would go into the state prostitution prevention and intervention account lawmakers created in 2009, which has been used to fund law enforcement training, community outreach and education, and treatment and services related to child sex-trafficking victims.
The changes Padden’s bill would make to state anti-trafficking laws include expanding the definition of “communication with a minor for immoral purposes” to cover the purchase or sale of commercial sex acts and sex trafficking; adding to the definition of first- and second-degree trafficking; and making the penalties for those who patronize child prostitutes stronger.
SB 5669 also would add trafficking and commercial sexual abuse of a child to the list of sex offenses that require sex-offender registration and the list of crimes that can trigger charges under the state’s criminal profiteering law.
“The goal of all this is to give those in law enforcement and our justice system the tools they need to combat the sex-trafficking industry as it continues to evolve,” said Padden, who served 12 years as a Spokane County District Court judge before he was elected to the Senate from the 4th Legislative District in 2011.
Public-policy efforts to combat child prostitution and human trafficking have been under way in Washington since a task force on human-trafficking operations was created in 2002 through legislation advocated by former Seattle-area state Rep. Velma Veloria. The following year Washington became the first state to criminalize trafficking, and each year since has brought changes in the law and other policy or budget decisions aimed at dealing with traffickers and supporting victims.