Rep. Watson: Significant Steps Taken Against Human Trafficking In Tennessee

Monday, April 29, 2013
During this legislative session, Tennessee made significant steps in becoming one of the top states in the nation with the strongest anti-human trafficking legislation. Human trafficking has become one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation. According the 2011 TBI report, eighty-five percent of the counties stated that they have investigated at least one human sex trafficking case over the last 24 months. Seventy-two percent of the total counties in the state reported at least one case of minor human sex trafficking.
There were 16 entities that reported an excess of 50 cases and eight reported over 100 cases of minor cases of human sex trafficking. With the creation of the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline and the numerous amounts of law enforcement officers and first responders who have been trained to recognize trafficking victims, the number of trafficking cases has increased.

We presented a fourteen anti-human trafficking bill package in order to push Tennessee to be the leading state with the strongest trafficking laws. Listed below are the bill numbers and summaries:

HB128/SB 1035 requires rather than permits that restitution to the victim be paid by the defendant for the offenses of patronizing prostitution, trafficking for commercial sex acts, solicitation of a minor for sexual purposes, and enlisting or paying a minor to engage in child pornography.

HB129/SB 0466 expands the offense of solicitation of a minor to include solicitations by adults, that if completed, would constitute trafficking for commercial sex acts, patronizing prostitution, promoting prostitution or aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.

HB130/SB 1033 has three parts:

* revises the prohibition and penalty provisions of this bill to make is a Class D felony offense for any person to promote travel for prostitution by selling or offering to sell travel services that the person knows to include travel for the purpose of engaging in what would be prostitution if occurring in the state. "Travel services" includes transportation by air, sea, road or rail, related ground transportation, hotel accommodations, or package tours, whether offered on a wholesale or retail basis.

· adds the purchase of another person for the purpose of providing a commercial sex act to the types of conduct that constitute the criminal offense of trafficking a person for a commercial sex. Under present law, the offense of trafficking a person for a commercial sex is generally punished as a Class B felony, except where the victim of the offense is a child under 15 years of age, or where the offense occurs on the grounds or facilities or within 1,000 feet of a public or private school, secondary school, preschool, child care agency, public library, recreational center, or public park, in which case the offense is a Class A felony.

· Substitutes the present law definition of "sexual servitude" for the present law definition of "commercial sex act".

HB 358/ SB 1038 adds various sexual offenses to the organized crime definitions so that criminal offenses involving racketeering and unlawful debts can be applied to certain offenders.

HB416/SB1029 adds to the definition of criminal gang offenses trafficking for commercial sex acts and receipt, or intended receipt, of income, benefit, property, money or anything of value from the commission of trafficking for commercial sex acts.

HB520/ SB1032 raises the classification of the offense of promoting prostitution of a minor from a Class E felony to a Class A or B felony

HB521/SB 1030 disallows as a defense to offenses of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor, aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor that the minor consented to the conduct constituting the offense.

HB709/SB 1028 disallows as a defense to offenses of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor, aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor that the minor consented to the conduct constituting the offense.

HB710/SB 1034 provides that it is grounds for the termination of a person's parental rights that the parent is convicted of trafficking for commercial sex acts and the parent's child is one of the victims of the offense.

HB742/SB 1027 provides that victims 13 and under of trafficking for commercial sex acts and patronizing prostitution may, under certain circumstances, testify outside the courtroom by closed circuit television.

HB919/SB 1036 establishes human trafficking task force.

HB920/ SB 1031 removes as a defense ignorance or mistake of fact concerning the age of a minor to the offenses of patronizing prostitution and soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor.

HB1050/SB 1390 adds a person who physically possesses or controls a child to those from whose custody a child can be removed if the child is subject to an immediate threat to the child's health or safety and there is no less drastic alternative to removal.

While each piece of legislation is important to combat human trafficking in this state, there are two key items that make the most impact; the human trafficking task force and the amendment placed on HB 130 which added the word “purchases” to the definition of commercial sex acts. The Human Trafficking task force will determine the future policies and services that will be provided to victims. It will include members from the TBI, Sheriff's Association, Department of Human Resources, Children Services, Safety, Health, District Attorneys, Public Defenders, one Representative and one Senator, and many more. The goal for the task force is to develop a plan for human trafficking in Tennessee, create a system designed to support victims and prosecute the traffickers and purchasers and to make recommendations on how to coordinate services from nonprofit organizations across the state to the victims.

Alf the legislation will become effective July 1, 2013. You can find more information about each bill at the Tennessee General Assembly webpage www.capitol.tn.gov<http://www.capitol.tn.gov/>.

Raise Your Voice In Behalf Of Education

I am lifting my voice in support of education for our children in Chattanooga's Hamilton County Schools, to include funding and rebuilding education. On Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and via personal letter to elected officials I wish to express that until we are able to do better, do what we can. We must always be committed to education, no matter what, because "people perish ... (click for more)

311 Inefficiency

I must agree that the city's 311 system is inefficient.  I have been struggling with them for two years over various items.  The system needs auditing.  Things to look at: a.  Work orders closed without the work being done b.  The software used ---needs upgrading.  It has unnecessary redundancy as well as other limits c.  Clarification ... (click for more)

Winning Bid For Huge River Tract Near Dayton Is $4,370,000, But Sellers Not Willing To Accept

A huge tract on the Tennessee River/Chickamauga Lake near Dayton, Tn., brought $4,370,000 at auction at the site on Saturday. However, the auction firm later said the high bid was not accepted by the sellers, John and Edyth Buxton. Henry Glascock of the John Dixon firm auction firm said, "It was a gorgeous piece of property, but we just didn't quite get there. "We had a willing ... (click for more)

Olympian Kristin Armstrong Sets Course Record; Talansky Is Men's Winner

Two-time Olympic goal medal winner Kristin Armstrong won the USA Cycling Professional Time Trial Championship in a record time at the Volkswagen course on Saturday morning. She finished the 19.2-mile course in 42 minutes, 8 seconds. The time trial victory assures the 41-year-old Armstrong of a spot as one of three American women to compete in the world championship time trial ... (click for more)

Winter Leads CFC To 3-1 Win Over Jesters

The Chattanooga Football Club's Luke Winter had two first half goals to lead the home team to a 3-1 win over visiting New Orleans Jesters at Finley Stadium on Saturday.  Winter scored in the 9th and 33rd minute.  Winter's first goal came off a nice cross by Jose Ferraz.  Winter picked up his second goal after Leo DeSmedt sent a ball into the box and Winter ... (click for more)

Flames Fall In NCCAA Baseball Championship

The Lee fans waited and waited for the big hit that had ignited the Flames in five other wins during the 2015 NCCAA World Series. The hit never came and neither did the big inning in the 6-2 loss to Fresno Pacific in Saturday afternoon's championship at Prasco Park. It marked the second straight year that the Sunbirds defeated the Flames in the NCCAA final. Lee wraps up the ... (click for more)