Key sex trafficking bill heads to governor


The state Senate by a 52-0 vote Friday sent Senate Bill 158, the “Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act,” to the governor for his signature. The legislation was a priority for the Governor’s Office this session.

State Sen. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough and floor leader for the governor, explained some of the amendments to the bill since the last time the Senate voted.

“The first is in Section 1-3 of the bill, and here we just confirmed that the organization, the victim assistance organization that we’re referring child victims to, will be certified by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council,” Strickland said. “The next change is in Section 1-6. This is where we made it where a minor cannot be prosecuted for prostitution in our state — we have the age of 17, because that is the age in our state of being an adult in Georgia. The House had a version of the bill, they wanted 18, and we agreed with them, so 18 is the age we went to there.

“The bigger changes come in sections 1-9 and 1-10, and this is where we’re trying to use our nuisance laws to go after businesses that have human trafficking occurring on their premises, and are profiting from that. The big thing we discussed is how you create a presumption of a nuisance.”

He said there is a presumed nuisance if there’s a conviction or guilty plea regarding a sex offense committed on the property. Nuisance presumption typically will follow a set of notices given to the property owner, especially involving repeated drug activity. Strickland said that from law enforcement testimony, illegal drug activity tends to occur where sex trafficking occurs.

House Bill 424, adding sex trafficking to the state gang law, passed the Senate on substitute 50-0 and returns to the House for concurrence. State Sen. John F. Kennedy, R-Macon, who presented the bill, noted that language regarding elder abuse — which was part of a different bill originally — was added in order to clean up the state law and reduce conflicts.

The Senate also passed S.B. 6, which prohibits the use of drones to drop contraband into jails and prisons, and now goes to the governor.

The chamber decided not to agree to the House’s changes to a revision of the state hunting laws, so that has to be dealt with in conference committee if S.B. 72 is to advance. While there are minor changes throughout the bill, most of the talk regarding the bill involved the legalization of airgun hunting on private land, and making it easier under the law to bait feral hogs.

With state Sen. William Ligon, R-White Oak, on an excused absence, state Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah, presented H.B. 201. That bill, of which the lead sponsor is state Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, prohibits the residents of live-aboard vessels from dumping raw sewage into the state estuaries. It also allows for the state Department of Natural Resources to administer anchorages where pumping out of the waste is possible.

H.B. 201 passed the Senate by a vote of 45-0, and because there were no Senate changes, it now also goes to the governor for his signature.

In the House, a resolution supported in a bipartisan manner by the coastal delegation never received a vote. House Resolution 48, which advocates for coastal industries and the coastal environment, while opposing seismic airgun testing and offshore drilling, was placed on the calendar by the House Rules Committee earlier Friday.

However, apropos of nothing and with no explanation at the time, state Rep. Alan Powell — a Republican from Hartwell who does not sit on the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, which favorably reported the resolution — late Friday afternoon had it recommitted to the Rules Committee.


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