Human Trafficking bill passes Virginia Senate - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Human Trafficking bill passes Virginia Senate

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RICHMOND, Va. -

The Virginia Senate passed a new human trafficking bill Friday. All fourty senators voted in favor of the bill.

It was proposed by Roanoke Valley Senator John Edwards and State Senator Mark Obenshain.

Bill 373 means stricter laws adding the words human trafficking into law and defining human trafficking, coercion and fraud.

This all comes after we brought a Roanoke County case to Senator Edwards attention last summer where police say they couldn't stop a case of human trafficking because the words "human trafficking" were not in Virginia law.

Right now the house bill is going through committees. We'll of course continue to follow this as we get new information.

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Here is the news release from Senator Obenshain:

RICHMOND—Today, Senator Obenshain commented on the Senate passage of SB 454, legislation adding those who engage in commercial sex with a minor to the sex offender, rectifying a startling omission, and of SB 373, legislation on which he was chief co-patron with Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke), omnibus legislation creating a stand-alone human trafficking felony and expanding law enforcement's ability to investigate and pursue traffickers and provide resources to victims.

"Human trafficking is one of the world's fastest-growing criminal enterprises, stealing children and forcing them into a life of slavery and prostitution," said Obenshain. "Trafficking is the next front in the fight against child predators, with the average age of those entering prostitution being thirteen—with many much younger. Human trafficking is a global calamity, but here in Virginia, we need to do everything within our power to end this terror and offer victims a chance at a new and better life."

Obenshain introduced SB 453, creating a stand-alone human trafficking felony offense. His bill was incorporated into Edwards' SB 373, of which Obenshain serves as chief co-patron. During his campaign for Attorney General, Obenshain proposed a comprehensive plan to combat human trafficking, with much of that plan now embodied in this legislation.

"Virginia is one of only two states that still lacks a comprehensive human trafficking statute. My bill will change that," said Obenshain. He added, "Over the past few years, Virginia has made great strides in combating trafficking. Putting a freestanding felony on the books is an excellent way to secure that progress and help ensure that law enforcement and prosecutors have the tools they need to go after these heinous offenders."

"It's easy to think of human trafficking as something that happens elsewhere, something that's someone else's responsibility—but it's our responsibility, and I am confident that we can meet the challenge and enhance our efforts to keep the most vulnerable among us safe."

Mark Obenshain represents the 26th District in the Senate of Virginia. He was the Republican nominee for Attorney General in 2013.

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