Harrisburg

HARRISBURG >> State Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks) joined her colleagues in passing a package of legislation to combat human trafficking in Pennsylvania, including a companion bill to Thomas’s “Buyer Beware” bill to increase the penalties for anyone convicted of soliciting a victim of human trafficking.

The vote came a day after the House passed Thomas’s resolution, House Resolution 618, to declare January Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.

“The exploitation of men, women and children, especially children, is ranked by the FBI as the third largest criminal activity in the world,” Thomas said. “It has become a $150 billion dollar industry, destroying the lives of victims of all ages and genders, but disproportionately impacting women and young girls. This is a global threat that affects people of all nations, including the United States,” Thomas said.

The following bills included in the package:

- Senate Bill 60, the companion bill to Thomas’s House Bill 12, would sharply increase penalties for both those who traffic victims and solicit those victims. It moves to the governor for his signature.

- House Bill 161 would make trafficking infants a first-degree felony.

- House Bill 2177 would expand the list of sexual offenses that require offenders to attend a Department of Corrections counseling program.

- House Bill 2176 would expand activities that constitute the crime of unlawful contact with a minor.

- House Bill 2175 would expand the list of offenses where an expert may testify about the dynamics of sexual violence.

- House Bill 2174 would prohibit defendants from introducing evidence of a human trafficking victim's past sexual victimization in a trafficking case.

 The House bills now move to the Senate for approval.

 Last February, Thomas held a hearing on human trafficking at the New Hope Eagle Volunteer Fire Company. The information gathered there formed the basis for some of the bills passed today.

 “It is our duty and our moral obligation as leaders in our state to do everything we can to protect those who have been victimized and to work diligently to prevent more men, women and children from being victimized,” Thomas said.

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