The Iowa Senate has approved two bills drafted in response to the growing problem of human trafficking.
One bill calls for adding “human trafficking” to the state’s legal definition of child abuse.
Senator Rita Hart, a Democrat from Wheatland, said the bill would also set up training for educators, doctors and other “mandatory reporters” of child abuse — to teach the warning signs that a minor may have been forced into sex or labor.
“I believe that this is a very smart bill,” Hart said. “It uses existing resources to provide important safeguards for the children of Iowa.”
The other bill would set up a new office in the Iowa Department of Public Safety to oversee efforts to combat human trafficking in Iowa. Senator Kevin Kinney, a Democrat from Oxford, is also a deputy sheriff in Johnson County who set up a sting in a small town that rescued three young women.
“Coordinating anti-human trafficking efforts will significantly help Iowa’s fight against this horrendous crime,” Kinney said.
Senator Tony Bisignano, a Democrat from Des Moines, said unless legislators later vote to provide the money to run the office, the bill is an empty gesture.
“We can talk about how we care and how we detest the idea of human beings trafficking other human beings, but if we don’t truly take it to heart and we don’t put the funding where it’s necessary, then we don’t mean it,” Bisignano said.
A day-long hearing at the statehouse this past fall focused attention on the issue. Experts say $150 billion will be spent this year on the international sex trade.