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Sen. Brian Strickland speaks at a press conference on Senate Bill 158, recently signed by Gov. Kemp.

A senate bill sponsored by Sen. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, designed to extend protection for victims of human trafficking and enforce stricter penalties on the perpetrators was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Senate Bill 158 is known as the “Anti-Human Trafficking Protective Response Act.” The bill will require law enforcement agencies or the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to refer children suspected of commercial sexual exploitation or trafficking to a certified victim services organization. The bill also broadens the definition of “trafficking for sexual servitude” so as to include anyone who receives anything of value from the sexual servitude of another. The bill would also increase the current minimum age to be charged with prostitution to 18 and would enforce stricter penalties on the perpetrator. The bill further exempts owners of property where sexual servitude occurs from a nuisance charge if they cooperate with law enforcement. This bill will become effective on July 1, 2019, and will apply to crimes which occur on or after that date.

In a speech at the Georgie Capitol, Strickland said the bill helps re-shape the way victims of human trafficking our treated in Georgia and provides tool to prosecutors to go after business owners that allow human trafficking to take place on their premises.

“I was honored to stand by Gov. Kemp as he officially signed SB 158,” said Strickland. “The Governor’s Office, my colleagues in the Senate and the House and many other stakeholders have put in countless hours of work to ensure that this bill protects victims of human trafficking and gives tools to our prosecutors to go after those businesses that are allowing human trafficking to occur on their premises and, instead of doing anything to stop it, are choosing to make money off the illegal activity. Our state has made a lot of progress in the fight against this issue in recent years and this bill was one of several we passed this session designed to continue that fight and bring relief to victims. It is unfortunate that this bill was even necessary, but it sends a strong message that Georgia will not tolerate human trafficking in our state and we will do all we can to bring care to victims and justice to criminals. I was honored to sponsor this bill in the Senate and I am thankful that Gov. Kemp recognized this issue as an important priority for our state.”

Strickland also thanked First Lady Marty Kemp for her involvement in education and awareness surrounding the issue of human trafficking. “I’ve watched (Marty Kemp) when no cameras where around meeting with victims of human trafficking and working with organizations to learn more. She has a true heart for this issue.”

Earlier this year, Marty Kemp announced the creation of the Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion and Education, or GRACE Commission. “The GRACE commission will be comprised of public officials, law enforcement, for-profit and non-profit organizations, faith-based institutions and subject matter experts to tackle human trafficking, serve justice for victims, hold bad actors accountable and end human trafficking,” Marty Kemp said during a press conference.

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