The first bill to be passed out of the Missouri legislature in 2018 aims to fight human trafficking.
House Bill 1246 would require the Department of Public Safety to develop posters that provide information on what human trafficking is and how victims can get help. It would require those posters to be displayed by certain businesses including hotels and motels, strip clubs, private clubs, airports, emergency rooms, bus stations, and truck and rest stops.
The posters will include the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline, which is 888-373-7888, and by text is 233733 (BEFREE).
HB 1246 is sponsored by Adrian Republican Patricia Pike.
“This bill works to provide rescue information to the victims and educate the citizens about human trafficking in a statewide and uniform way,” said Pike. “I believe this bill will save lives, bring victims home to their families, and educate the public further on how to identify human trafficking. It will also provide law enforcement with increased opportunities to receive tips to help combat trafficking.”
Representative Michael Butler (D-St. Louis) said trafficking is a major issue in Missouri and particularly in St. Louis. He said the legislation is a sign that the legislature, and the state, are starting to recognize how great that issue is, and said more must be done.
“The greatest fear I have is something like this happening to my daughter. Many of us, I’m sure, who have children, we think about it every time we’re in the grocery store, every time we’re somewhere public – that you could lose that person and it was your responsibility,” said Butler. “I just thank [Representative Pike] for making me feel a little more comfortable about what I’m doing here today and whenever I think about that in the grocery store … I think about this bill.”
Under the bill the posters must be created by January 1, 2019, and must be displayed by the establishments specified in the bill by March 1, 2019. Businesses that repeatedly fail to display them could incur fines. The posters will be printed at the cost of each business that must display them.
The creation and display of such posters was one of the recommendations of the House Task Force on Human Trafficking, which was chaired by Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield).
Pike said more than 20 states have such posters and it has been shown that trafficking victims who use the national hotline have a better chance of being rescued.
The bill was passed out of the House in January 139-5 and the Senate passed it early this month. It now awaits action from the governor’s office or it could become law without any such action after 15 days.
Last year a similar bill sponsored by Representative Cloria Brown reached the state Senate but did not come to a vote in that chamber.
The House this week also passed a bill that sets a minimum age for applicants for Missouri marriage licenses. Sponsor Jean Evans (R-Manchester) said the bill would combat traffickers and abusers bringing minor victims to Missouri to marry them. That bill has been sent to the Senate for consideration.