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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

March 6, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Updated: Time running out for state Legislature to pass anti-sex trafficking bills

Updated 3:31 p.m. on March 7:

Bills are moving through the Legislature quickly. I’ve revised information throughout this post, which was originally published Thursday morning. Check back after the weekend for more updates.


As the Washington Legislature nears its March 13 deadline, now is the time to track and review efforts to end sex trafficking.

Yes, this is a statewide crisis. In the Seattle-King County area alone, the most recent studies suggest hundreds of children as young as 11 years old are being sexually exploited for commercial purposes. Organizations such as the Center for Child & Youth Justice and YouthCare are building new models to identify and treat these sex workers as victims, not criminals.

Below, watch video of StolenYouth’s Jan. 29 forum at Town Hall to understand how advocates are responding to the problem.

This year in Olympia, lawmakers took up several measures to strengthen the state’s laws against trafficking. So far, two bills outlined below have passed both houses. Lawmakers should make sure several other measures get to the governor’s desk before time runs out. They must maintain the state’s position as a leader in combating sex trafficking through strong legislation.

Here’s a rundown of several bills related to sex trafficking and their status as of Wednesday:

HB 1292 — Allow survivors of the commercial sex trade to petition a judge to have previous prostitution convictions vacated. As The Seattle Times editorial board wrote in two editorials on Feb. 10 and Feb. 26, clearing criminal records gives victims the opportunity to find jobs, go back to school and start fresh.

STATUS: Passed the House and Senate. Headed to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

March 7 UPDATE: Passed the House on Feb. 25. Passed the Senate on March 4. On Friday, Eric Campbell, spokesman for state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, emailed to clarify the bill cannot be signed by Gov. Inslee unless the House concurs with changes made by the Senate.

HB 1791 — Expands the definition of sex offenses to include the crime of trafficking in the first degree when force, fraud or coercion is used to cause the victim (minor or adult) to engage in a sexual act for commercial purposes.

STATUS: Passed the House and Senate. Headed to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

March 7 UPDATE: Passed the House on Feb. 12. Passed the Senate unanimously on March 5. Like HB 1292, amendments to HB 1791 must be approved by the House before the bill heads to the governor’s desk.

EHB 2335 — Expands extended foster-care services to young adults who are employed for at least 80 hours per month. Those in this program receive assistance with housing until they are 21, which has been shown to keep them from becoming homeless — and easy targets for traffickers. In Washington state, 35 percent of foster kids are homeless within a year of leaving the system. As I wrote in this Feb. 19 column, authorities believe a large number of sex workers are foster kids.

STATUS: Passed the House and is included in the House budget proposal. ($83,000 in state funding plus $23,000 in federal matching dollars). The Senate should approve this line item.

March 7 UPDATE: Passed the House and is included in the House budget proposal. ($83,000 in state funding plus $23,000 in federal matching dollars). Referred to the Senate Ways & Means Committee on March 7. Lawmakers should approve this line item. 

SB 6126 — Courts statewide would be required to appoint an attorney to represent children placed in the foster-care system. Washington is one of a handful of states that does not mandate legal representation for kids in dependency cases. In this Feb. 16 editorial, The Seattle Times editorial board argued that “helping foster kids navigate the system as soon as they enter it is likely to keep them out of trouble and save the state money in the long run. Attorneys can help shorten a child’s time in care and improve his or her chance of finding a permanent home.”

STATUS: The bill passed the Senate and is in the House Rules Committee awaiting a vote of the full chamber. 

March 7 UPDATE: Passed the Senate unanimously on Feb. 17. Passed the House unanimously on March 7.

Two other bills passed out of the Senate Law & Justice Committee this year were placed in the Senate’s “X” file, meaning neither is likely to go further. Lawmakers should try again next session.

Here’s a summary of those two stalled measures:

SB 6434 — Addresses the demand side of the sex trade by authorizing authorities to seize the property of buyers, including money, cars, boats or aircraft used (or intended to be used) to patronize a sex worker.

March 7 UPDATE: On Friday, Eric Campbell, the spokesman for Senate Law & Justice Committee Chairman Mike Padden, wrote that Padden and state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle,  amended HB 1791 to include the language of SB 6434.  “Then the Senate passed the amended version of HB 1791, meaning the policy changes represented by SB 6434 are still in play, albeit as part of another piece of legislation. If the House concurs with the Senate’s changes to 1791, it will effectively be passing 6434 as well. Not the first time that technique has been employed in these parts.” Great news and kudos to the chairman for finding a creative way to crack down on buyers.

SB 6435 — This bill would have required convicted criminals to pay restitution to their victims, including medical services, mental health care, rehabilitation, lost income, legal fees and other losses.

A previous version of this post identified bills 6126, 6434 and 6435 as House bills. They are Senate bills.









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