OLYMPIA — The state Senate tackled the issue of sex trafficking Monday, passing two bills increasing penalties for the crime.
Senate Bill 5488 would add a $5,000 fine to additional penalties for advertising sex with minors online. The legislation also would repeal a law passed last year requiring online classified advertising companies to verify the ages of people in sex-related advertisements. Backpage.com filed a lawsuit against Washington state, arguing the law violated the First Amendment. A federal judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional.
Bill sponsor Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said she’s disappointed the Legislature has to repeal last year’s law, but she thinks SB 5488 will discourage advertising sex with minors in a manner that complies with the United States Constitution.
“I’m actually rather sad that we had to have this bill introduced this year,” Kohl-Welles said.
Senate Bill 5669, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane, would require those convicted of trafficking minors or patronizing underage prostitutes to register as sex offenders. Traffickers would also be eligible for criminal profiteering charges.
“I feel like we have an obligation to be as strong as we can in going after traffickers,” Padden said.
Both bills passed through the Senate unanimously and will move to the House.