HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) After more than a year of being stalled — a bill designed to protect victims of human trafficking is moving through the State Capitol.
It would protect child victims of trafficking from being prosecuted for crimes they were forced to commit. Eyewitness News State Capitol reporter Matt Heckel takes a look at the bill.
Senate Bill 554 was introduced last spring and quickly and unanimously passed the Senate. It then stalled in the house until today.
“I just got word that the house judiciary committee, reported out Senate bill 554 just minutes ago.” Said Senator Stewart Greenleaf, (R Bucks and Montgomery Counties.
Senate bill 554 finally passed the house judiciary committee on Tuesday. After sitting there for more than a year.
“We have children in this commonwealth that have not been treated as children. Who have not been treated as victims.” Rep. Joanna McClinton , (D) Delaware and Philadelphia Counties.
The bills introduced by Senator Stewart Greenleaf protects child victims of human trafficking… For being prosecuted for crimes they were forced to commit.
Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-Luzerne County noted “They are child victims. They are not prostitutes. This is not their fault.”
34 other states have already passed similar “Safe Harbor” laws. With 273 human trafficking cases reported in Pennsylvania since just 2016. Supporters of the bill say it’s past time for Pennsylvania to take action.
“Either you care about the children of our commonwealth or you don’t,” said Senator Andrew Dinniman, D Chester County.
And with lawmakers breaking for the summer at the end of the month… Bill co-sponsor Senator Andrew Dinniman” is putting other lawmakers on notice. To get the bill passed. “We’re going to ask, did you vote for this or not? And if you didn’t vote for it, then don’t ask for us to vote for you.”
Now that the bill has been voted out of committee… It goes to the full house. Supporters hope to see it pass in the next two weeks “