Nixon signs Haahr’s bill to combat human trafficking

  

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A bill to expand the crime of sex trafficking to include the advertisement of minors and non-consenting adults for prostitution or pornography was signed by Gov. Jay Nixon at a ceremony in Kansas City Wednesday. Nixon was joined by Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, and state Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, the bill’s sponsor.

“We tend to think of trafficking as something that happens in distant, undeveloped countries. But the tragic reality is that right here in the United States, human trafficking is a real and growing problem,” Nixon said. “House Bill 1562 will strengthen Missouri’s laws against sex trafficking, helping to hold these loathsome criminals accountable and protect victims from their abusers.”

The House passed HB 1562 unanimously May 10 with a few amendments, including some from Kander that will bolster the Safe at Home program which allows victims of sex trafficking or domestic violence to keep their mailing addresses confidential.

“I’m pleased my proposal to strengthen and expand the Safe at Home program to help shield survivors of human trafficking and further protect participants from stalking was signed into law today,” Kander said in a statement. “Now more Missourians who have survived horrible circumstances will be made safer by keeping their addresses out of the hands of their assailants.”

The biggest champion of the legislation was Haahr himself. In last year’s interim, Haahr chaired the Human Trafficking Task Force made up of elected officials, law enforcement leaders, advocates for women and children and others fighting against human trafficking. The measure was a direct result of those efforts and he made sure to thank the other lawmakers who took a leading role in passing the measure.

“I am very excited to see HB 1562 signed into law,” Haahr said. “Thanks to Sen. Bob Onder and Congresswoman Ann Wagner, we continue to make Missouri a safer, stronger state by protecting victims and empowering law enforcement in the prosecution of human trafficking.”

Onder, the Senate handler for the bill, also expressed his own excitement that the bill would become law.

“I am thrilled that the General Assembly and governor made this legislation a top priority after Rep. Haahr and Congresswoman Ann Wagner led the charge on this issue,” Onder said in a statement. “Child sex trafficking is a serious problem that is on the rise in Missouri, especially in the St. Louis area, which is one of the top 20 regions for this crime in the country.”