Group of Oregon senators working on series of bills to combat hu - KPTV - FOX 12

Group of Oregon senators working on series of bills to combat human trafficking

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A group of Oregon senators are working to combat human trafficking with a series of bills they're proposing this legislative session. 

The group of GOP state lawmakers say it will take a multi-faceted, bi-partisan approach to address the issue of human trafficking. A problem they believe to be worsening in every corner of Oregon.

"If I was naive enough to live in Hood River my whole life, and work as a county commissioner and not know that sex trafficking was happening in my county, how many other people aren't aware of this going on," said Republican Senator Chuck Thomsen of District 26. 

An undeniable issue, lawmakers are now realizing they must tackle head on.

"It really is modern day slavery, both sex and labor trafficking, we really want to put an end to it," said Republican Senator Tim Knopp of District 27. 

In a sit down interview with FOX 12 the group of senators discussed their plans to fight the secretive industry that operates in Oregon, this legislative session.

Investigators say traffickers shuttle women and young children daily across the state through I-5 and I-84.

Senate Bill 375 sets out to raise awareness about that path and would allow informational materials about human trafficking to be posted at targeted roadside rest areas victims are transferred through.

"I called staff in Salem and some did research and found out it was illegal to post signs, so that began the effort to make the activity legal," said Republican Senator Bill Hansell of District 29.

Senator Hansell is sponsoring that bill, which would permit the posting of those signs in some 26 different rest areas if passed into law. 

The rest stop off milepost 281 near Wilsonville is one of them. 

"You have to put the signs inside of the stalls and you put them on the back of the door, that's how specific you have to be, because that's the one place for sure that there's privacy," said Hansell.

"The signs will have national hotlines on them," said Senator Hansel. "The hotline will take the call, and then call back out to whatever state agency is near the area on I-5 where this lady is calling for help from."

The group says they're also backing Senate Bill 369, which targets strip clubs and requires employees to be mandatory reporters if they suspect sex trafficking is happening at the club.

If employees don't report what they see, their liquor license could be revoked.

"A lot of underage women are recruited, they're enslaved there basically, and no one's reporting them," said Hansell. 

Senator Kim Thatcher also plans to re-introduce a bill to strengthen laws against traffickers. If approved, the bill would enhance penalties for trafficking children.

"It's a nonpartisan issue, I think everybody cares about it, and it's something we can actually accomplish this session as republicans, I think it's important," said Republican Senator Kim Thatcher of District 13.

Together, they all hope to bring about change in Oregon and put a stop to human trafficking operations.

"We're going to do everything we can to raise the penalties for the pimps and johns and try to rescue the victims out of this horrible situation that's happening," said Knopp. 

Sen. Hansell tells FOX 12 currently, there is no law providing for the conviction of sex traffickers in Oregon, if victims are found out of state.  He's also sponsoring another bill this session which calls for a yearlong state study the matter.

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