OLYMPIA -- Minors and the mentally disabled will have better protection against sexual slavery under two bills sponsored by state Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland.
Delvin and eight other senators Monday introduced 12 bills related to human-trafficking.
The bipartisan group used many terms to describe human traffickers: Pimps. Slavers. Lowlifes. Stealers of innocence. Delvin's bills deal mostly with forced prostitution.
Senate Bill 6251 will make it a crime to commercially advertise the services of a minor in a way that depicts or would lead to sexual abuse. Delvin said this bill would hold advertisers responsible for confirming the legal age of the subjects of their advertisements to prevent minors from advertising as adults.
Senate Bill 6254 applies to laws that determine the difference between prostitution and human trafficking related to the mentally disabled. If a person is charged with prostitution, they must prove they were forced or coerced to be considered a victim of human trafficking.
This bill would not require proof of force or coercion in the case of the mentally disabled, Delvin said, because they are more vulnerable.
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who led Monday's news conference, thanked Delvin for working with her on this issue since 1995. Ten years ago, Washington passed its first anti-human trafficking law, which created the Task Force Against Trafficking of Persons.
The human trafficking industry makes a profit of $32 billion a year, according to a 2010 National Human Trafficking Resource Center report. Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, said human trafficking involves as much money as drug or gun trafficking.
Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, introduced a bill that would hold pimps liable in civil court for damages to minors. Fines could reach $250,000, he said.
Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, introduced a bill to regulate the reflexology -- or foot massage -- industry.
These foot-massage centers can be fronts for human trafficking, Keiser said, and can access health care dollars by pretending to offer legitimate health therapy. Her bill would require foot-massagers to undergo the same licensing and inspection procedures as other massage therapies.
Washington has led the nation in anti-human trafficking law, Kohl-Welles said, but even today, most lawmakers and community members do not pay enough attention to the issue.
"We recognize that we've come a long way," she said, "but we still have a long way to go."
-- Eric Francavilla, a Herald intern from Washington State University, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.