Bill giving attorney general's office jurisdiction in human-trafficking cases heads to House floor

01/20/2016 07:22 PM

FRANKFORT — A bill granting the Office of the Attorney General a greater role in prosecuting human trafficking offenses unanimously cleared a House committee on Wednesday.

House Bill 229, sponsored by House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, would give the attorney general concurrent jurisdiction in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases alongside commonwealth’s and county attorneys.

Attorney General Andy Beshear testified on behalf of HB 229, which passed with little debate among lawmakers.

Beshear said human-trafficking investigations have been few, citing state numbers that show only 10 percent of cases have initiated criminal investigations.

“That means we’ve got a 90 percent hole we’ve got to fill,” he said. “My office and our ability to really narrowly focus where we spend our resources gives us an opportunity to make a big difference here and to do it in a very cohesive way, from investigation to prosecution to the victim’s advocacy. Not only do we need to make sure that these people who are subjecting our kids to sexual slavery to jail, we’ve got to heal those children.”

Overly, who help shepherd a bill increasing penalties in human-trafficking crimes through the 2013 General Assembly, called human trafficking “modern-day slavery” and said the attorney general’s office would play a pivotal role in fighting human trafficking.

Beshear said the measure, if passed, would not come with requests from his office for more money to take on human trafficking cases. His office will direct or assist in prosecutions, he said.

“It’s going to be handled primarily out of our new Child Abuse and Exploitation Unit, and we’re ready to go to work,” he said. “This is something that our folks know is a critical need. It primarily involves kids. This is part of our mission, and we’re going to do better as a state.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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