Texting option bill for human trafficking victims goes to governor

Legislation that would require a text message option with human trafficking hotlines is headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk after passing the Senate floor unanimously on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 225 aims to aid victims by posting the phone number 233-733 (Be Free) in plain sight in businesses, hotels and motels for help.

“Human trafficking is not just a global scourge, it’s a multibillion dollar criminal enterprise in our own backyards,” the bill’s author Senator Henry Stern said in a statement. “We need young people and business leaders to step up and do their part to stop human trafficking in California.”

The National Human Trafficking Hotline aided in 7,572 cases in 2016.

Stern’s bill is part of a legislative package with Assemblyman Miguel Santiago’s Assembly Bill 260, which would require the list of businesses who must post information about the hotline to include hotels and motels.

“There is overwhelming evidence that these are prime locations for human trafficking,” Santiago said in a statement. “These life-saving notices will provide victims of human trafficking with crucial information that can lead to rescue and follow-up services and will also increase awareness about trafficking among hotel staff and the public.”

A human trafficking sweep through Los Angeles in January resulted in the identification of 55 survivors of trafficking and the arrest of 474 people who solicited victims.

While moving the bills through the legislature, Stern told The Signal there had been some pushback from hotels and motels.

But, in its travel through various committees and the Assembly and Senate floors, Senate Bill 225 never received a “no” vote and only received three total abstains, the legislative record shows.

Support for the bill included the California National Organization of Women, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, the Ventura County Coalition Against Human Trafficking and the National Council of Jewish Women.

The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking and National Council of Jewish Women worked to pass Senate Bill 1193, which created the original human trafficking hotline requirement in the 2011-12 legislative session.

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