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Human trafficking bills sponsored by Rep. Sarah Vance heard in committee

The legislative offices for Rep. Sarah Vance and Sen. Gary Stevens on Jan. 3, 2024. Vance hired former Arkansas state senator Bob Ballinger as a policy advisor for the upcoming legislative session.
Jamie Diep
/
KBBI
The legislative offices for Rep. Sarah Vance and Sen. Gary Stevens on Jan. 3, 2024. Vance sponsored four bills related to human trafficking this legislative session.

Last week, different legislative committees heard testimony on four human trafficking bills sponsored by State Representative Sarah Vance. One bill targets access to pornography, one changes wording related to child pornography, and two are directly related to human and sex trafficking.

House Bill 265 aims to change the term “child pornography” to “child sexual abuse material” in the state statute. Vance said during her testimony that this change would better describe the content being produced.

“The use of the term ‘child sexual abuse material’ serves to correct this misconception highlighting the non consensual and abusive nature of the acts depicted,” she said.

Meanwhile, House Bill 254 would require websites with pornographic material to verify users are over the age of 18. In her sponsor statement, Vance says that minors accessing pornography online puts them at risk of being trafficked. She says this bill would be a tool to limit that access.

I know that we will never be able to stop pornography and the, the terrible, terrible abuse that is happening to people that is being videoed and photographed because that is, that is a condition of the heart of man,” she said, “however, we have a duty to protect the most innocent.”

The other bills directly address human trafficking. House Bill 259 would create the Council on Human and Sex Trafficking. While an administrative order established the council in 2021, this bill would make the council embed the council in state statute. The bill would create a 17 member council, with seven appointed by the governor.

Finally, the Health and Social Services committee heard testimony on House Bill 264. The bill would create a uniform screening tool to detect if children entering the Alaska Department of Family and Community Services or runaway shelters have been trafficked. While different agencies already have some type of screening process for human trafficking, Vance says the bill would be a step towards creating a standard for the state to follow.

“When I asked this question in the council of why there wasn't a uniform authority is because many of them are working through federal grants, and they're going off of federal definitions, and that simply because there was not a state mandate to require it,” she said.

The committees will take public testimony on three of the four bills on Feb. 8 at 3 p.m.

Jamie Diep is a reporter/host for KBBI from Portland, Oregon. They joined KBBI right after getting a degree in music and Anthropology from the University of Oregon. They’ve built a strong passion for public radio through their work with OPB in Portland and the Here I Stand Project in Taipei, Taiwan.Jamie covers everything related to Homer and the Kenai Peninsula, and they’re particularly interested in education and environmental reporting. You can reach them at jamie@kbbi.org to send story ideas.