To keep you informed and inspired during the 86th Legislative Session, Texas CASA is taking the next few months to dive in to some of our key legislative priorities. Read more about our legislative priorities and our work leading up to, and during, the session.
TEXAS CASA LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY
Help prevent human trafficking and meet the needs of trafficking victims by supporting needed resources and policy change.
It is Texas CASA’s mission to advocate for effective public policy that is in the best interest of children. The unfortunate reality is that children and youth in foster care are at an increased risk of becoming victims of trafficking and exploitation. Removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect and placed far away from their home communities, they are much more vulnerable to a variety of dangers due to the trauma and isolation they experience.
It’s tempting to assume that human trafficking couldn’t possibly be happening in the U.S., but the sad reality is that it’s happening every day, in our backyards. It’s an especially real threat for the vulnerable children we serve. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), in 2018, one in seven endangered runaways were likely sex trafficking victims, and 88% of these endangered youth were in foster care or receiving social services. This is why Texas CASA supports policies that create the best possible outcomes for children and prevent youth from becoming victims of human trafficking.
Texas CASA had the honor of contributing to the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force coordinated by the Office of the Texas Governor in 2018. Texas CASA’s contributions in this effort were highlighted in the Report to The Texas Legislature authored by the Office of the Attorney General. In addition, the Governor’s Child Sex Trafficking Team recently released a Roadmap for Texas Communities to Address Child Sex Trafficking in partnership with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. The 86th Legislature has shown great interest in improving outcomes for this population, and several related bills were filed. Given this focus, Texas CASA is excited to be working closely with legislators and other child welfare advocacy groups to improve the laws in place to support this vulnerable group of young adults.
What are some of the efforts to prevent human trafficking and meet the needs of trafficking survivors this session?
There is strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate to address human trafficking. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made the issue one of his top priorities for the 86th Legislative Session. Both the House and the Senate have passed versions of Senate Bill 20 by Sen. Joan Huffman, and are currently in conference committee to work out the differences between the two versions. This omnibus legislation codifies all 14 of the recommendations made in the report put out by the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force:
- Expand Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) authority to conduct more comprehensive background checks under the Massage Therapy program.
- Require posting of human trafficking awareness signs in licensed massage establishments and schools.
- Require additional reporting by massage therapy schools to identify fraudulent schools and students.
- Remove five-year “sit-out” period for massage therapy licensees.
- Provide TDLR with authority to act more effectively in instances of sexual violations by massage therapy licensees.
- Provide enforcement provisions in the massage therapy statute similar to other TDLR programs.
- Provide Rape Shield Law protections for human trafficking and child sexual abuse victims.
- Include adult sex trafficking and adult sex crimes in the list of offenses where evidence of uncharged crimes is allowable.
- Provide tools to pursue state charges against online traffickers.
- Include continuous human trafficking as a stackable offense.
- Make definition of “coercion” found in Texas Penal Code § 20A.02(a-1) applicable to adult and child labor trafficking.
- Create new process to protect commercial lessees from operating in the vicinity of human trafficking.
- Enhance the nondisclosure process under Government Code Chapter 411 for victims of human trafficking.
- Amend prostitution and related statutes to provide increased penalties for buyers and mandatory community supervision provisions for sellers.
Texas CASA also worked closely with other stakeholder groups to support additional legislation related to human trafficking this session. Two of the bills we supported passed:
- HB 3800 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson relating to required reporting of human trafficking cases by peace officers and prosecutors.
- SB 586 by Sen. Kirk Watson relating to the training of peace officers for family violence and sexual assault assignments.
To follow all of these bills and others, visit our Bill Tracker, which lists many of the bills Texas CASA supports, our champion bills and the status of all the bills we are tracking. You can even see what bills are up for hearing each week on our events calendar!
What can I do to help?
There are many things you can do, big and small, to take a stand against human trafficking. First, if you believe you have information about a trafficking situation and/or suspect that someone you know is being trafficked, call the 24/7 National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Read Texas CASA CEO Vicki Spriggs’ blog post on human trafficking prevention for many other ways to take action, both for prevention and for supporting survivors.
Join our movement! If you’re not yet involved with CASA, consider taking the first step towards becoming a CASA volunteer, or making a donation to support our work.
If you are specifically interested in legislative advocacy and supporting CASA’s legislative priorities, consider joining your CASA program’s Legislative Advocacy Team (LAT). If your program does not have a LAT and you would like more information on starting one, contact Texas CASA Legislative Advocacy Coordinator Ann Strauser Palmer at [email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email].
As mentioned above, you can also follow our Bill Tracker for an up-to-date snapshot of the child welfare bills filed this session.
If you have any questions or would like more information on this or any of our legislative priorities for the 2019 Legislative Session, contact the Public Policy team at [email]email@example.com[/email].