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Human Trafficking Prevention Remains Top Legislative Goal

This information comes the office of 28th District State Senator Joey Hensley MD R Hohenwald, who represents Giles, Lewis, Lawrence and Maury counties.

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. This and every month of the year it remains a top priority of our General Assembly to bring an end to this terrible crime in Tennessee. Often described as a hidden crime, human trafficking includes both forced labor and sex trafficking. Not long ago, Tennesseans saw human trafficking as a third world country crime. We know differently. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) calls it the second fastest growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking. Our General Assembly has taken significant legislative steps over the past decade to tackle the problem.

We strengthened penalties against those who promote and those who patronize human trafficking.

We gave law enforcement more tools to catch those who prey on the young and the most vulnerable in our society who become trapped in a life of despair. We have also provided victims with more resources to begin anew. These legislative efforts have consistently earned Tennessee Shared Hope International’s highest ranking in the nation for fighting human trafficking. The organization provides a comprehensive analysis and assessment of all state statutes relating to and impacting child and youth sex trafficking in all 50 states and D.C. In the 2022 legislative session, the General Assembly approved significant investments in public safety, including $4.2 million for 20 additional TBI agents to help combat human trafficking as well as cyber security, narcotics and other crimes.

The General Assembly also passed multiple new laws that crack down on human traffickers and help prevent the crime. One new law expands anti human trafficking training in schools by requiring all school employees to be trained to detect and prevent human trafficking of children.

Previously, only teachers were required to take the training. Expanded training empowers that many more adults in the Tennessee school system and report signs of abuse. Another new law further cracks down on criminals who traffic minors by raising the age limit from 15 years to 18 years for the Class A offense of trafficking for a commercial sex act.

The law also creates a Class A felony offense of aggravated trafficking for a commercial sex act, and requires those convicted to serve 100% of any sentence imposed. Another law passed by the General Assembly this year requires the district attorneys general conference in collaboration with various state agencies to develop recommendations on the creation of multidisciplinary teams tasked with responding to child sex trafficking cases. Teams are intended to enhance services to victims of child sex trafficking, improve the coordination of investigations of such cases, and identify gaps in services. Similarly, to ensure Tennessee has top-notch services for victims of sex trafficking, another new law tasks the Department of Children’s Services and the Department of Human Services to identify existing resources and gaps in services for victims between the ages of 18 and 24. "Although we are very proud of our efforts, we have much work to do," Hensley said.

"We must continue to build the legislative foundation we have put into place until we rid our state of this despicable crime." In other news, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the Senate Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) has announced 113th General Assembly Senate committee assignments.

"I was reappointed as 2nd Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee and as Chairman of the Revenue Sub-Committee, and was also reappointed as a member of both the Senate Health and Welfare and Education committees," Hensley said. The Finance Committee is responsible for measures relating to the budget, taxes and the issuance of bonds.

The Health Committee is responsible for public or private hospitals; health offices and their administration; institutions and services; while the Education Committee is responsible for legislation concerning schools and secondary education. "I am honored to continue my work on these important committees, and look forward to continuing to serve Tennesseans in my district and throughout the state in the 113th General Assembly." Hensley said.

Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, TN 37243, by calling 615-741-3100, calling toll free 1-800-449-8366, ext. 13100; or by faxing 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN 38462, his telephone number is 931-796-2018, his cell phone is 931-212-8823, or by e mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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