Time is running out to pass human trafficking bill

Published: Feb. 17, 2020 at 4:44 PM CST
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The push is on by advocates and lawmakers around the state to schedule final votes on bills they've worked on all year.

The state Assembly meets Tuesday and Thursday, but has not planned any more full sessions the rest of this year, creating crunch time to get bills passed.

Non-profits and lawmakers are focusing their efforts now on human trafficking.

With reported cases of human trafficking in every county in Wisconsin, according to anti-human trafficking organization Eye Heart World, the need has never been greater to find a deterrent.

"What we're finding is a lot of drug traffickers are switching over to sex trafficking or human trafficking, because a girl you can sell multiple times. Drugs you sell and it's done, so it's a profitable business to get into this, and traffickers know that," says Season Russo, co-founder and director of Eye Heart World.

The organization started in Brown County four-and-a-half years ago as a resource for people trying to get away from traffickers, and in that time, has helped at least 190 women.

But Russo says more needs to be done.

"It's so important, because it's supply and demand," she says.

Eye Heart World worked with state Senator Andre Jacque last session to write a bill creating a $5,000 surcharge for men caught trying to buy sex.

Any money collected would be split between funding future investigations and helping survivor organizations.

"We have to really find a way to make it sting a little bit, because unfortunately you have individuals that are comfortable quietly paying the fines and going away," says Jacque, a republican from De Pere.

The bill died in committees last year, but this session, already passed the Senate unanimously.

It's ready for an Assembly vote, too, but hasn't been scheduled for what Jacque says is likely the Assembly's final session of the year.

Why it hasn't been scheduled? He isn't sure. He says it's bi-partisan so that's not an issue.

"I've heard that there are concerns. I'm not sure what those concerns are at this point," says Jacque.

In the meantime, he says organizations are writing and calling him and other lawmakers pushing for the bill's passage.

"I just see this as a critical piece of legislation to help stem that," says Jacque.

The final calendar is expected to be set by Tuesday.