Contributed by Tracy Ryan – Senate Bill 2045, which established new felonies for “human trafficking,” was passed April 29, on the last day of the Hawaii legislative session. The bill that passed was not the one heard and opposed by law enforcement in public hearings.
Instead a completely different bill was drafted and substituted under the same bill number for passage by the conference committee. This was done without public notice or the opportunity for input from anyone outside the chosen few allowed to draft it.
As passed, SB 2045 turns several currently legal activities into serious felonies with no rationale accept an apparent desire to placate the radical feminist organizations Girlfest and the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery.
Operating a strip club may now become a class B felony if anyone is “enticed” to work there. I have corresponded with one legislator (an attorney) who upon reading the final version of the bill I forwarded to him seems to agree with my conclusion. He also admitted he was unaware of the bill, as I think most members were who voted it through in the final hours of the session without reading or understanding its implications.
How did this happen? Several years ago the legislature created the Hawaii Anti-Trafficking Task Force (HATTF). Included were various law enforcement agencies, some social service providers, and for no clear reason “Girlfest”.
Meanwhile the only organization that had much experience dealing with people in the sex industries, Sisters Offering Support, dropped out early on and was not replaced. This is despite the fact that there are several first rate agencies in Hawaii with just the right kind of experience that would have been helpful. Anyone of the Life Foundation, The Chow Project, The Youth Outreach Project, or Kulia Na Mamo could have provided input from experienced outreach workers. Good ideas could have come out of the task force if the good people left out had instead been included.
In 2009 the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery came into being to save women from prostitution. Much of their time seems to have instead been spent on an anti-prostitution public relations campaign and in lobbying for the passage of anti-prostitution legislation. As with Girlfest their claims at any real expertise in the topics they have presented are subject to dispute.
In the 2010 session SB 2045 appeared. It was not supported by the HATTF. It was actively opposed in both house and senate by law enforcement. The attorney general’s office had seventeen pages of testimony opposed to the bill in the original Senate version. I have repeatedly suggested to legislators that professionals from the health and outreach community should have input into this discussion. Who had input into drafting the flawed second and final versions is not known.
The version of the bill that passed on the last day of the session was not subject to a public hearing. It is not clear who in the offices of the respective judiciary chairs actually put this thing together.
I have been told that groups of black shirted teens from “Girlfest” attended the conference hearings on a daily basis to pressure legislators to pass an anti-trafficking bill. In my admittedly bias observation none of these young women knows much about the issues involved.
Unfortunately their pestering seems to have carried more weight with conferees than the collective wisdom of law enforcement, the professional outreach community, and anyone else who actually knows something about these matters.
Tracy Ryan is the Oahu County Chair the Libertarian Party of Hawaii. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org