House Judiciary Approves Bills on Human Trafficking, Unlicensed Veterinary Practice

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    HONOLULU. The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday passed out bills which would create a new set of ethical standards for Hawaii’s veterinarians and increase penalties to protect Hawaii’s monk seal population. In addition, the committee passed out a measure aimed at reducing Hawaii’s illegal sex trade by increasing the penalties for sexual human trafficking.

    ”SB2045 RELATING TO CRIME”

    Senate Bill 2045, which was passed out by the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, is designed to address the plight of the more than 50,000 persons trafficked across United States borders each year. The measure would increase penalties for sexual human traffickers who use threats, intimidation, deception, extortion or kidnapping to force their victims to engage in prostitution or other sexually explicit activity.

    “Although we passed Senate Bill 2045, I have some real concerns with this bill because it conflicts with existing statutes as indicated the testimony we heard from city and county prosecutors and attorney general. However I also feel that it’s important that we continue the discussion regarding the problems we face with human trafficking in Hawaii” said Chair Karamatsu. “I think it’s also important to look at the broader issues associated with human trafficking, including the economic and social realities that contribute to the problem”.

    It is estimated that approximately 700,000 persons are trafficked globally each year. A vast majority of these victims are women and children. To combat human trafficking, especially into the sex trade, slavery and involuntary servitude, the Victims of Violence Protection Act was passed by The United States Congress in 2000. That legislation included additional enforcement measures as well as programs to increase outreach and education for human trafficking victims as well as counseling and assistance directed at battered women. Under current Hawaii state law, human traffickers are prosecuted using laws prohibiting extortion, false imprisonment, kidnapping and promoting prostitution. Proponents of SB 2045 view the measure as a more holistic approach in addressing the human trafficking issue.

    ”SB2772 RELATING TO VETERINARY MEDICINE”

    Senate Bill 2722 permits the board of veterinary medicine to revoke or suspend a veterinary license or fine a licensed veterinarian for any conduct or practice that violates recognized principles of veterinary medical ethics. The measure is aimed at enhancing the ability of Hawaii’s veterinarians to regulate and provide detailed ethics standards within their profession. In testimony before the committee on Tuesday, March 10, the Hawaii State Board of Veterinary Examiners noted that while Hawaii’s veterinarians are guided by an ethical standard adopted from the American Veterinary Medical Association, SB2772 will remove many ambiguities by specifically enumerating a set of minimum standards and a form of legal reference.

    “It’s admirable that the Hawaii Veterinary Association welcomes these additional steps to ensure a minimum set of ethical standards for the regulation of their profession,” said Chair Karamatsu. “Additional regulations are usually met with resistance by those they seek to regulate, and I think pet owners should know that Hawaii’s veterinary community is doing what it can to maintain the highest standards of care.”

    ”SB2441 RELATING TO ENDANGERED SPECIES”

    Senate Bill 2441 would make knowingly or intentionally taking a Hawaiian monk seal punishable as a class C felony with a fine of up to $50,000. The bill is designed to provide increased protections for the endangered seal by creating an additional level of penalties that are lacking under current state law. The monk seal is classified as an endangered species under Federal law and in testimony before the committee on Tuesday, March 10, supporters of SB2441 testified despite the protections provided by the Federal Endangered Species Act, the Monk seal continues to be at risk. As an example, many testifiers noted that since 2008, 4 monk seals have been killed in the State of Hawaii, including a mother and her unborn calf.

    “I think we can all recognize that we need to do everything that we can to protect Hawaii’s natural resources and our unique eco system,” said Chair Karamatsu. “If we can craft an effective deterrence with this bill, then I think the committee has sent a strong message that the monk seal deserves our best efforts to ensure that it not only survives but continues to prosper.

    ‘Georgette Deemer is the Director of Communications for the majority party in the Hawaii House of Representatives’

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