Human trafficking bill clears Judiciary Committee

TRENTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee released a bill that addresses the problem of sex slavery.

S2239 creates a human trafficking commission, and criminalizes additional activities related to human trafficking as well as upgrades penalties. The bill advanced 12-0-1 with Sen. Ray Lesniak abstaining.

Bill supporters, including sponsor Sen. Nellie Pou, as well as anti-trafficking organizations Love True and Polaris Project, said the bill is critical with the Super Bowl being played in New Jersey in 2014.

Heather Hunt of Love True said the presence of the Super Bowl will make New Jersey a center of demand for sex traffickers. “Victims will be brought in from all over the country,’’ she said.

Rebekah Contarino of Love True said the bill, among other things, will help with education, law enforcement, and in protecting victims.

Committee member Sen. Loretta Weinberg said this has been “the dirty little secret,’’ that such an activity could be occurring in a state such as New Jersey.

Committee Chair Sen. Nicholas Scutari raised one concern with wording in the bill that could hold criminally liable people such as cab drivers who – possibly unknowingly – convey a victim to a trafficker, and Pou expressed willingness to review that aspect and its phrasing.

Other issues that Scutari and other members said need to be clarified include the hotline provisions, and wording that states someone “reasonably should have’’ been aware of a situation.

An Assembly version of the bill is working its way through committees as well. Human trafficking bill clears Judiciary Committee