June 23, 2023
One thing is certain — the 88th Texas Legislative Session did not have a dull moment. From debates on key issues to an unexpected impeachment, it has been one for the books.
With regard to human trafficking legislation, this session was a mixed bag. While we had some major wins, there were also a few major losses.
The Texas Human Trafficking Taskforce's omnibus bill (SB 1527), which included multiple recommendations from stakeholders, achieved a major victory as it passed and has already been signed into law by Governor Abbot. Among needed statutory clean-up, SB 1527 adds the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) to the task force, expands protections for victims with disabilities, increases the ability for outcry testimonials to be included in trafficking trials, and expands penalties for child pornography charges. SB 1527 is a superb piece of legislation and it will have direct benefits to victims and survivors across our state.
SB 483 represents significant progress in our fight against illicit massage establishments throughout Texas. Under this law, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) now has the ability to see and consider an individual's criminal record before issuing a permit for a massage establishment. It also requires TDLR to deny or revoke a license for individuals that enter a plea of no-contest or guilty for a prostitution offense or other related sexual offense. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this bill protects survivors and provides a way for them be able to work in the massage industry after they are rehabilitated.
HB 2313 is a major win as it requires rideshare companies to train their drivers annually on ways to identify human trafficking. We know that many drivers for these companies are unknowingly transporting victims and this bill represents a step forward in including this aspect of a traffickers business model in the fight. A huge thanks to our partner Children at Risk for leading the charged on this needed change.
Anti-human trafficking advocates appreciate the 88th Texas Legislature’s efforts to combat human trafficking. One particular win this Session is the new requirement for Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s) to provide training for drivers on how to recognize and report human trafficking. This is an important step in protecting vulnerable individuals and disrupting criminal activity. - Mandi Kimball, Vice President & Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs, Children at Risk
Lastly in the major wins category, HB 3536 amends current statue regulating commercial landlords and allows them to terminate a massage therapy lease for an operator not acting in compliance with the rules and regulations around massage establishments. This bill is targeted at removing illicit massage businesses, one of the fasting growing sectors for human trafficking.
Unfortunately, a few incredibly important bills died at the end of this session, including the policies we covered in our Explainer Series: HB 327 and HB 1136. It is likely that time was our primary enemy and these two bills will be our team’s first priority next session.
HB 327 allows victims to claim duress as a defense while HB 1136 increases the penalties for traffickers. For an in-depth conversation, please review the policy explainer videos to learn more, and stay tuned for how you can help get these important bills done next session.
The 88th Legislative session has been a successful endeavor regarding human trafficking bills. This session lawmakers addressed traffickers targeting adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, increased penalties for the possession of child pornography, and created offenses for child grooming. There were several bills that did not make it through the process including the regulation of white-label ATMs (HB350/SB337), minor decriminalization of prostitution (HB 1059), and providing opportunities for employer incentives to hire survivors of human trafficking. We are looking forward to the 89th session to continue advocating for stronger protective factors and restorative services for victims of human trafficking. - Rhonda Kuykendall, Anti-Child Trafficking Consultant, Texas CASA
Policy work is never quick and certainly never easy, but we are proud to play a role to ensure that human trafficking policy is data-informed and best serves survivors. We are not finished by any means and will continue to fight the good fight next session. Stay tuned.
Till everyone is free,