LINCOLN — The Nebraska Legislature advanced a bill Thursday that would make sex trafficking of juveniles a form of child abuse.
As lawmakers prepared to break for a four-day holiday weekend, they gave 25-0 first-round approval to the bill, which would also allow prosecutors to file felony charges against those who solicit children for sex.
Legislative Bill 255 was introduced by State Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln and was designated a priority by Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams of York. It must survive two more votes before it can be sent to the governor.
Another provision of the bill would provide immunity from criminal charges for minors forced into prostitution. It also requires a state task force on human trafficking to recommend special services for people who escape from the sex trade.
The task force is working on a report that will shed more light on the scope of human trafficking. The report is expected to be submitted to state officials in July.
The number of people forced into slavery or prostitution in Nebraska is unknown.
Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln offered an amendment to increase the fines from $250 to $500 for johns who solicit prostitutes. He withdrew the amendment after Sen. Pete Pirsch of Omaha suggested the fines could be levied against prostitutes who solicit johns.
“It's not my intent to further punish prostitutes,” Coash said.
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