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Support for human trafficking bill growing in wake of news reports

Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, at podium, calls for action on a bill to protect women from human trafficking. Photo by Matthew Dondiego.
May 13, 2014
In response to the recent high-profile kidnappings in Nigeria, a number of Assembly Republicans are pushing for legislation that would increase criminal penalties against human traffickers.

Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, sponsor of the bill (A.8808), held a press conference Tuesday outside the Assembly Chamber Wednesday urging the Legislature to vote on the bill immediately.

"The Assembly majority needs to pass this important piece of legislation as a stand-alone bill, especially in the wake of the tragic kidnapping of girls in Nigeria that has captivated the conscience of the world," said Tenney R–New Hartford.

On the same day, Assembly Democrats held a press conference advocating for the passage of similar legislation called the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act. Tenney called the bill (A.2240-d/S.0587b) "identical" to the one she is sponsoring and said she would be pleased if either was passed.

Both stand-alone pieces of legislation have been mired in the Assembly Codes Committee – chaired by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a staunch supporter of the Women's Equality Act – and have not been put to the floor for a vote.

For much of this legislative session, the Women's Equality Act – a ten-part bill package that includes measures to protect women from violence and discrimination and a proposal to strengthen human trafficking laws – has sparked partisan debate due to a provision that recodifies the state abortion law to align with the federal policy.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted down the omnibus bill saying it should be split up into 10 different bills, but Democratic leaders are intent on keeping the package of legislation together.

Assembly Republicans have chimed in on the subject, saying action needs to be taken on this bill, citing the large number of human trafficking cases that have been reported in the United States in recent years.

"We can take action to prevent these crimes and bring justice to those who have been victimized – we just need the leadership in the state Assembly to bring this long-overdue measure up for a vote," said Assemblyman Mark Johns R–Webster.

"Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident, and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics Task Force on Human Trafficking investigated 2,515 suspected cases from January 2008 to June 2010," said Assemblyman Dave McDonough R–Merrick.

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