State senator tries to prod action on bill
Wednesday, November 10, 2010 11:43 PM
By Alan Johnson
The Columbus Dispatch
Asked about the fate of a proposed human-trafficking law she's been working on for two years, state Sen. Teresa Fedor didn't have to think long about it.
"Two words: lame duck," she said.
Indeed, a lame-duck session of the General Assembly later this year will decide whether Ohio joins 43 states with stand-alone laws or remains a haven for those who traffic in people for sex or labor.
"I dare them not to" pass the bill, the Toledo Democrat said today at a Statehouse news conference. "We're going to be held accountable for not doing anything."
She was joined by members of the new Abolition Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition in the Dayton area. Also backing a tougher law are federally supported human-trafficking coalitions in Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.
Despite Fedor's challenge, and the lobbying of hundreds of supporters statewide, chances are slim that the trafficking proposal will even be considered in an abbreviated lame-duck legislative session. Ohio Senate President Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland, has made it clear that he intends to severely limit the session, possibly just to reject several appointments by outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland.
That would mean starting over with a new trafficking bill in the legislative session scheduled to begin in January.
Mark Ensalaco, a University of Dayton professor, human-rights expert and member of Abolition Ohio, said passage of the bill is "critically important."
"Trafficking is here, and society has a moral obligation to abolish trafficking and free all slaves from captivity," he said.
Ensalaco, who has studied human-rights violations, including kidnapping and torture, for 25 years, said trafficking is "a monster of a very different nature" because it's based on greed, not politics.
Human trafficking is second only to the illegal drug trade in worldwide crimes.
The Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission, established last year by Attorney General Richard Cordray, found that more than 1,000 Ohioans younger than 18 were victims in the past year. Thousands more were at risk, along with hundreds of immigrants who were forced to work for little or no pay.
Fedor's proposal is supported by both Democrats and Republicans. If adopted, it would give Ohio one of the strongest human-trafficking laws in the country. The measure would create a felony-level offense of trafficking in people, expand existing law to include forced labor, and make it a first-degree felony to compel a person younger than 16 to engage in prostitution.
Cordray lost his re-election bid to Republican Mike DeWine, a former U.S. senator, lieutenant governor and county prosecutor. DeWine told The Dispatch that he is "very interested" in continuing the work of the human-trafficking commission after he takes office Jan. 10. He said he has not studied the law to see what changes are needed.
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