Human trafficking is a problem that the Texas Legislature is taking seriously.
On May 6, the Texas House of Representatives unanimously passed Senate Bill 315, which aims to curb human trafficking, in part by raising the minimum age for individuals working in sexually oriented businesses to 21. The bill also makes it a criminal offense for business owners to employ underage individuals. A majority of the legislation’s sponsors hail from the Houston and Dallas regions, areas known to be human trafficking hotspots.
The minimum age is something that many advocates have been working toward, including Jade James, mother of an 18-year-old who died in a drunk-driving crash after leaving the strip club where she worked.
James was among others who testified in front of legislators before the passage of SB 315.
The Texas Attorney General testified on April 9 in a House Committee that law enforcement would be able to recognize human trafficking of minors if the state raised the minimum age to work in sexually oriented businesses.
Last month, state Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Sugar Land) said approximately 79,000 adults and minors have been trafficked in the state.
“Texas is the second-worst state in the country for sex trafficking,” said Jetton.
On May 6, Gov. Greg Abbott spoke out in support of legislators who worked to pass SB 315.
“Thank you Sen. @JoanHuffman & Rep. @Toddahunter for championing #SB315, a crucial bill that helps combat human trafficking related to sexually oriented businesses. Because of their efforts, SB315 just passed its third reading. TX is committed to eradicating human trafficking,” Abbot wrote in a May 6 tweet.