Bill seeks to toughen state’s human trafficking law


LITTLE ROCK — A bill filed Wednesday seeks to toughen the state’s law on human trafficking and provide relief to victims of the crime.

House Bill 1203 by Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway, titled the Human Trafficking Act of 2013, would expand the definition of human trafficking and make it a Class Y felony punishable by 10 to 40 years or life in prison. It also would allow victims to collect restitution, allow the attorney general to create a task force on human trafficking and allow a person accused of prostitution to claim as a defense that the prostitution was the result of being the victim of human trafficking.

Meeks said Wednesday he worked on the bill with several legislators in the House and Senate, as well as the attorney general’s office, and said he was confident it would become law.

“It’s something that we have to stop because it is modern-day slavery,” he said. “We need to not only combat it but we also have to help the victims of this crime.”

House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, said he applauded Meeks for his work to address the issue.

“I support his efforts, and I think there should be a lot of support for his bill in the House and hopefully in the Senate,” Carter said.

Also Wednesday, Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home, filed a bill to limit the time student athletes spend on the road.

Under Senate Bill 203, a school district could transport a student athlete no more than 125 miles one way from the student’s school to a conference event held Monday through Friday during a week when school is in session.

The restriction would not apply to a non-conference athletic even or an athletic tournament.

The bill states that its intent is to reduce the loss of instructional time for a student athlete.

Also Wednesday:

—Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, filed SB 216, which would make the election of sheriffs nonpartisan.

—Rep. John Hutchison, R-Harrisburg, filed HB 1209, which would allow the governor to name a state artist laureate.