Emergency Preparedness

Passing a New Law to Protect Child Human Trafficking Victims

State legislators work for the people. When there is a community-based problem that can be addressed through legislative action, citizens should voice their concerns to their state representatives.

Recently, I hosted a podcast and discovered a major flaw in the laws of my state regarding protections for child human trafficking victims. This discovery led me to working with several state legislators on the Senate and House side to introduce a new bill that would increase the protections for child human trafficking victims.

From this process, I learned that anyone can work with their state legislative representative to introduce a bill as long as the legislators support the bill. However, there is often an expectation that when you champion a cause – such as proposing a new law to correct a problem – you are expected to do the majority of the legwork to support the legislation.

Different Government Branches Play Different Roles in Passing New Bills

Different government branches play different roles and work together to get legislation passed. The legislative branch is a bicameral legislative body with a House and Senate. Generally, a representative from both the House and Senate side are needed to co-sponsor a bill before it is introduced to the House and Senate floor.

The executive branch involves the state’s governor. Once a bill passes the House and Senate, then the governor needs to sign the bill to make it enforceable.

The judicial branch includes the state Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and Trial Courts. These entities must interpret a new bill when it becomes a law.

The Steps of the L.A.W.S. Process

In the process of getting legislation passed, there are five steps. I refer to these steps as the “L.A.W.S. Process”.

Image courtesy of author with permission from Alicia Hopper.

The first step of getting a bill passed in the L.A.W.S. process begins with laying the groundwork for the new law. It involves conducting research into how new legislation will mitigate a problem.

Researching existing laws and articulating why they do not provide the protections necessary and reviewing other states’ laws is also part of this step. In addition, it’s also necessary to contact your state legislators and request a meeting.

Second, you must articulate to state legislators why the bill is needed. You’ll want to present your research, documentation and any other supporting information that identifies the need for the new law.

Some of this documentation may include opinion letters from sheriffs or state attorneys who describe the need for the new law. If the new bill involves providing protection for victims, victim statements that explain how the proposed bill will protect them are crucial.

The third step in the L.A.W.S. process is to win allies, which may include developing community support. Having your coworkers, neighbors and relatives contact their representatives to support the proposed legislation can be effective. Holding town halls and other meetings to garner public support may be needed in this step.

The fourth and fifth steps are to secure passage of the new bill and to act swiftly, which requires assistance from the legislators and their staff.

Getting a Bill Passed to Protect Child Human Trafficking Victims Is a Lot of Work, But It’s Worthwhile

The process of getting a bill signed into law is a major endeavor. But if there is a strong need for new legislation and enough support for it, then it’s possible. Here is a general overview of the process I call “D.I.C.E.D”:

Image courtesy of author with permission from Alicia Hopper.

Being part of the process to get legislation passed is a rewarding experience, because it can strengthen laws to create more accountability. In addition, it can provide more protection to the residents of our communities and especially to the most vulnerable people such as child human trafficking victims.

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