Kansas human trafficking measure signed into law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Gov. Sam Brownback signed a new law Monday designed to strengthen efforts in Kansas to combat human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of young women.

The governor was joined by Attorney General Derek Schmidt and other victim advocates during the event, saying the new provisions will provide increased criminal penalties and services for victims of sexual exploitation. The law takes effect July 1.

"This will not only strengthen our ability to severely punish traffickers, it will give us valuable new tools to protect vulnerable young victims so they can have hope of a new life and break a cycle of exploitation," Brownback said.

The bill creates the crime of commercial sexual exploitation of a child, covering those ages 14 to 17. It also makes other modifications to Kansas human trafficking laws passed nearly a decade earlier.

The bill will establish a fund that will be financed with fines and forfeiture of property from those convicted of the sex crimes. The revenue will be used to pay for treatment and services for the victims of the crimes.

Schmidt, a former Republican Senate majority leader, joined Brownback in January in proposing the human trafficking changes. Brownback worked on federal trafficking laws in the U.S. Senate with the late Minnesota Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone.

The attorney general said it was difficult to know the extent of human sex trafficking, since often it is a crime that takes place in the shadows, but affects all regions of the state. He has argued that with the new law that Kansas would be a more active partner in cracking down on the crimes under the new legislation.

"This is the first comprehensive anti-human trafficking law in Kansas history. As we have throughout our state's history, Kansas today took another positive step in the struggle for human dignity," Schmidt said.