Anti-Human Trafficking legislative call-to-action

This is a call-to-action for all Iowa NAHT allies and advocates to contact legislative leaders and your local Iowa representatives and Senator. We ask you to please advocate for an appropriation of $300,000 to continue funding of the Office to Combat Human Trafficking and also House File 161 otherwise known as Erin’s Law. The following are talking points and details on these two issues:

$300,000 Appropriations to the Office to Combat Human Trafficking

First, please send a quick email to your respective representatives and to the two legislative leaders below to express support for the continued state appropriation of $300,000 to the Iowa Department of Public Safety for the funding of the new Office for Human Trafficking. Last year the Governor signed SF2191 which established the Office to Combat Human Trafficking. This was followed by an appropriation of $300,000 in state revenue.

Unfortunately, Governor Branstad did not include this new funding in his 2018 Budget Proposal. However, it is not too late to ask the legislature to continue this funding. Even a cut to this $300,000 would be better than nothing. The Iowa NAHT worked hard to educate the legislature on the importance of creating a state funded Office to Combat Human Trafficking and we must now both thank them for passing SF2191 last year but to also urge that the funding be continued.

In addition to calling or emailing your representatives, please send a quick email to these two legislative leaders:

Erin’s Law – House File 161 filed by Rep. Greg Heartsill

This bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week which means it made it through the first funnel and will soon be debated on the House floor. Now is the time to connect with your representative and to advocate for this important legislation. This is the 4th year that Erin’s law has been introduced and this is the first year that the bill has made it through the committee.

HF161 is listed as a sexual abuse prevention bill. Although there is no mention of human trafficking in the bill, once enacted it will help to prevent the sex trafficking of young children and youth.

While the bill did pass the Judiciary Committee, a few Democrats voted against the bill including Smith from Waterloo, Wolf, Lensing, and Olson. I believe that the minority party has opposed so many republican authored bills this year that this momentum may have more to do with their resistance than the bill itself. Once they hear from you and learn more about the bill, we believe it will pass with bipartisan support. Therefore, the key to passage will be to inform Democrats of how this bill will help both prevent and reveal the sexual exploitation of children.

Erin’s Law is named after childhood sexual assault survivor, author, speaker and activist Erin Merryn. After Erin introduced the legislation in her home state of Illinois, the bill was named “Erin’s Law” after her by legislators. It has been adopted in 26 states (see below).

The most vulnerable group to be lured into sex trafficking are children and youth with a history of sexual abuse by parents or relatives. In addition, children and youth in Iowa’s Foster Care system are also at high risk of being trafficked.

“Erin’s Law” will require that all public schools in Iowa implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program which teaches:

  1. Students in grades preK – 12th grade, age-appropriate techniques to recognize child sexual abuse and tell a trusted adult
  2. School personnel learn about child sexual abuse and warning signs
  3. Parents and guardians learn warning signs of child sexual abuse, plus needed assistance, referral or resource information to support sexually abused children and their families

These state governments have passed Erin’s Law in this order:

  1. Illinois
  2. Indiana
  3. Maine
  4. Missouri
  5. Michigan
  6. Arkansas
  7. Mississippi
  8. Nevada
  9. New Mexico
  10. Utah
  11. Tennessee
  12. New Hampshire
  13. Connecticut
  14. Louisiana
  15. South Carolina
  16. Vermont
  17. Pennsylvania
  18. Rhode Island
  19. California
  20. Texas
  21. West Virginia
  22. Oklahoma
  23. Colorado
  24. Oregon
  25. Alabama
  26. Alaska

Those organizations that filed a declaration of support for the bill includes: The Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking, Blank Children’s Hospitals, Child and Family Policy Center, and Prevent Child Abuse Iowa. If you are affiliated with an organization or association who might add their name to the supporters, we urge you to ask the lobbyist to please so declare.

The Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) has filed as neutral (they filed in opposition the last 3 years.) The opposition has been based on the grounds that Erin’s law is an unfunded mandate.

You should inform your legislators that there are non-profits who will provide training to teachers and evidence based and age appropriate curriculum to the children at no charge to the school. Resources already exist through 73 Child Abuse Prevention Councils covering 93 counties. Other non-profits provide similar curriculum and training including Teens Against Human Trafficking, Braking Traffik and several child welfare agencies.

The Every Student Succeeds Act is mentioned in HF 161 as a source of school funding for sexual abuse prevention, prevention of bullying and harassment, dropout prevention, suicide prevention and other similar programs.

Please reassure legislators that funding and capacity to implement Erin’s Law in Iowa is not a problem.

Thank you for taking action to advocate for Erin’s law. The reality is that this legislation is overdue in Iowa and is in the best interest of student health, welfare, and safety.