Since I’ve taken to a new-found “War on Women” with my approach on Georgia’s proposed “Hidden Predator Act,” I figured I would stay consistent and go after the recently dropped “Safe Harbor Act” – also referred to as ‘Rachel’s Law’- addressing Human Trafficking as well. House Bill 244, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Efstration, calls for a complete overhaul of our oversight in regard to ‘adult establishments’ in Georgia while effectively doing nothing to halt sexual exploitation crimes or aid law enforcement in crackdowns. The bill is graphic and disturbing. I recognize that this issue may be a little uncomfortable to discuss for some of our reserved southerners, but that is not the perspective that should guide us here. We should look through the limited government lens and remind ourselves that just because we may not like something, that does not mean we should try to make it go away.
Here is a brief summary of what the bill does:
- Establishes a commission, The Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission, created by appointments by the Governor as well as DFCS employees, to create another layer of government.
- Calls for a $5,000 “operations fee” or 1% of gross revenue PER YEAR, whichever is greater, on adult entertainment establishments (See lines 159-170 for definition of what that is) to be put toward an account, the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, to shelter and rehabilitate victims of human trafficking and other sexual exploitation crimes. Some of the fund is managed by DFCS and the remainder by the state treasury specifically for the SHSEC Fund (lines 189-196). This is in addition to any local fees as well as any other state business operating expenses.
- Allows for commission to apply for federal funds and grants.
- Allows for an expansion of civil forfeiture of assets for those accused of and convicted of these crimes, including but not limited to motor vehicles and monetary funds.
- Requires that any person convicted of human trafficking, or similar offenses, be required to register as a sexual offender.
So, to jump right into it:
- It is indeed a known fact that human trafficking sometimes originates in strip clubs. Not all strip clubs, but some. We have no known data that illustrates any such connection, though. A mere correlation is not enough for legislative action.
- We have a nonprofit sector which was established to fill in where both the public and private sectors fall short. It is acceptable for nonprofits to apply for and accept federal funds and grants, but why – in an era when our State is working to get out of as many federal initiatives as possible- would we work to enact legislation where we would again be at the mercy of the feds when it comes to ANY activity within our state borders?
- The bill calls for extreme oversight and audits of the revenues and expenditures of these establishments by the Department of Revenue. What is the cost of the increased and constant oversight of these establishments?
If this legislation is a war on anything, it is not human trafficking, but strip clubs. $5,000 or 1% of gross revenue (lines 296-300) will effectively close the doors of small establishments with less traffic and cripple the larger ones. Our localities are already waging a war against these establishments, some of which are under consideration in our courts but we are now expanding this crusade in an insincere manner.
Unlike the open, honest, and transparent anti-free market proposals for bans on Uber and Lyft, this legislation is extremely dishonest. If the intent of the legislation is to close these types of establishments all together, then I suggest that any legislator propose such a bill and see how that goes over.
The bill fails to do anything to actually reducing human trafficking as a crime and it offers no true deterrents. Law enforcement agencies have the capability to shut these types of establishments down if they are breaking the law. And I hate to break it to our legislative friends, but the establishments that are actually engaging in human trafficking activities are not going to stop because of an “operational fee.” Criminals don’t follow the law – we know this. We are once again punishing the ‘not guilty’ by casting a wide net on the hope of limiting a few. That is wrong.
Masking this legislation as it tramples the free market and injects more bureaucracy into our state government is a disgrace to this issue and the initiatives of those who are actually trying to put an end to human trafficking. And I am wildly disappointed that Republicans are using an atrocity to expand the size and scope of government…for the children.