- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal announced his support Tuesday of two bills seeking to crack down on human trafficking with the help of a first-person account from Clemmie Greenlee.

Greenlee said she was abducted and gang-raped at the age of 12, then forced into prostitution in cities around the South. She described her gruesome ordeal at a press conference with the governor and lawmakers.

“They pulled me into a car, and they took off, and they took me to a house, and in this house, there were already girls in a basement handcuffed,” she said.

Greenlee said too little attention has been paid to the problem and too few resources to the victims. She said she didn’t know how to get help and ended up in prison for prostitution many times.

Now, she works at Eden House, a New Orleans residential program for women who are victims of sex trafficking or other types of violence, and she said she’s thrilled Jindal made tougher laws against human trafficking a priority for the legislative session.

“There’s a lot of young girls that’s still somewhere tied up in somebody’s basement in somebody’s house,” she said.

The governor is backing a bill (House Bill 1025) by Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, that would create harsher punishments for human trafficking and other crimes related to it.

He’s also supporting a measure (House Bill 569) by Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, that would allow courts to create specialized divisions to handle human trafficking cases, which supporters said would allow judges to better steer victims to support services, rather than jail for drug crimes or prostitution.

“For those monsters who want to prey on innocent women and children … we’re going to make this state the worst place for you to be. Our goal is not to deter you, but to make you extinct and to eradicate our state of this heinous behavior,” Jindal said.

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The House of Representatives has a new member this session.

Rep. Ebony Woodruff, D-Harvey, was sworn in Monday to take a seat representing part of Jefferson Parish. Woodruff, a lawyer, took the job without an election, because no other candidate signed up for the November special election to fill the vacancy.

She replaces Girod Jackson, a Democrat and general contractor who resigned in August after federal authorities charged him with fraud and failing to pay taxes.

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Senate President John Alario was the first recipient of a new award from an association of blind vendors for efforts to increase awareness about the state’s visually-impaired population.

Alario, R-Westwego, was given the Ullo Cane on Tuesday from the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of Louisiana, a nonprofit that represents Louisiana’s blind concession stand managers who operate facilities on federal and state property.

The award was named to honor former Sen. Chris Ullo, who helped create a trust fund for the blind vendors in state law.

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Online:

Louisiana Legislature: www.legis.la.gov

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