By Associated Press - Friday, February 10, 2017

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is pushing for changes that would strengthen state laws against human trafficking, including new measures to combat sex tourism and child pornography on the internet.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday introduced a bill containing Schmidt’s proposals.

“Kansas has made great strides in combating this crime against human dignity,” Schmidt said in a statement. “But there is more we can do. Kansas should be in the top tier of states leading the fight against human trafficking, and this legislation will help us get there.”

Kansas lawmakers enacted the state’s first laws against human trafficking in 2005 and updated them again in 2010 and 2015.

The attorney general’s office said Friday that victim-assistance groups identified 463 victims of human trafficking during the state’s 2016 fiscal year, which ended June 30, an increase of 32 percent over fiscal 2014. The National Human Trafficking Hotline says on its website that it received 51 reports of human trafficking from Kansas last year.

Schmidt’s proposed changes would specifically make it a felony to knowingly sell travel services for sex tourism. Another change would create a new felony crime of trading in child pornography over the Internet.

A sex-tourism conviction could result in 32 months in prison for a first-time offender. A pornography-trading conviction could result in a sentence of nearly five years and far longer if the child is under 14.

The bill also would increase the penalties for buying sex with a minor so that the presumed prison sentence for a first-time offender would nearly double to almost five years.

Also, the legislation would make it clear in state law that minors can never consent to trafficking.

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