Human trafficking immunity amended, advanced

Lawmakers amended and advanced a bill from select file March 21 that would provide legal immunity to victims of human trafficking.

LB843, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, proposed legal immunity from prostitution charges for any person proven by law enforcement to be a victim of labor or sex trafficking.

Omaha Sen. Burke Harr introduced an amendment, adopted 32-1, that instead would allow a person charged with prostitution to file a motion to dismiss the charge if he or she can provide written evidence that they were a victim of human trafficking.

Harr said the amendment would properly place the burden of proof on the person charged.

“We have to be very careful when, where and how we give immunity,” he said. “When we do provide immunity, we have to ensure there is built-in accountability.”

The bill includes provisions of LB1097, originally introduced by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld and adopted on general file. These provisions would create the Sexual Assault Payment Program to pay up to $500 for out-of-pocket costs associated with sexual assault medical examinations. Currently, the patient covers the costs for such examinations directly or submits a claim to his or her insurance.

Associated costs covered would include patient examination and interview, collection and evaluation of physical evidence, facility fees and laboratory processing fees.

A program administrator would distribute forensic medical examination kits to health care providers at no cost to the providers and oversee examination training throughout the state.

Senators advanced the bill to final reading by voice vote.

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