TOPEKA — The Kansas House on Tuesday advanced a bill strengthening penalties for human trafficking and related activities.

Urging the chamber to support the measure, Rep. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, told the story of a 20-year-old woman kidnapped in Iowa and taken to Virginia. She was near death when rescued by law enforcement and had been subjected to rape and torture by traffickers selling her for sex.

“We have the opportunity to strike a blow” against this crime, Finch said. “We stand against it. We stand with the victims.”

Fellow Republican Rep. Eric Smith, a deputy sheriff in Coffey County, described his own experiences in law enforcement, warning that Kansas is a hub of human trafficking and should take the opportunity to help “find the young victims who are being transported around the country.”

The bill passed a preliminary voice vote and will still need to pass a final action vote.

It would expand on or amend multiple portions of Kansas’ criminal statutes, adding new layers to laws against sexual exploitation.

A few examples include:

Declaring it a felony to use any form of writing or other communication to commit human trafficking, sell sex or carry out other related crimes.

Making it illegal to promote travel for child exploitation and creating a new crime related to Internet trading in child pornography.

Increasing potential fines for people caught buying sex.

Requiring individuals convicted of promoting the sale of sex to register as sexually violent criminals for 15 years.

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