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SD panel OKs bill on human trafficking

By Nora Hertel

PIERRE — One of three bills regarding human trafficking passed the South Dakota House Judiciary Committee on Friday, a measure that would help victims sue their perpetrators.

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The two rejected measures doubled efforts already in place, lawmakers said, one requiring the state to make a plan to assist victims and educate the public and the other allowing the state courts to clear convictions committed as a result of trafficking, such as prostitution.

“Each one is as crucially important as the next,” said Rep. Jenna Haggar, the sponsor of all three bills, “and they tackle different perspectives on the bigger statewide issue of human trafficking.”

But the Sioux Falls Republican was successful only with the one that helps victims form a civil case and file for damages against their trafficker. Haggar said she was disappointed with the results.

“We need to start helping them before they’re prosecuted,” she said.

Several groups spoke in support of all three bills, including the South Dakota Family Policy Council and Concerned Women for America.

“It’s a form of slavery. It’s force, fraud or coercion,” said Mark Chase of the Family Policy Council.