TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - Ohio Gov. John Kasich was in Toledo Wednesday morning to sign House Bill 262, which aims to end human trafficking in Ohio.
Human trafficking is now a first-degree felony punishable up to 15 years in prison.
The measure also creates a fund to help victims who are often forced into the sex trade or pushed to work in the fields, restaurants, and other sweatshop type jobs. The Safe Harbor Bill creates a path for victims to have their records expunged if they have prostitution or solicitation charges as a result of being forced into the sex trade. It also requires Ohio job and family services, along with the Department of Mental Health, to develop services to assist victims.
"We're standing up and we're fighting. We're engaging in this war. So whether it is the judiciary, the prosecutors, the highway patrol, or whether it is those people who want to help these people recover their lives. ‘Cause they can," said Kasich.
A state task force estimated each year, more than 1,000 Ohio children become victims of human trafficking.
"If you're true public servants, you're going to do the right thing, and what you see here today is the right thing. The health and well-being of our children, each and every one of us needs to pay attention to that," said state Rep. Teresa Fedor.
In a show of strong bi-partisan support, Democrats and Republicans, at least on this issue, are standing united for a common cause.
"This was one of those moments where people crossed partisan lines, people crossed ideological lines to do the right thing. There's no higher calling in government than fighting for those who can't fight for themselves," explained state Sen. Mark Wagoner.
Unlike other bills signed into law, which take 30 days to take effect, this law goes into effect immediately as a result of an emergency clause.
Copyright 2012 Toledo News Now. All rights reserved.