Wheeler Legislation to Protect Human-Trafficking Victims Signed By Rauner; Law Enforcement Loophole Closed

Though budget stalemate grips Springfield, Gov. Rauner has pressed forward with the signing of two more important pieces of legislation authored by State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake). House Bill 2556 is a victory in the ongoing fight against human-trafficking, while House Bill 341 fixes a conundrum created by the new Medical Cannabis Pilot Program that would have put law enforcement officials at risk in the performance of their duties.

“Human-trafficking is a much more pervasive practice than many of us realize,” said Wheeler. “I’m pleased that Gov. Rauner has joined with many us advocates to help protect victims by signing House Bill 2556 into law. This legislation makes information about a very important resource available to victims and witnesses so that we can take another step closer to ending this horrific practice”

House Bill 2556 creates the Human-Trafficking Resource Center Notice Act. The legislation provides that specified businesses and establishments conspicuously provide information concerning the availability of the National Human-Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC). Not only will this legislation help victims of this heinous crime gain access to the resources they need to overcome the trauma they’ve experienced, but also be an avenue for anyone who observes or suspects trafficking of occurring to be able to report it to the proper authorities.

Since the NHTRC began offering its services in December of 2007, more than 90,000 potential instances of human-trafficking have been reported, leading to nearly 19,000 cases brought against human-traffickers, saving thousands from the emotional and physical torment of this practice. The vast majority of the tips NHTRC has received came not from victims, but by concerned members of the community, which is why making information about NHTRC more readily available to the public is so important.

In addition to the NHTRC legislation being signed, the Governor also signed House Bill 341, which corrects in unintended consequences of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program. Under the new “Compassionate Use” program, law enforcement and corrections officials could have faced criminal charges for performing duties that may have required them to limit access to the program by cannabis use cardholders that are incarcerated, paroled or under supervision. The correction made by HB 341 ensures officials will be safe to perform their legally mandated duties without fear of involuntarily putting themselves at risk because of an unforeseen aspect of the new law.

“This legislation provides an important fix to an unintended aspect of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program,” said Wheeler. “Our state’s law enforcement and corrections officials need to be able to perform their duties without having to second guess themselves because of an unintended consequence of a new law. The credit goes to Bull Valley Police Chief Jim Page for bringing this important issue to my attention.”

For more information about HB 2556 click here. To learn more about human-trafficking and the NHTRC, visit: http://www.traffickingresourcecenter.org/.

Learn more about HB 341 here.