In the late hours of lame duck session, the Ohio House of Representatives voted 82-3 to pass House Bill (HB) 461, legislation introduced by state Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) to bring Ohio law into compliance with federal law in cases involving the human trafficking of minors aged 16 and 17 years old.
“Our children deserve to be rescued, not arrested,” said Fedor. “I’m grateful for the overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats to pass this critical piece of legislation that seeks to protect all of Ohio’s children.”
Ohio is one of the last states that has a force, fraud, or coercion requirement in their child sex trafficking laws. Under current law, Ohio’s age of consent is 16, requiring a prosecutor to prove more to convict a victim who is 16 or 17 years old. HB 461 removes this two-tiered system of treating 16 and 17 year olds differently than other minors picked up for human trafficking.
“This vote is an important signal that human trafficking is a priority for Ohioans and state lawmakers,” said Fedor. “No matter what happens before the end of the year, I trust lawmakers to act quickly so our law enforcement and others can focus their resources on supporting survivors.”
With passage falling late in the legislative calendar, HB 461 will likely die with the 132nd General Assembly. Rep. Fedor, who has authored almost all of Ohio’s human trafficking legislation and will move to the Ohio Senate for the 133rd General Assembly, will continue her advocacy for these protections early next year.