Senate adopts bills to toughen sex-trafficking penalties, stop mileage tax research

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / CTMirror.org

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff

The Senate unanimously gave final approval early Friday morning to a measure that would widen the definition of human trafficking and toughen the penalties for trafficking and related crimes.

The chamber also adopted a measure Thursday to prevent state transportation officials from even researching the concept of a mileage tax to raise revenues for infrastructure upgrades and expansion.

The trafficking measure, which previously passed in the House and now heads to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s desk, specifically expands the crime to include the commissioning of a sex act for a fee.

Currently, one way to commit the trafficking crime is to compel someone — or induce someone under age 18 — to engage in illegal sexual contact with a third person.

The new measure expands the crime of trafficking to include anyone who takes part in or commissions the recruitment, harboring or transportation of individuals to engage in illegal sexual contact for a fee.

It also increases the penalty from a class B felony — punishable by one to 20 years in prison, a $15,000 fine or both — to a class A felony, punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison, a fine of up to $20,000, or both.

Keith M. Phaneuf / CTMirror.org

Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly

“This legislation makes it crystal clear to perpetrators that we take the crime of human trafficking extremely seriously in our state, and those who perpetrate it will face the same punishment in our courts as they would at the federal level,” said Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly. “Victims of human trafficking face a lifetime of recovery from the trauma of the abuse they suffer at the hands of traffickers, and it is only right that the criminals who inflict that trauma face stiff penalties.”

The measure also replaces patronizing a prostitute with the new crime of commercial sexual abuse of a minor when the victim being procured to engage in sexual conduct is under the age of 18.

The crime is a class B felony if the victim if between ages 15 and 17 and a class A felony is the victim is younger than 15.

Bill would bar future study of mileage tax

A second measure the Senate adopted would prohibit the Department of Transportation from engaging in future study of a mileage tax.

The DOT had entered into a multi-state study to examine how vehicles travel along roads in the Northeast and possible options to raise revenue in connection with that travel.

But Transportation Commissioner James Redeker wrote last month to the regional transportation coalition that was coordinating research into this tax that his agency was halting its involvement because of budgetary issues.

“I regret to inform you that the state of Connecticut must withdraw from the coalition’s project on mileage-based user fees in a multi-state region,” Redeker wrote to the I-95 Corridor Coalition. “I continue to believe this collaborative effort is a great opportunity to learn and gather critical information about a potential future revenue source. Unfortunately, the Connecticut Department of Transportation is now facing large budget cuts that prevent us from providing any state matching funds.”

Redeker added that the DOT was withdrawing “with great reluctance.”

The tax has been the subject of sporadic political jabs between Republicans and Democrats at the Capitol and on the campaign trail since word first broke two years ago that the DOT was researching this revenue-raising option.

“My reaction and the reaction of the Senate Democrats to this concept was quick and clear: a vehicle mileage tax does not have support here in Connecticut,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said. “Today’s bipartisan vote officially puts an end to this debate; however, it is still critically important that Connecticut pursue sensible solutions to fund our transportation infrastructure.”

In other action Thursday and early Friday, the Senate approved bills that would:

  • Require the court to impose electronic monitoring using a global positioning device as a condition of release for anyone convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a minor or aggravated first-degree sexual assault. The measure now heads to the House.
  • Require those selling tickets to most entertainment venues to allow consumers the option of a transferable ticket. The bill was prepared in response to the online sale of “nontransferable tickets.” Patrons seeking to use those tickets often cannot do so unless they also show the credit card used in the purchase when they enter the venue. The bill would allow venues serving fewer than 3,500 people to opt out of this requirement. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

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