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Bill sets new penalties for property owners who rent to human traffickers

DES MOINES — The Iowa House and Senate have unanimously voted to give prosecutors another legal tool to crack down on human trafficking.

It targets people who set up businesses like nail and hair salons, spas, and massage parlors, with workers who are actually victims of human trafficking.

“This bill establishes a crime for knowingly letting your property be used for human trafficking,” Rep. Megan Jones of Sioux Rapids said during House debate. “…One really interesting part of this bill and I really appreciate this that the victims’ advocates brought this forward is that it provides restorative justice as a form of restitution.”

Victims of human trafficking will be able to avoid charges if they’re caught being forced to work in one of these businesses. Senator Brad Zaun of Johnson said the bill makes it harder to try to run an illicit spa or massage business using forced labor.

“We are in the state of Iowa to have Interstate 80 and Interstate 35 which brings a lot of business to the state of Iowa,” Zaun said during Senate debate. “Unfortunately, it brings a lot of despicable human beings that are abusing other humans in regards to human trafficking. This bill really just clamps down on the landowners that own these businesses that know what’s going on.”

The bill first passed the House on March 8. The Senate gave it final approval last week. The bill also calls on the Iowa Public Safety Commissioner to establish a task force on human trafficking to understand the scope of the problem in Iowa and identify services for victims.

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