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House panel combines human trafficking bill with proposal spurred by Hazard shooting

State Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard

State Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – A House proposal to strengthen Kentucky’s human trafficking laws was added Tuesday to a Senate bill that would provide safe child custody exchanges between separated couples.

The House Judiciary Committee revised SB 141, a measure sponsored by Sen. Brandon Smith in the wake of the January shooting in Hazard between a separated couple that left three people dead, by adding to it House Bill 3, the human trafficking measure.

Smith said after the committee meeting that he does not know how his revised bill will fare in the Senate, where the human trafficking bill has been stalled in the Senate budget committee since Feb. 21.

He said he thinks both measures “strike at the heart of despicable actions.”

Smith’s bill defines “safe child drop-off locations” and says courts can require that such areas be used in cases of separation agreements, divorces or temporary custody orders. A safe drop-off spot would include any state or local government building where access is limited and security measures are in place.

On Jan. 15, Dalton Stidham, 21, allegedly shot and killed Caitlyn Cornett, Jackie Cornett and Taylor Cornett in the parking lot at Hazard Community and Technical College. He shared custody of a 2-year-old boy with Caitlyn Cornett. The estranged couple was supposed to exchange their son in the parking lot.

The human trafficking measure, sponsored by Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, would establish a special division within the Kentucky State Police to identify and investigate those involved in human trafficking.

The legislation would create a Human Trafficking Victims Fund so fines and asset seizures would pay for programs that serve children and other victims of human trafficking. The bill also would increase fines and penalties for commercial sexual exploitation of children.

The revised SB 141 is expected to clear the House this week and then go back to the Senate for its consideration.

Some Republican members on the House Judiciary Committee complained about attaching the human trafficking bill to the child drop-off measure, but Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, said time is fleeting in this year’s General Assembly. Tuesday marked the 24th day of the 30-day session.

Filed Under: KY General Assembly

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