Looking Ahead to January 2006

The Chevy Chaser, Lexington

By Susan Westrom
State Representative for the 79th District

By the time you read this, we will be one month closer to our 2006 General Assembly regular session. Many people do not know that productive legislators begin preparing well in advance of the opening day of session. Although we spend the interim increasing our knowledge base in committee meetings, it is also a time to prepare legislation that will be filed in January. I promised in my last article to update you this month about my legislative agenda.

In August, I discussed the growing problem of diploma mills and my plan to reintroduce the bill in January that I filed last session. By that time, I will have testified before the Licensing and Occupations Committee to educate committee members from the House and Senate about the issue. This should assist it in passage when the session rolls around.

In July I wrote about the importance of updating our animal cruelty laws. My bill dealing with this issue is being edited at this time. The original draft came back to me with a section outlawing cockfighting in Kentucky. Anyone who has lived in Kentucky knows that the quickest way to kill a bill regarding animal cruelty legislation is to include that topic. There are people in areas of our state who, whether we agree or not, enjoy cockfighting as a sport of choice. Believe it or not, they have a very loud voice, particularly in rural areas. It is very telling to me that my reading audience responded more to my July article on animal cruelty than on any I have written since becoming a contributor to Chevy Chaser Magazine!

I have redrafted my family-friendly jury bill that I wrote about in April. You may review that on my Web site under “Westrom Editorials.” I am hopeful that more people will get involved by lending their voice, since home caregivers of young children and the fragile elderly often do not have a safety net caregiver, but would gladly serve on jury duty when those responsibilities lift.

I will spend a great deal of energy in 2006 on the topic of human trafficking. In case you have never heard of this term, it is when people are lured by traffickers to leave their home for a foreign destination with promises of employment and prosperity. The perpetrators may recruit through advertisements offering good jobs in exciting cities, or use fraudulent travel, modeling, or matchmaking agencies to lure unsuspecting young men and women-only to steal their official papers and ultimately sell them to be used in trafficking schemes. Human trafficking is now the third largest criminal industry in the world after drugs and arms dealing. The United Nations estimates that up to four million adults and children are trafficked around the world for purposes of forced prostitution and labor every year.

You may wonder what this has to do with Kentucky. I became interested in the human trafficking topic eight years ago when a “spa” was raided in Lexington, and all those arrested for prostitution were foreign-born women. I frequently wondered what was really going on. Two years later, I learned at a meeting in Washington that it was very likely these women were victims of what is now understood to be “human slaves,” or more commonly known as victims of human trafficking. In 2004, two Asian-run massage spas were shut down in Shepherdsville and four people were arrested for promoting prostitution. There is an ongoing case in Louisville involving over 100 people who were ultimately indicted after an eight-year investigation into massage parlor prostitution. It is apparent that Kentucky is a passthrough state for such crimes and most people do not even know it. I believe it is our moral obligation to partner with the U.S. Department of Justice by placing legal consequences for human trafficking at the state level aimed at the perpetrators of this crime. I will refile the bill I sponsored in 2003, which passed the House but did not progress in the Senate due to the short session. This model task force legislation is now pending or has been adopted in 16 states in our country. I will keep you posted on my progress in 2006.

I send my warmest wishes to you and your family as you prepare for your Thanksgiving celebration. This has been a difficult and tumultuous year for our country, and certainly reminds us all of our many blessings. You may reach me at 502-564-8100 in Frankfort. Please visit my Web site at www.susanwestrom.com. My Lexington office number is 859-266-7581. It is an honor to serve you in Frankfort.

Susan Westrom is the State Representative for the 79th District. She can be reached at 1-800-372-7181.
e-mail: [email protected]