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Billings promoting legislation to protect sexually exploited children

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Bill would keep from prosecuting
children forced into prostitution, other activity 

One La Crosse lawmaker is hoping that progress will be made soon to protect sexually exploited children.

Representative Jill Billings is a co-sponsor of the anti-trafficking bill, which got a committee hearing in Madison last week.

She’s continuing to promote a bill introduced last year which would avoid prosecuting children who are forced into prostitution and other illegal activity. Billings says the state needs to recognize that teenagers lured into prostitution are victims, not criminals.

“They don’t need to arrest kids for prostitution in order to keep them safe, now that the Dept. of Children and Families (is) taking them in and providing services for them,” Billings said, adding that the trafficking measure has strong bi-partisan support, including the backing of state attorney general Brad Schimel.

Some critics of the proposal suggest that it might actually prevent law enforcement from providing help to the victims of trafficking.

Billings says the teens are more helpful to police if they’re assured that they won’t face criminal charges.

“When we bring them in they’re more likely to cooperate,” she said. “They’re more likely to help build a case against the traffickers.”

Billings says about 20 other states already have approved similar laws, generally called ‘safe harbor’ bills. Minnesota and Illinois are among those states.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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