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SB 1708 has a negative impact of $4,000,000 through the biennium ending August 31, 2017.
SB 1708 would establish a program for the identification, rehabilitation, and treatment of child victims of the sex trafficking. A director would be appointed by the governor to oversee this program and coordinate with other bureaucratic agencies to identify victims who are eligible to receive services under this program. Under the program proposed by this legislation a caseworker would create a customized package of services for the victim’s immediate and long-term rehabilitation and treatment needs. Services provided would be required to address the medical, psychiatric, psychological, safety, and housing needs of victims.
No changes have been made to this legislation in the House committee. The House chamber sponsor is Representative Kuempel.
First chamber recommendation:
Protecting the rights of victims of heinous crime in their recovery process is consistent with individual liberty and is a legitimate role of an effective justice system. However, we note that The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is already assigned to “promote the enforcement of all laws for the protection of abused and neglected children; and take the initiative in all matters involving the interests of children where adequate provision has not already been made" (Sec 264.002, Family Code).
Additionally, DFPS has the authority to assist children’s advocacy centers to “assess victims of child abuse and their families to determine their need for services relating to the investigation of child abuse” and to “coordinate the activities of governmental entities relating to child abuse investigations and delivery of services to child abuse victims and their families (Sec 264.405, Family Code).”
Considering the existing statutory requirements for DFPS to identify and provide services to victims of child abuse it is unclear whether creating a new program to do the same for victims of child sex trafficking is necessary. If child sex trafficking does not sufficiently fit under the definition of child abuse, perhaps a change in definition of the term "child abuse" would be more efficient than creating a new program to fill a role that is the same or similar to something that state is already doing.
While the general aims of this legislation fit within our liberty principles, its mechanisms for achieving those aims are questionable. Given this conflict, we are neutral on SB 1708.