ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's governor is pushing two changes to state law in a further effort to aid human trafficking victims.
In a Monday news conference, Gov. Brian Kemp said he was backing a bill that would make it easier for people who had been victims to change their names, and another bill that would allow victims or state officials to file civil lawsuits seeking money damages against traffickers.
Kemp said he would also seek a rule change that would require anyone earning or renewing a commercial driver's license to take an anti-trafficking course.
The Republican governor and his wife, Marty Kemp, have pushed a series of changes to state law to try to combat the problem. Earlier steps include opening a shelter for trafficked youth, creating a Georgia Bureau of Investigation unit to investigate crimes, and creating a statewide hotline, 1-866-ENDHTGA.
The name-change bill would allow victims to change their names without advertising the measure in the local newspaper, as is now required, and let them file their petitions under seal with judges. Similar exceptions already exist for victims of family violence.
The lawsuit bill would let a victim sue anyone who knowingly benefited from trafficking for up to 10 years after the action, or up to 10 years after a victim's 18th birthday. The state attorney general could also bring such a lawsuit. Any suits would be frozen until after a criminal case is involved. Kemp said the measure mirrors an existing federal law.
Both bills are supposed to be introduced in coming days.
“Every day, we will continue to be on the lookout for new ways to help and make a difference,” Marty Kemp said. “And I promise you, we will not rest until every victim is rescued and every trafficker is behind bars.”