The Michigan Legislature has given final approval to bills that aim to "fully combat human trafficking and assist victims."
The bills now head to Gov. Rick Snyder.
Among other things, the bills would let victims clear their criminal records. Minors under age 18 suspected of prostitution would be presumed to be trafficking victims, and "johns" soliciting sex from minors would face tougher criminal penalties.
Lawmakers also voted to eliminate the statute of limitations for child exploitation, and extend it to 25 years to bring charges against suspected adult traffickers. Sex buyers who solicit sex from minors would be added to Michigan's sex offender registry.
Many of the bills stem from recommendations made by the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking, headed by Attorney General Bill Schuette and state Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth Township.
In a 2013 report to the Michigan governor and Legislature, the commission found that:
"Practitioners and trafficking experts recognize that there are significant gaps in Michigan’s anti-trafficking laws ... [Other] gaps exist within the state’s human trafficking victim servicing framework and substantial obstacles impede policymakers’ ability to address them, including lack of funding and specialized resources.
Lawmakers hope the policies in the bill will address the issues raised by the commission.
-Ari Sandberg, Michigan Radio Newsroom