By Marc Kovac
The Ohio Senate began its deliberations Tuesday on legislation that would increase criminal penalties against those who solicit minors for sex.
HB 130, titled the End Demand Act, passed the Ohio House on a unanimous vote in June and includes more than 80 co-sponsors, with support from Democrats and Republicans.
The Ohio Senate’s criminal-justice committee played host to testimony from the bill’s sponsor Tuesday, giving Rep. Teresa Fedor, D-Toledo, an opportunity to outline the proposed law changes and justify their need.
The bill is the latest in attempt to combat human trafficking, with already-passed legislation increasing criminal penalties against those who force men and women into sex or labor for pay.
Gov. John Kasich, Attorney General Mike DeWine and other state officials also have launched awareness campaigns to draw more attention to what is frequently referred to as modern-day slavery.
Among other provisions, HB 130 would make soliciting a minor for sex for pay a felony crime rather than a misdemeanor, prohibit sex-for-hire advertisements and ban ads for massage services unless the individual offering them is certified by the state.
The bill seeks to levy tougher sanctions for soliciting sex for money regardless of whether perpetrators are aware that their targets are minors or adults.