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Georgia SB 42 signing Kemp

First lady Marty Kemp, GRACE Commission step up state’s fight against human trafficking

Apr 14, 2023

The Gist

When first lady Marty Kemp, her three daughters and Gov. Brian Kemp walked out of a workshop on human trafficking in 2019, Marty Kemp knew what she had to do.

Four years later, her push to end human trafficking in Georgia continues to make headway, this time in businesses statewide.

On Tuesday, Gov. Kemp, flanked by first lady Marty and members of the GRACE Commission, signed a bill into law that will increase awareness and enforcement against human trafficking in Georgia and raise fines for businesses that fail to display required signage for the Human Trafficking Hotline.

The proposed legislation, which became Senate Bill 42, was brought to Marty Kemp by constituents who knew of some businesses not posting the signage, as required by a law passed in 2013. They suggested an increase in fines, which at the time were optional and carried a maximum of $500 for the first offense.

What's Happening

The law, which received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Georgia General Assembly, sets minimum and maximum fines for businesses that do not comply with displaying Human Trafficking Hotline signage that connects potential victims and concerned citizens to help and resources.

Under the new law, first-time offenders will face fines between $500 and $1,000, while repeat offenders may receive fines between $1,000 and $5,000.

"Human trafficking is a reprehensible crime that has no place in our state or our country. By signing SB 42 into law, we are once again sending a message that we will not rest until we have secured justice for victims and removed this evil from our communities," Gov. Kemp said during the signing ceremony in the Governor’s Mansion.

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The law gives businesses 30 days to post the appropriate signage if a law enforcement officer notifies them of their noncompliance.

Bill sponsor Sen. Mike Hodges, R-Brunswick, said that because these posters are available online for businesses to download, there is no burden on them to post them.

“Quite frankly, this bill gives a little more teeth to an effort to take this human trafficking issue more seriously,” he said.

State law mandates that businesses post the sign in English and Spanish in a conspicuous place. Among businesses required to comply are adult entertainment establishments, bars, transportation hubs, truck stops, emergency rooms and urgent care centers, highway rest areas, tattoo parlors and hotels.

Why It Matters

According to the Human Trafficking and the State Courts Collaborative, Georgia and the city of Atlanta rank among the most prolific hubs for human trafficking, especially of young girls. The National Human Trafficking Hotline has reported receiving over 1,500 calls from Georgia since 2012, leading to the identification of more than 500 potential cases. Nearly 4 in every 100,000 people in the state are human trafficking victims, making the state seventh in the nation, reported the Collaborative.

The City of Atlanta was ranked second in the country for human trafficking, and Hannah Palmquist with the Georgia Department of Law’s (attorney general’s office) Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit said they recovered 116 children just last year.

Numbers like that propelled the first lady into action. 

In February 2019, Marty Kemp and Gov. Kemp created the Georgian for Refuge, Action, Compassion & Education (GRACE) Commission, co-chaired by Marty Kemp, to combat human trafficking in Georgia. In January of the following year, Marty Kemp and the commission, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Administrative Services, initiated Human Trafficking Awareness Training.

“In January 2019, my family and I attended a human trafficking awareness event called ‘Stop Traffic” at Atlanta Station. It was an eye-opening experience for all of us, illustrating how many innocent people across Georgia are victimized by human trafficking,” the first lady said in a video introducing the training for state employees and the general public. “As a mother to these three smart, beautiful women, I knew that we needed to take action. We cannot allow this terrible criminal industry to plague our state, every community across Georgia, and take advantage of our most vulnerable,” she said.

SB 42 encourages more businesses to display hotline information, potentially saving lives and connecting victims with the help they need.

”Human trafficking is a heinous crime that preys on the vulnerable and robs individuals of their freedom,” Marty Kemp said at Tuesday’s signing. “We must continue to work together, across all levels of government and with our community partners, to end this scourge and provide justice for survivors."

The GRACE Commission, composed of representatives from public organizations, law enforcement, faith-based institutions and other groups, aims to educate people about the signs associated with human trafficking and the steps they can take to save a victim.

Rep. Deborah Silcox, R-Sandy Springs, in a March hearing with the House Committee on Judiciary Non-Civil, said she knew three women whose lives were saved when they saw the signage and called the hotline. Silcox in 2019 had penned legislation (HB 424) to make certain sex crimes, including trafficking, part of the definition of criminal gang activity.

What's Next

Businesses across the state have 30 days to comply once they’ve been notified of noncompliance. The Human Trafficking Hotline Notice can be downloaded here for free.

The GRACE Commission will continue collaborating with local, state and federal partners to develop and implement new strategies and initiatives in the fight against human trafficking.

Monitoring the effectiveness of the hotline and the impact of increased fines will be crucial in shaping future policy decisions, say officials, who added that analyzing data on the number of calls the hotline receives will provide valuable information on the prevalence of human trafficking in Georgia.

Anyone with information or suspicions of human trafficking can call the state hotline at 866-ENDHTGA (866-363-4482) to speak with trained law enforcement agents, advocates and first responders.

Rohan Movva is State Affairs’ intern writer in Georgia. A lifelong native of the Peach State, he’s proudly rooted in Georgia's rich culture and charm.

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Header image: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs into law Senate Bill 42 on April 11, 2023, as first lady Marty Kemp sits beside him. Lawmakers, officials, and members of the GRACE Commission stand behind them. (Credit: Rohan Movva for State Affairs)