Speaker Philip Gunn Statement on Passage of HB 1559

“Last year I made a promise to the people of this state after we passed HB 571 that we would follow it up with strong policy and victim’s services – this bill does that.

Currently Mississippi has one specialized human trafficking shelter for victims and for the minor victims of human trafficking there is no such specialized facility exists in our state for children. These victims and the children of Mississippi deserve better. HB 1559 provides an immediate pathway to fund the process of specialized services for minor victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation because it’s important to provide evidenced based and appropriate services – not just basic services.

Through the creation of the “Victims of Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation Fund” we can take action and immediately address this vital need in our state. This fund will be set up as a special fund in the State Treasury. The monies in this fund will be distributed by DFA in consultation with Mississippians Against Human Trafficking to fund and assist specialized human trafficking and sexual exploitation shelters.

Mississippians Against Human Trafficking is a 501(3) (c) that was formed to meet a vital need for the children and other victims of human trafficking in our state. MSAHT is made up of a distinguished, multidisciplinary group of individuals who are well known in the state as champions of the human trafficking effort. This coalition functions in the same manner as other existing state coalitions, such as the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence. They were chosen as a funding mechanism because of their ability to move quickly in processing money, taking donations and making this happen.

All of the regular state licensing procedures will still apply and the coalition process will not supersede the state licensing procedures of shelters.

I look forward to working with the Senate to ensure passage of HB 1559 to provide some of our state’s most vulnerable with the immediate relief needed to meet an unfortunate demand.”

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