Walker visits Hudson, takes aim at child-sex trafficking

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HUDSON -- Gov. Scott Walker used Hudson as his launching pad Tuesday when he signed a bill targeting child-sex trafficking.

“It’s really important that we clamp down on this,” the Republican governor said after signing the legislation at the St. Croix County Government Center in front of local lawmakers and members of the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office.

The new law targets not just child-sex trafficking in Wisconsin, but also provides resources for victims of the crimes, in addition to strengthening the state’s ability to address the number of children being affected by sex trafficking.

The bill, co-authored by Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, and Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, aligns the state with federal law by muscling up on how Wisconsin’s child-welfare system responds to child-sex trafficking cases.

Walker said the need for a response to the issue of child-sex trafficking has been growing, noting that the faith community, especially, has taken aim at the problem. He said he parishioners were “shocked” after hearing about it at his church.

The law adds child-sex trafficking to the definition of Wisconsin’s Children’s Code and mandates child protective services to investigate all cases of suspected child-sex trafficking. It also requires law enforcement to report those cases to child protective services.

That the bill had support from Democrats and Republicans sends a message, Walker said.

“It goes a long way in saying how serious we are,” he said.

Local connections to the issue are not prevalent, but St. Croix County Sheriff John Shilts said that doesn’t mean the new law won’t have an impact into the future.

“It gives us a little more teeth to hold accountable those who would victimize our young people,” he said.

Walker said the law closes a gap that previously existed in Wisconsin. Now, trafficking will be listed as abuse and provides what he called “trauma-informed care” for victims.

“We need every tool” available, he said.