The House unanimously passed a bill Monday night that makes it a felony to advertise the commercial sexual exploitation of a minor.
The chamber passed the bill 149-0 after less than 10 minutes of debate.
“In our state and in our cities and towns, we do have an issue with those young people who are being victimized and are being advertised when it comes to escort services,” Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Gerald Fox said. “What this bill would do is make it clear that such activity is a crime.”
Fox said people can currently place ads and sexually exploit young people. The bill makes it a Class C felony — punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 — to either knowingly place such an ad or place one without investigating the age of the individual advertised.
Rep. Jeffrey Berger, D-Waterbury, said the issue comes down to the prostitution of children as young as 13 years old. He said that even raising the bill and holding hearings on it has resulted in many of the ads being pulled.
A previous incarnation of the bill would have made newspaper and magazine publishers guilty of a felony for publishing an ad depicting a minor. That provision was scrapped over concerns that it violated the First Amendment.
The bill will still need to be passed by the Senate before the legislative session ends Wednesday at midnight.