House panel backs Wheeler measure to expand sites required to post sex trafficking notices
Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) will do whatever it takes to help stop sex trafficking in the state.
Wheeler said her amendment to HB4340, which was discussed at Tuesday's House Human Services Committee hearing, adds to the list places where mandatory sex trafficking prevention notifications must be posted to include massage, gaming, tattoo and piercing parlors as well as elementary and secondary education buildings. It also allows businesses that fail to post the notifications to face civil penalties.
Concerned about the massage parlor amendment, Rep. Gregory Harris (D-Chicago) said he has had a lot of massage parlor owners in his district contact him regarding the bill's language and asked for further clarification.
Maureen Mulhall of the American Massage Therapy Association told the panel the bill is the product of a three-year conversation with industry professionals and Wheeler.
“We all have the same goal and that is to put out of business the bad actors out there,” Mulhall said. “The struggle has been how to define those bad actors and have a definition that allows legitimate massage therapist work as opposed to going after the trafficking business.”
The bill will apply to massage parlors with more than two therapists.
“What we find in sex trafficking is it is usually establishments that have multiple people and unfortunately some of them are licensed,” Mulhall said. “Many of them have gotten their licenses with fraudulent credentials.”
“I think that the massage industry has been doing a very good job in closing those loopholes in ways that human trafficking can tunnel through especially federally,” Wheeler said, adding Truckers against Trafficking is another movement at truck and bus stops. “Tattoo parlors also have an organization because many of these women are brought in to be branded.”
Rep. Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) thanked Wheeler for bringing the bill forward before asking for clarification.
“You are just requesting any massage establishment post a notice?” Jesiel asked.
Wheeler, holding up an index-card size notice, said, “This is an example ... it does not have to be banner size, and in a massage parlor it has to be in public view.”
Jesiel asked Mulhall, as a professional therapist for more than 35 years, her opinion on why any business would have have issues with posting such a small notice.
“It is offensive in some ways and it perpetuates the idea of massage and sex together,” Mulhall said. “We have worked hard with continuing education to professionalize the business.”
HB4340 was approved by the committee placed on the House calendar for a second reading.