Lawmakers nix human trafficking legislation

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By JORDAN SPARR/Montana State News

The 2017 Montana legislative session rejected two bills directed toward fighting human trafficking when worries arose over complicating issues for which laws are already in place.

House Bill 378 was written to revise criminal laws which regard minors and human trafficking, while House Bill 379 set to revise laws requiring escort services and similar industries to verify identities and store records of employees at the risk of a penalty for non-compliance.

House Bill 379 specifically addressed people who advertise on websites such as Backpage and Craigslist with photos for the purpose of marketing. House Bill 278 would have made a change in specifying that exposing a minor to prostitution in any form is illegal.

While trying to crack down on human trafficking in Montana as much as possible, opposition to the bills were centralized around the idea that these revisions needed further revision, and that they didn’t add anything of real value to the existing legislation on the issue. More

Human trafficking is a Big Sky country problem

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By JORDAN SPARR/Montana State news

Montana has seen 315 phone calls to the Human Trafficking Hotline since 2007 from witnesses reporting alleged cases of the crime. The most prevalent form of trafficking taking place through prostitution. The Human Trafficking Hotline has been taking in phone calls and generating statistics on the subject since its inception on Dec. 7, 2007. In 2016, the hotline received 52 separate calls, 15 of which were reports on human trafficking cases.

Looking through the available hotline statistics from 2012 to the present reveals an interesting trend. In 2012 there were 30 calls, 2013 saw 41 calls, 74 calls in 2014, 66 calls in 2015, and the aforementioned 52 calls in 2016. While a steady rise in calls is obvious through the progression of calls over time, the transition from 2015 to 2016 shows a drop in the amount of calls as well as reported cases of human trafficking. More

Bill proposed to address sex trafficking

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By ZACHARY COE/Montana State News

A bill to prevent sex trafficking in Montana was presented to the state House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

Senate Bill 197 is proposed to prevent girls from being abducted from public institutions and sold into sex trafficking. It would require the Office of Public Instruction in collaboration with law enforcement and Montana Department of Health and Human Services, to support schools educating students on the dangers of sex trafficking a district policy.

The bill will be funded through the Department of Justice, as Health Education. Specialists will need to be brought into to educate public schools, and will have a net expenditure of around $90,000 per year with zero net revenue received. The price will fluctuate each year while considering inflation, but should level out around the desired price range for the foreseeable future. More

UM enrollment dropped on heels of rape scandal

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By TIM STOVER and MICHELLE BURGER/Montana State News

The University of Montana student population has been on the decline since the 2011-2012 academic year.

The student population was 15,669 including both undergraduate and graduate as of 2012. However, graduate student population hasn’t suffered in the same way that undergraduate population has.

The graduate student population has fluctuated about 5 percent whereas the undergraduate student population has lost almost 20 percent to date. This 20 percent loss comes from losing roughly 3,000 students from the 2011-2012 academic year to the most recently reported 2015-2016 years.

During the same time period , MSU has grown a total of 12 percent, in undergraduate population. The graduate population at MSU has stayed around a 1 percent margin within the same time period.

Why has the undergraduate program at of U of M declined so much when compared to their counterparts at MSU? More

Trump rhetoric faulted for spike in hate crimes

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By JARED MILLER and RANIA AMPNTEL CHAFINT/Montana State News

The recent presidential election has caused a surge in hate crimes against certain minorities. Hate crimes are offenses motivated by bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity, according to the FBI.

President Trump’s election campaign has caused a surge in hate crimes against black, Muslim, L.G.B.T and Jewish people in 2015, according to the Southern Law Poverty Center, an advocacy group specialized in civil rights. The organization attributed the surge in hate crimes to President Trump’s rhetoric against those minorities during the election.

But presidential elections do not always have a negative effect on hate crimes. After Barack Obama’s election in 2008, race-related hate crimes saw a decline, especially amongst anti-black incidents. In 2008, there were 2,876 incidents reported against blacks to the FBI, compared to 1,745 reported instances in 2015. More

Bill defines ‘consent’ in sex assault cases

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By TIM STOVER/Montana State News

The Montana Legislature is considering  bills to clarify what the definition of force is in sexual assault cases as well as allowing minor victims of sexual assault crimes an increased time period to pursue charges.

Hannah Stark, direct services specialist at Montana State University’s Voice Center said the legislation is a “phenomenal move.” Stark said humans have a third instinct that goes along with fight or flight in times of crisis.

Senate Bill 29 addresses that instinct, freezing. Instead of fighting back, Senate Bill 29 will change the law to address situations in which victims of rape freeze or can’t fight back.

Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, sponsored both of the bills. Currently, the bills have past the third Senate vote and are on track to pass in both the Montana House and Senate Votes. More

Courts expanded to deal with child abuse cases

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By JARED MILLER/Montana State News

The Montana State Legislature is considering a new bill that addresses the increased number of child neglect and abuse cases by appointing more judges in four Montana counties to take them.

The number of child abuse cases in Montana has risen by 155 percent from 2009 to 2015, with case numbers increasing by 244 percent in Great Falls and nearly tripling in Missoula, according to the Great Falls Tribune.

Currently, Montana has 46 district judges available to handle civil cases such as child neglect and abuse, according to the Independent Record, approximately 20 judges short of what the state needs, according to a judicial caseload study. More

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