Human trafficking law represents long fight of late state representative
JEFFERSON CITY – State lawmakers are honoring the efforts of Rep. Cloria Brown, who recently died of cancer, by raising awareness of human trafficking.
“Her goal was to give human trafficking victims the chance to see that there is help and there is a way to escape from the hellish life that human traffickers subject them to,” said Sen. Robert Onder, R-St. Charles County.
The Missouri Legislature passed a bill in March that would require businesses in high-trafficking areas put up posters with the hotline number on them.
Brown originally introduced the bill in 2015 in the House and fought to see it become law.
Brown was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year and died in early March. She asked Rep. Patricia Pike, R- Adrian, to sponsor the measure in the House.
Pike said, “I became aware of this issue about 10 years ago. But as I became a legislator, Cloria was the one who inspired me to take this issue on to learn more about it.”
Many lawmakers had immense respect for Brown. She asked Onder if he would sponsor the bill in the Senate. He agreed, remembering his time working in an emergency room.
"Looking back, those of us who came in contact with these women and sometimes young men, we didn't have the awareness back then that this isn't always a voluntary relationship between the prostitute and the person with them," Onder said.
Areas known to attract human traffickers include lodging, emergency rooms, strip clubs and truck stops.
Brown had dedicated time and service to various anti-trafficking organizations including the St. Louis Refuge Home, and she sponsored Monarch Jewelry, which remakes old jewelry, with the proceeds going toward crisis aid.
"We all wanted to stand behind her," Pike said. "And to show that not only did we as representatives and senators feel that this was an important issue for Missouri, but also for recognizing her work."
Pike and Onder wanted to honor Brown’s legacy having the bill made into law before Brown died. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Greitens 17 days before she died.
“It was an emotional time in the sense that this is one last great act of public service that Cloria was performing while she was still with us,” Onder said.
Senator Jamilah Nasheed, D-St.Louis is currently working on a bill that would wipe clean the criminal prostitution records of trafficking victims.