For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - The Democrat-controlled Legislative Council - the panel of all 10 members of members of Maine state legislative leadership - on Wednesday killed Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough)'s bill to help the victims of human trafficking by allowing courts to vacate their prostitution convictions.
The vote fell along party lines, with the four Republican members voting to let the measure into the upcoming legislative session and the six Democratic members voting in opposition to it. No reasons were given for their votes.
The bill received much attention in the media last week as victim advocates and lawmakers from both parties voiced their support.
"I am rather stunned that Democratic leadership killed this bill to address a major issue facing women," said Rep. Volk. "I had been contacted by women from both parties about cosponsoring the bill and there seemed to be a lot of interest, but for some reason Democratic leadership did not consider it a priority."
Bills submitted for the second regular session of the Maine Legislature, which runs from January through April, must be considered "emergencies." The legislature will take up several hundred such bills.
"Democratic leadership approved many relatively minor bills, and if helping the women who fall victim to sex trafficking isn't a priority, I don't know what is," added Volk. "There are women out there carrying prostitution convictions even though they had no control over their circumstances. Because of today's decision, they may have to wait another year or more to appeal the convictions that are holding them back in terms of jobs and education."
Other House Republican women voiced their concern about the priorities of Democratic leadership.
"We hear a lot about a 'war on women' being waged by Republicans, but this goes to show that the real offenders are oftentimes Democrats," said Rep. Joyce Maker (R-Calais).
"I'm shocked by the priorities of Democratic leaders today," said Rep. Beth Turner (R-Burlington). "This bill should have passed unanimously."
Rep. Volk will have until November 6 to file an appeal of the decision before Legislative Council.
[Photo caption: The Legislative Council meets in its chambers at the State House in Augusta, Oct. 30, 2013.]
Maine House Republicans
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