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On Taxes and Trafficking

Two Quick Reminders.

First, our annual legislative advocacy day, Catholics at the Capitol, is March 4 at St. Mary Church (across the street from the Capitol). Mass at 8 a.m. Check-in/Registration at 8:30 a.m. Program begins at 9 a.m. and ends by 1:30 p.m. The event keynote speaker is former Governor Kay Orr. There will be legislative updates and advocacy training from NCC Staff. Lunch and meeting with State Senators. Remember the words of Pope Francis: “A good Catholic meddles in politics.” Come meddle with us March 4. Visit www.necatholic.org for registration information.

Second, our two major legislative priority efforts, scholarship tax credits (LB1202) and dismemberment abortion ban (LB814), have their respective committee hearings this week. Take time to pray for their success, pray for Sen. Lou Ann Linehan and Sen. Suzanne Geist who introduced the legislation, respectively, and pray that the minds and hearts of State Senators and others would be moved to see the goodness, truth, and beauty of these efforts. And, of course, let your State Senator know that you support these efforts by making a simple phone call or writing a quick letter or e-mail to their office.

Pope Francis has a knack for using strong language when categorically condemning moral evils. He has compared the evil of abortion to “hiring a hitman” or “resorting to a contract killer to solve a problem.” He has also condemned gender ideology—the notion that a person can choose and change their own gender—as “demonic” and comparable to “the educational policies of Hitler.”

Unsurprisingly, he has also attacked the modern-day form of slavery that is the sex and labor trafficking of human beings. His Holiness has referred to human trafficking as “an atrocious scourge,” an “aberrant plague,” and an “open wound on the body of contemporary society.”

In condemning this profitable industry that deals and trades in human beings, he has called upon the Church “to intervene in every phase of the trafficking of human beings” since “she wants to protect them from deception and solicitation; she wants to find them and free them when they are transported and reduced to slavery; [and] she wants to assist them once they are freed.”

He has also called upon institutions—both public and private—to be “truly effective” in the struggle against human trafficking.

Recently, the Revenue Committee had a public hearing on another notable and worthy attempt in Nebraska to combat human trafficking.

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, who has worked tirelessly the end human trafficking in Nebraska, introduced LB987 which would remove the sales tax exemption on dating and escort services that exists in our state law. The legislation proposes to use these new tax dollars to support the Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Fund, which provides “support care, treatment, and other services for victims of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of a child.”

In our digital age, the growth of outlets where human trafficking can gain a foothold are many. Unfortunately, this includes the proliferation of dating and escort services that are offered through website and mobile applications.

The uptick in dating and escorting services as an avenue for increased human trafficking has particularly grown since federal laws on human trafficking have led to the shutdown of infamous websites like Backpage that served as an internet platform for prostitution and human trafficking. As Nate Grasz of the Nebraska Family Alliance noted in his testimony supporting LB987: “With just a click of a button, traffickers are able to lure in victims with manipulative tactics, often preying on the most defenseless individuals by introducing new ideas of a better life or promise of affection.”

In a 2013 report, the Governor’s Task Force on Human Trafficking, Subcommittee on Research, identified a connection between trafficking, prostitution and escort services, and found that most escort services were not legitimate and likely caught up in human trafficking. In that report, two escort agency owners willing admitted that more than 1,300 minors and adult women were involved in the sex trade. A 2017 study out of Creighton University discovered that, each month, 900 individuals are advertised for sex through online platforms in Nebraska.

While it remains unclear how much new revenue would be brought in by taxing dating and escort services, as the Department of Revenue was unable to calculate this number, this tax on dating and escort services can help create another path forward for more effectively reaching, as a recent Vatican document addressing human trafficking called it, “the ultimate goal is to dismantle and eradicate this most evil and sinful enterprise of deception, entrapment, domination, and exploitation.”

Keep this effort in your prayers and as a part of your advocacy efforts!

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