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One bill signed into law, second passed by Legislature in battle against sex trafficking

Nebraska lawmakers April 18 gave final approval to one bill and Gov. Pete Ricketts signed another into law in efforts to combat sex trafficking. Senators passed LB1120, which in part restores state licensing and regulation of bring-your-own-drink “bottle clubs.” The 48-0 vote was the last regarding legislation during the Unicameral’s regular 2018 session. Sponsored by Sens. Tyson Larson of O’Neill and Theresa Thibodeau of Omaha, LB1120 was expanded in the session’s final days to reverse the Legislature’s inadvertent 2004 repeal of “bottle club license” statutes. The bill also makes changes in state music-licensing laws governing public venues. Support for reinstating bottle club licenses grew after testimony before a legislative committee reinforced allegations that some bottle clubs function as strip clubs featuring female victims of sex trafficking. Thibodeau, a member of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, worked with Larson and other senators to place bottle-club licensing in the bill. That step will enable law enforcement to inspect such establishments in the same way they inspect bars, she said. LB1120 now goes to Ricketts, who earlier on April 18 signed a bill allowing people who have served time for sex-related crimes to have their convictions set aside and their court records sealed if they can show they were victims of sex trafficking at the time of the incident. That bill, LB1132, also covers nonsexual crimes that sex-trafficking victims were forced to commit while under the control of traffickers. Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks led several cosponsors of the measure, which cleared the Legislature on a 45-0 vote April 11.

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