The Arizona Legislature signed off on more strict sentencing requirements for a variety of child sex crimes on Wednesday, sending the bill to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk for final approval.
HB 2889 – introduced by Rep. Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu City) – passed through the State Senate unanimously on Monday with a 30-0 vote. The House of Representative, which originally passed the legislation with a 51-1 vote back on March 1, reconsidered the bill on Wednesday to approve a few small technical changes made in the senate and passed the bill again – this time with a 57-1 vote.
The bill will now be sent to the Governor’s Office, where Ducey will have five days to either sign it or veto it – though Biasiucci said he is confident that Ducey will sign the bill into law.
Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley (D-District 9) was the only legislator in either chamber to vote against the bill. She has said that she opposes the bill because she is against all mandatory sentencing guidelines.
The bill increases mandatory sentencing ranges and eliminates early release options for those convicted of human sex trafficking, especially child sex trafficking, as well as creating or distributing child pornography. It also increases the penalty for repeat offenders to life in prison. Biasiucci has said that the changes will give Arizona some of the harshest child sex laws in the entire country.
Biasiucci said he began tackling the issue after learning that some child sex criminals in Arizona are able to take advantage of loopholes to get out of prison early.
“Even if somebody got 10 or 15 years for child sex trafficking, in certain situations they were able to get out in just a couple years,” Biasiucci said. “I just thought that not only was that wrong, but how do you allow somebody to be released after they have done that to a child? So I wanted to make sure that these people were going to prison for the entire sentence without parole. They should suffer the consequences of doing something so outrageous as that – you are talking about ruining a child’s life.”
Biasiucci said the issue has been ignored for too long because it is an uncomfortable subject to talk about. But when it was brought up this year it has seen wide support from Republicans and Democrats alike.
“I think bringing this bill forward really brought out people’s support and they were able to speak up,” Biasiucci said. “I think that is why it is such a bipartisan thing. It doesn’t matter what political party you are part of, a victim is a victim. So I think we all came together because this is the right thing to do and we are trying to make a statement that Arizona is not going to allow this kind of behavior to happen.”
Ultimately, Biasiucci said he hopes the bill will help to chip away at the human trafficking and sex trafficking operations in the state – which he said is a multi-billion dollar industry.
“Right now the punishment is not sever enough for these people to stop,” he said. “They continue doing it – it isn’t even phasing them. So I think when you do something like this where second offenders get life in prison and there is no chance of parole or early release, I’m hopeful that those people will think twice before they go down that path… We will find out in a few years if it is working.”