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Legislature sends mandatory life sentence for sex traffickers to Arizona ballots

Arizona voters will decide in November whether the state should impose a mandatory life sentence on adults convicted of child sex trafficking.

The measure would impose the sentence on any adult who is convicted of a class 2 felony for sex trafficking, which includes causing a minor to engage in prostitution. 

Rep. Selina Bliss (R-Prescott) said the ballot referral sends an important message.

“We’re sending a strong message here in Arizona that our children are not for sale. Not now, not ever,” Bliss said. 

The ballot referral passed through the Arizona Senate last week with some bipartisan support but received only Republican votes in the Arizona House. 

Rep. Analise Ortiz (D-Phoenix) said it could unintentionally target minors who are victims of sex trafficking themselves. 

“This is something that the experts in sex trafficking know it happens that there are victims who are used to coerce other victims into the trade,” Ortiz said. “That is the harsh reality, and we do not want those minors who have been severely traumatized locked up because of this bill.”  

Ortiz unsuccessfully lobbied Republicans to amend the legislation to exempt those victims before sending it to voters.

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Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.