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Labrador Letter: Legislative Update

Dear Friends,

The legislative session is drawing to a close and I wanted to provide you with a quick update on three bills of significant importance to my office, on the topics of Human Trafficking, Medicaid Fraud, and Internet Crimes Against Children. I am pleased to share that all three of these bills have moved forward successfully.

The first bill is a complete re-write of Idaho’s Human Trafficking statutes and was prompted by a report my office was asked to compile and present in January. House Bill 494 represents my recommendations and gives key tools to law enforcement in their efforts to combat human trafficking, both labor trafficking and sex trafficking. The revisions also make Idaho’s human trafficking laws more victim-centered which includes a change in language from “prostitution” to “commercial sexual activity” and an affirmative defense to providing commercial sexual activity that the alleged perpetrator was the victim of human trafficking. The changes also give law enforcement clearer and more effective statutes for investigation and prosecution and establish state-level resources for addressing human trafficking. This bill will also allow prosecutors to seek forfeiture once a defendant has been convicted of human trafficking to ensure the trafficker does not profit from the illicit activity. The crime of human trafficking leaves a trail of victims and is an absolute stain on our communities, and I’m looking forward to supporting the efforts to eradicate it in Idaho. 

The second bill of importance to my office is H 465. This bill deals with artificial intelligence related to child exploitation and pornography – crimes investigated by my Internet Crimes Against Children Unit. More and more frequently, my investigators are encountering sexual images of children that are fake, but almost impossible to distinguish from an actual child being exploited. Unfortunately, child predators could claim an image was generated by artificial intelligence and therefore there is no victim. You and I both know that a fake image does nothing to keep predators from the resulting evil fixation they develop on children in our communities and neighborhoods, in real life. Fortunately, H 465 corrects this and establishes no legal difference between a real image or an artificial intelligence-generated image when it comes to child sexual exploitation and enforcing the law. I will always be fighting to protect vulnerable children from predators.

Christ Troupis Book
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The third bill deals with my Medicaid Fraud Unit. H 518 increases the maximum penalty for the crime of Medicaid fraud to 15 years and allows for the recovery of prosecution and investigation costs and expands the range of provider fraud that can be investigated by my office. These changes help to bring Medicaid fraud more in line with Idaho’s insurance fraud statutes and federal regulations. Medicaid is already one of the largest expenditures in our state general fund, to the tune of almost five billion taxpayer dollars, and growing. We can’t afford to allow bad actors, either patients or providers, to exploit the system and defraud the taxpayers. Whatever your thoughts are about the Medicaid program, fraud is fraud, and I will always work to hold criminals accountable. 

The best part of all three of these bills is that they were each passed unanimously by both chambers of the legislature, House and Senate, and each bill has been signed into law by the Governor. Despite whatever political differences exist in the legislature, it’s clear these issues are of great importance to all and transcend any divisions. I look forward to continuing to work on these issues on behalf of all Idahoans and delivering results on these issues. In the end, it comes down to protecting the most vulnerable in our community – those exploited by human traffickers, children abused by sexual predators, and those who are using a welfare program for their medical necessities.

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