BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana lawmakers are considering a bill that would make changes to gentlemen's clubs across the state.
SB 468 is aimed at raising the age requirement for exotic dancers in Louisiana from 18 to 21. The measure is one step closer to becoming law after passing through the Senate Appropriations Committee with no opposition Thursday.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, said the proposal is a way to combat human trafficking statewide.
"What we have found is that many victims of human trafficking are ending up as strippers in the different strip clubs across the state," Johns said.
Human trafficking is a growing problem across the country and one that is also taking up residence in the Bayou State.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, there were 75 cases reported in Louisiana in 2015 and 276 calls into the center.
So far this year, there have been 22 reported cases in the state and 48 calls into the resource center.
"Is it going to stop it 100 percent? No," Johns said. "It's just another small step in us trying to protect these young women."
Some gentlemen's club owners in the area have criticized the bill, saying it takes away women's freedom to choose what they wish to do with their bodies. However, Johns said the proposal is not about taking away rights but rather keeping young girls safe.
Johns also said the bill is not an attack on gentlemen's clubs or exotic dancing.
"This is just to do with the aspect off human trafficking," he said. "I think it's our responsibility as policy makers to try to do something to protect them."
The bill now goes to the full House where it could be taken up as early as next week. If passed in the House without any amendments, it will then move to the governor's desk.