The Republican sponsor of a crackdown on sex trafficking said Democrat Stacey Abrams “deliberately avoided taking a public position” on the debate, highlighting her decision twice not to vote on the measure even though she was at the Capitol.
Abrams, who faces Republican Brian Kemp in November’s race for governor, said through a spokeswoman that she opposed the legislation because it limited the discretion of judges.
The new round of scrutiny was triggered by state Rep. Bert Reeves, a Kemp backer who said he listened to Abrams’ guidance and “accommodated her requests” to try to ensure bipartisan support when he was drafting the legislation in 2017.
But one of the few lawmakers who skipped both the votes was Abrams, who was then the top Democrat in the chamber. Reeves wrote in an op-ed in The Marietta Daily Journal that he saw her leave her seat to begin “hovering near the side door” once the voting started.
“She lacked the guts to vote no,” he said at a press conference Monday at Kemp’s campaign headquarters. “And her judgment on this issue should give all of us concern.”
I watched Stacey Abrams walk out on an important House vote to fight human trafficking, and I think Georgia voters should know about it.
Human trafficking is perhaps the darkest corner of humanity. It is unthinkable — and something that none of us could imagine the horror of — unless we experienced it ourselves. It involves forcing children, women and men into performing sexual services for others against their will. In more blunt terms, it is sex slavery. Georgia is an epicenter for Human Trafficking. Over the last 15 years, the Georgia General Assembly has worked hard to implement strong policies to fight this atrocity, giving law enforcement and communities the tools and resources to do so.
In January of 2017, I began work with Attorney General Chris Carr on a bill to close a gap in Georgia’s human trafficking statutes. While Georgia law was tough on the “pimps” who organize these transactions for a purchaser (aka the “john”) to buy sexual services, Georgia law was nearly non-existent as to serious charges being placed against the purchaser, or in terms of economics — the demand side of the equation. To fight the supply, we needed to also attack the demand — and this bill did just that.
On February 28, 2017, I presented the bill (HB 341) to the House of Representatives for a formal vote. I made my presentation of the bill and stood for questions, receiving none. Just before I finished, Abrams rose from her desk and began to walk out. I noticed this because her House seat was directly in front of the well, front and center in the House. As I made my way back to my desk to cast my own vote, I noticed that Abrams was over on the opposite side of the House floor, hovering near the side door. Once the vote was closed, she returned to her seat. I saw this with my own eyes.
Missing a vote is not completely uncommon. On busy days, legislators are often off the floor, sometimes in the Senate, sometimes meeting with persons and constituents outside the House floor. It happens. But the House rules are clear: if you are on the floor, you are required to vote. From what I saw with my own eyes, Abrams simply got up and walked away from her desk to avoid casting a vote on this bill. The official House record indicates Abrams was not excused.
HB341 passed 168-1. It was a bill free of partisan disagreements. I do not understand why she “walked.” It didn’t make sense. I specifically sought her input, received it, altered my bill, but in the end she refused to take a position on the important, bipartisan issue of trying to end sex slavery. Later in the legislative session, the House voted on HB341 yet again (passing 169-0), and although I did not watch her, the voting record indicates that once again, she chose not to vote on this issue. Again she was not excused.