ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia state senators want to make it a felony for anyone to pay a prostitute for sex or for anyone to facilitate prostitution by pimping.
The Senate voted 33-16 on Tuesday to approve Senate Bill 36, sending it to the House for more debate.
Right now, a first offense of pimping or paying for sex, legally called pandering, is a high and aggravated misdemeanor under Georgia law, requiring at least 72 hours in jail.
The bill makes both crimes felonies punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison, although the bill doesn’t bar a judge from suspending a sentence or ordering someone onto probation.
A second offense for either is already a felony. But a judge would now be required to sentence someone to at least a year in prison unless a prosecutor recommends less.
Sen. Randy Robertson, a Cataula Republican sponsoring the measure, argued that making first offenses felonies would deter sex trafficking. Opponents, all Democrats, disagreed, arguing there's no proof that long prison terms would deter anyone. The measure is one of multiple bills advancing this year in Georgia to impose longer sentences.