HOUSTON (AP) – The Texas Senate has voted to toughen penalties for human trafficking, including automatic life sentences for repeat offenders.

The bill authored by San Antonio Democrat Leticia Van de Putte increases penalties for forcing a child into prostitution and lengthens the statute of limitations for trafficking crimes.

Advocates of the tougher penalties call human trafficking a modern form of slavery and say it is the second-largest criminal industry worldwide. Last year, more than 100 Texas children were rescued from traffickers.

The bill was all but certain to pass with widespread support in the Senate. Prosecutors, religious organizations, Gov. Rick Perry and state Attorney General Greg Abbott also have endorsed the bill.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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