A push to strengthen existing laws against human trafficking — a $32 billion industry that exploits people as modern-day slaves — received a boost from Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Support has been unanimous for the bills in both chambers.
On February 24, the House unanimously passed HB 7049, as amended, by Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, chair of the House Judiciary Committee. The bill had received unanimous approval from the Judiciary and Appropriations committees.
CS/SB 1880, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, has been placed on the call for second reading, after unanimously passing the Senate Criminal Justice and Budget committees.
“Human trafficking robs people of their dignity and deprives them of their most basic human rights,” Bondi said.
“I applaud Sen. Flores and Rep. Snyder for their commitment to making Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking.”
Bill Booth, co-chair of the Human Trafficking Subcommittee of The Florida Bar Legal Needs of Children Committee, said, “It’s about nothing more than human dignity. It’s sad to have to create laws to force people to feel the pain of others and to treat them as one would want to be treated. Maybe these proposals will wake people up to this reality.”
The proposed legislation would:
• Combine Florida’s three existing human trafficking statutes into one, making it more user-friendly for law enforcement;
• Increase penalties to match federal human trafficking laws;
• Authorize law enforcement to request a judge’s permission to intercept oral and electronic communications in human trafficking investigations;
• Provide that those convicted of human sex trafficking could be designated as sex offenders and sexual predators;
• Allow that any property used for human trafficking be subject to forfeiture;
• Require massage employees to present valid photo identifications when requested by law enforcement officers; and
• Give jurisdiction for human trafficking to the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor and the Statewide Grand Jury.
“We cannot allow criminals to abuse human beings and force them into modern-day slavery,” Sen. Flores said. “This legislation will give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on human trafficking in our state.”
Added Rep. Snyder: “Our goal is to provide Florida law enforcement agencies with a statute that will enable them to successfully investigate instances of human trafficking. And, in so doing, provide a voice to the voiceless.”
Support for the bills also came from the Florida Catholic Conference, the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, and the Florida State Massage Therapy Association.