Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida bills target human trafficking

TALLAHASSEE — Earlier this year, state lawmakers promised to fight human trafficking — and to provide more support for the child victims.

They made good on their word on the second-to-last day of session.

On Thursday, the Senate passed two bills dealing with human trafficking. One imposes tougher penalties for adults who force children into domestic servitude or the commercial sex trade. The other ensures that the young victims get the help they need.

Both bills, which had already passed the House, are now headed to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, who sponsored the Senate proposals, said the bills were of utmost importance to her.

"This is something that is happening in our back yard," said Flores, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Sex trafficking, human trafficking, this is something that is happening with our own little girls across the state of Florida."

The trafficking bills were also priority for Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

"We are uniform in our resolve to make Florida a zero tolerance state for sex trafficking and domestic servitude," Bondi said at a February press conference. "What we need are some strong laws for our state law enforcement officers."

To that end, Flores filed legislation that would make human trafficking a felony. The proposal also sought to enhance penalties for offenders and allow law enforcement officers to investigate the massage parlors that sometimes serve as sex-trafficking fronts.

Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, carried the bill in the House.

Separately, Flores and Reps. Erik Fresen and Jeanette Nunez, both of Miami, filed legislation to route child victims through specialized safe houses. That proposal spells out the duties, responsibilities and requirements of safe houses and their operators — and requires special training for police officers who work with sexually exploited children.

"This represents a paradigm shift," Fresen said. "Never before did we have, in the law, the recognition that these girls should be presumed to be victims, not criminals."

Both proposals won unanimous approval of the House in February. Flores got a similar show of support in the Senate on Thursday.

"The state of Florida is not going to stand on the sidelines anymore," she said. "We are going to take this seriously… We are going to make it so that this is not a profitable business."

Times/Herald staff writer Kim Wilmath contributed to this report.

Florida bills target human trafficking 03/08/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 8, 2012 9:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. For starters: Rays at Pirates, with Blake Snell on the mound

    Blogs

    LHP Blake Snell returns to the majors for the Rays tonight after a six-week stint at Triple-A Durham, confident changes to his mechanics will lead to more strike-throwing and an increase in confidence will make him more successful.

  2. YouTube's Minecraft sensation Dan TDM brings live show to Clearwater

    Events

    Dan Middleton's YouTube channel has had more than 10 billion views since 2012.

    Dan Middleton's Dan TDM live tour is set to stop in Clearwater on Sunday. [Photo by Emily Herogian]
  3. Lightning's Mathieu Joseph on the rise at development camp

    Blogs

    BRANDON — The last 12 months have been quite the ride for Mathieu Joseph.

    Mathieu Joseph checks Carolina's Jake Bean during a preseason game in September in Tampa.
  4. Pinellas legislators talk governor's race, policy at delegation breakfast

    Blogs

    If anybody was expecting state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, to quit being coy and and announce his bid for the 2018 governor's race to the friendly crowd at Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual legislative delegation breakfast Wednesday, they left disappointed.

  5. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes

    Transportation

    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community for the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at DOT's Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Ave. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]