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Sen. Lauren Book’s human trafficking bill is back — with some changes

It no longer allows victims to sue hotels where trafficking happens, but it does require hotels train employees to recognize and report trafficking.
Florida Senator Lauren Book, D- Plantation, spends time with her daughter Kennedy ,1, during a session of the Florida Senate, Tuesday, 1/9/18. SCOTT KEELER | Times
Published Feb. 1

Last year, Sen. Lauren Book’s human trafficking bill had a radical idea: allow trafficking survivors to sue the hotels that turned a blind eye to their suffering.

But the bill ran up against a behind-the-scenes effort by the powerful hotel lobby to kill it in the waning days of last year’s legislative session.

Now, Book, a Democrat from Hollywood, is back with a new version of the bill (SB 540).It does not include allowing trafficking victims to sue hotels, but it does require hotels train their employees to watch for trafficking, like last year’s bill did.

Hotels and motels often profit from trafficking, since that’s where it often takes place.

“We’re not trying to create the fights and problems there were last year,” Book said. “We know this is a problem. We know where it’s a problem. And we need to address it.”

Book’s new bill does four main things:

  • Require hotels to train managers and employees to recognize and report human trafficking. Failing to do so would result in a $1,000 fine per employee per day.
  • Creates a corporation under the Department of Children and Families that collects those fines, raises money and uses both sources to help trafficking survivors.
  • Creates a registry of pimps and johns.
  • Requires police recruits, during their academy training, to be taught how to identify and investigate human trafficking.

The details of some of the programs are still up in the air, Book said. The registry, for example, could only be used by police, or it could be made public.

After the defeat of last year’s bill, Book said she spent the summer speaking with police and trafficking survivors. This year’s bill includes some of the best ideas she heard, she said.

“I think, overall, this addresses a lot of the things that we heard from last session,” Book said. “We’re third in the country when it comes to human trafficking. We need to do better.”

The bill does not yet have a House sponsor, but Book believes she can get the bill passed. Last year’s bill sailed unanimously through the Senate’s committees, thanks in great part to the testimony of trafficking survivors and prosecutors

Book said some of those survivors will be traveling to Tallahassee again to convince lawmakers.

“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to move this along better than last year’s,” Book said. “I’m happier with this product than last year’s, because I think this does more for survivors.”

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