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Bills Building On Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts Head To Florida House, Senate Floors

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Credit MGN Online
The Florida Channel

A bill building on Florida’s anti-human trafficking efforts is now heading to both the House and Senate floors.

Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R-Miami) also sits on the Statewide Council for Human Trafficking led by Attorney General Pam Bondi. And, this year, Nunez is sponsoring a bill meant to help young trafficking victims.

“This bill arose to a recent OPPAGA report recommending several changes to the way the state tracks the well-being of human trafficking victims who are legal residents here in the state of Florida,” she said. “The bill revises and makes certain changes to definitions. For instance, the bill now references the term ‘commercial sexual exploitation’ to mean the use of any person under 18 for sexual purposes in exchange or promise of money, goods, or services. This definition replaces the term ‘sexually exploited child,’ which was not capturing the term of ‘commercial sexual exploitation.’”

Nunez says the bill also changes the role of the Florida Department of Children and Families in dealing with these victims.

“First, the Department must submit to the legislature a report using information from the CBC [Community Based Care] lead agencies noting the prevalence of ‘commercial sexual exploitation,’ specialized services provided to treat the children, and local service capacity,” she added. “Secondly, the bill also requires the department to maintain data on children who are verified victims of ‘commercial sexual exploitation’ referred to non-safe house services in the community. Current law only requires them to maintain data on children referred to safe houses.”

Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart)—one of the sponsors of the bill—says this helps build on past legislative efforts.

“This Legislature has been committed to many years to stopping this most heinous of crimes and we started it back in 2012, made some major changes in statute then and have move forward since,” she said. “This is modern day slavery and we have to make sure that especially our children are protected.”

“We have a lot of heinous crimes in our society,” Rep. Ralph Massullo (R-Beverly Hills) agreed. “This one, I believe, is one of those most egregious because it not only murders someone mentally, but it tortures them. And I think it’s very important that we need to bring it more to light and I believe this bill does that. And, I’d like to think that hopefully, this is something that we can cure in our society.”

Both the House and Senate versions also went through a recent change. Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) says it requires nurses take a two-hour human trafficking course in order to maintain their license.

“It does not add more hours,” he said. “It just adds a section within the existing hours. And, we’re finding that training health professionals is a great way to identify people who are being trafficked. And, so this would just add to the core of people are looking for those kinds of problems.”

And, Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah), the bill’s Senate sponsor, says he likes that change to the bill.

“This goes a long way because that’s the biggest problem that we have is making sure we have our health professionals identify individuals that have been human trafficked and this will go a long way to start helping that problem,” he said.

After passing their final committees last week, both the House and Senate bills will now be considered by their respective chambers. The House version is scheduled to be taken up Thursday.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner .

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