House passes human trafficking law, sends measure to Senate

The House passed the “Human Trafficking Reduction Act,” an effort to crack down on prostitution and human trafficking in Florida.

The legislation prohibits hourly rates in hotels, motels and vacation rentals and increases the first penalty for those who pay for sex from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. Lawmakers intend to change the market for human trafficking by reducing the number of people seeking to purchase this type of sex work.

representing Jackie Toledoa Republican from Tampa who made the fight against human trafficking a priority during her term in the Legislative Assembly, and the House amended his proposal (HB 1439) on a separate invoice (SB 772) of the Republican Senator from Gainesville. Keith Perry that senators passed earlier this month. On Wednesday, the House voted 114 to 1 to pass the Senate bill, which must return to the Senate next.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Toledo told members that human trafficking is modern-day slavery.

“Human trafficking doesn’t just happen at the extremes of our society,” Toledo said. “It’s not the Hollywood stories with a white group prowling the streets, but a much more mundane and insidious approach that targets the vulnerability of the person.”

The average age of victims when they are first trafficked is between 12 and 14, Toledo noted. The Global Report on Trafficking in Persons estimates that 20% of victims worldwide are children.

The bill also creates the statewide data repository for anonymous human trafficking data, which will collect data to help understand and combat human trafficking. The repository will be hosted and operated by the University of South Florida St. Pete.

During the committee process, Toledo’s legislation won support from the Florida Smart Justice Alliance, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and USF.

Previously, Toledo’s version of the bill required guests to provide photo ID at hotels, motels and vacation rentals. However, this provision was removed when deemed unnecessary, as hotels are already required to keep records of who is staying in their rooms.

In amending Perry’s bill, the House removed several provisions, including one limiting when victims and witnesses of several traumatic crimes could be testified in court.

Rep. Miramar Republican Tom Fabrice was the only MP to vote against the bill.

Upon its entry into force, the bill will come into force immediately.

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