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Human Trafficking Bill Dies in Florida Legislature

Human trafficking has been a hot topic in the news lately, and in this year’s legislative session, the Florida Legislature decided to attack it head-on. The House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee passed CS/HB 1165, which was sponsored by Representative Ross Spano of Riverview. This extremely progressive and powerful legislation would have created a civil cause of action for victims of human trafficking against their traffickers, or those who financially benefit from trafficking and do so with willful blindness. It also allowed for attorneys’ fees, and costs.

Additionally, the bill gave standing to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking (under the Attorney General) to pursue claims on behalf of victims, and it further provided that in such cases, the Council could pursue the civil forfeiture of assets used in the trafficking enterprise. Under this portion of the bill, hotels, motels, massage parlors, etc. would literally be forced to forfeit their buildings and land.

This was an especially important aspect of the legislation. A recent Polaris Project study conducted between 2007 and 2015 showed that 1,434 cases of human trafficking in hotels and motels were reported, with 1,867 victims and survivors identified. Although the subcommittee unanimously passed the legislation, leadership did not bring it to the floor and it “died on the calendar.”

We expect to see a similar bill introduced next year. We’ll continue to advocate for the least powerful in our society; we won’t rest until all victims receive the justice they deserve.