A Senate committee advanced a bill Tuesday that, among other pursuits, would establish confidentiality between human trafficking victims and victim advocates.
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee OK’d the bill (SB 1826) unanimously. Republican Rep. Manny Diaz is the bill sponsor.
The bill, which advanced without questions or debate, contains several provisions that aim to address human trafficking in Florida.
Among them, the bill would make communication between an advocate and a victim privileged. It would also formalize training requirements for human trafficking victim advocates and trained volunteers.
Not least, the proposal would expand the definition of “human trafficking,” to include “purchasing, patronizing, (or) procuring” another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person, according to a staff analysis.
Diaz’s bill comes as states reckon with the nationwide rise of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery.
Florida law defines human trafficking as “transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, enticing, maintaining or obtaining another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly 24.9 million people are trafficked around the world. Of those, about 2.5 million are within the United States.
Youth are often the target of traffickers. The average age of a minor who is trafficked is 11-13 years old, the DOJ reports.
Notably, the bill would expand charges committed against minors to include victims believed to be under 18 years old.
Florida ranks third in the nation for reported human trafficking cases. In 2018, Florida received 767 reports of human trafficking cases of which 149 were minors, according to the staff analysis.
Diaz’s proposal will appear before the Senate Rules Committee next.
A similar bill (HB 523), sponsored by Tampa Rep. Jackie Toldeo, has two committee stops remaining: the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Judiciary Committee.
If signed into law, the proposals would take effect July 1.