Legislation offering protections to victims and witnesses of crimes who might be asked to testify in court received a nearly unanimous vote in both legislative chambers, but is now declared dead after the Senate bill was joined with similar legislation from the House.
SB 772, sponsored by Republican Sen. Keith Perry, set out to “protect a child, a person having an intellectual disability, or a sexual offense victim from harm or abuse that may result from giving testimony in a court proceeding or at a deposition,” according to the bill’s Senate analysis.
Some of those protections included limiting the length and scope of a deposition, requiring a deposition to be taken with written questions, requiring a deposition to be taken in the presence of a judge or magistrate, and sealing the deposition records. The bill also would have directed the University of South Florida to work with the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking to create a data repository for anonymous human trafficking data.
The bill’s path to becoming a law seemed clear. It was unanimously supported through three Senate committee stops and received a unanimous vote from the full body almost a month ago. In the House, it passed last week with only one of the 115 voting members dissenting.
But the House passage changed the bill, joining it with Tampa Rep. Jackie Toledo‘s Human Trafficking Reduction Act (HB 1439). The bill hoped to reduce the likelihood of human trafficking by banning hourly rates at hotels, motels and vacation rentals and raising the first-time penalty for those paying for sex from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. Toledo’s legislative career has been marked by a fierce battle against human trafficking.
“Human trafficking doesn’t just happen to the extremes of our society,” Toledo said last week. “It’s not the Hollywood stories with a white van prowling the streets, but a much more mundane and insidious approach that targets in-person vulnerability.”
But the new version of the bill as passed by the House would have required another Senate vote because of the changes. It won’t be getting that vote before the Session’s scheduled end Friday. It was among four bills Senate President Wilton Simpson indicated won’t be voted on this year. SB 398, SB 714 and SB 756 were among the others.