Today, Governor Rick Scott was joined by Attorney General Pam Bondi, members of Florida Legislature, as well as law enforcement officials, stakeholders, advocates and victims to sign House Bills 989 and 7141 to increase prosecution of human trafficking criminals and provide better services to survivors.
Governor Scott said, "I am so proud to sign these two important bills today that increase protections to victims of human trafficking and increase criminal penalties related to human trafficking. As a father and grandfather, I understand the importance of protecting our children and those who are vulnerable. We must do our part to help restore the sense of security for those who have been victims of human trafficking so they can heal."
House Bill 989 increases protections to victims of human trafficking. The bill prohibits minors from working in adult theaters, removes time limitations to allow a prosecution for certain human trafficking offenses to be commenced at any time, creates and increases criminal penalties relating to human trafficking.
House Bill 7141 provides definitions and makes changes to rules and guidelines to the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Juvenile Justice, and community based care lead agencies in administering safe houses and safe foster homes for children who have been sexually exploited.
Attorney General Pam Bondi said, "I thank Governor Scott for his support of Florida's anti-human trafficking efforts. The Statewide Council of Human Trafficking will coordinate and enhance efforts to fight sex trafficking and support victims."
Niki Cross, survivor and founder of S.T.A.A.R. Ministry, said, "Survivors that have found healing, have a responsibility to mentor and guide others that may not be so fortunate. It doesn't happen overnight and it is a slow process. That is why it is so crucial to have as many resources available as possible. I cannot change my past, but I WILL be a part of changing the future. I was once a victim, now victorious. It will take all of us to make a difference in this fight, but we can do it. As I have often shared so many times before, there is no limit in what good a man can do, as long as he doesn't care who gets the credit."
Deborah Polston, Florida's Human Trafficking Advocate, said, "Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi are working hard to eliminate human trafficking in Florida and making the public aware of this heinous criminal activity and the gross injustice to our most vulnerable. Florida is taking an aggressive stance in this human trafficking battle by putting laws into place which protect and defend victims, and prosecute traffickers to the fullest extent of the law. These new laws will allow us to better care for the minor victims of trafficking, protect their rights and privacy, and continue our work at the State level through a more concentrated effort."
Dotti Groover-Skipper, Chair, FREE Collaborative of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking-West Florida said, "As these important human trafficking bills are signed into law, Governor Scott is sending the message that Florida is a "no tolerance' state for the insidious crime of modern day slavery. We must continue to work together, as one powerful voice, to end demand, eradicate this horror, and restore value, dignity, and worth to the precious lives who have been impacted."
Wansley Walters, Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice, said, "I am proud of Florida and Governor Scott for taking the steps to further protect the innocent victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. By signing this legislation into law, Florida's children exposed to the horrific crime of sexual exploitation will now receive the critical services needed to address their unique needs and the trauma they have experienced at the hands of predators."
Mike Carroll, Interim Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, said, "We are pleased the Governor and Legislature have provided additional resources to serve children and young adults in our communities who are being sexually exploited. It's crucial for state agencies, law enforcement and community partners to continue to work together and collaborate on our approach to protecting and rehabilitating these young victims."
Senate President Don Gaetz said, "One thing is sure: the scourge of human trafficking has come to Florida towns and cities and among its victims are Florida children. This legislation helps fulfill the Joint Work Plan commitment Speaker Weatherford and I made to protect the most vulnerable among us. Florida will now have stronger laws to go after human traffickers and more resources to comfort and care for those who have been emotionally damaged and physically abused."
House Speaker Will Weatherford said, "Victims of human trafficking should know they are safe when receiving care from safe houses. I'm proud of our efforts this year to further crack down on human trafficking in Florida."
Senator Oscar Braynon said, "Today marks a great change in Florida with the signing of legislation by Governor Scott that ushers in stronger penalties for those who engage in human trafficking. I took great pride in sponsoring the Senate bill and know it will make a difference in the lives of people who are negatively impacted by human trafficking."
Senator Joe Negron said, "Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature are taking action to address the terrible issue of human trafficking and providing the Department of Children and Families resources to assess and screen children in their care."
Senator Tom Lee said, "It is necessary for us to protect the vulnerable in our state and I commend Governor Scott for continuing to put Florida's families first with this measure."
Senator Anitere Flores said, "Human trafficking is a terrible crime and I am proud to live in a state that staunchly supports victims and severely penalizes perpetrators. Governor Scott and the members of the Florida Legislature should be lauded for their support of these two bills."
Senator Greg Evers said, "Governor Scott's public signing of HB 989 and HB 7141 will help to raise awareness about human trafficking and will shore up efforts to stop it in Florida."
Representative Gayle Harrell said, "I am honored to be here with Governor Scott as he signs this significant legislation dealing with Human Trafficking. I am pleased to have sponsored HB 7141 which will provide certified safe foster homes and safe houses for victims of Human Trafficking. With this legislation Florida has become a leader in treating children who have been exploited and are victims of what is truly modern day slavery."
Representative Carlos Trujillo said, "I am proud to have sponsored these legislative changes to allow prosecution for a violation of a human trafficking offense to be commenced at any time and that create more criminal penalties for those involved with human trafficking. I appreciate Governor Scott extending his support these changes that will allow Florida to prosecute criminals involved in this terrible activity."
Representative Dana Young said, "The goal is to eliminate the evils of human trafficking and these bills help demonstrate it's not tolerated in Florida. I am proud to have helped pass these changes to our laws and appreciate Governor Scott signing them."
Representative Richard Corcoran said, "I am pleased to support this important legislation that says Florida is a zero tolerance state for those who sexually exploit our children. I'm thankful Governor Scott is publicly signing this critical bill and bringing attention to this very serious issue."
Representative Matt Hudson said, "I am appreciative of Governor Scott's support for this legislative change that will benefit Florida families. Among the effects of this legislation, this bill authorizes DCF to certify safe houses and safe foster homes that will provide safe haven for victims of trafficking."
Representative Erik Fresen said, "It was my privilege to co-sponsor legislation to increase protections for the victims of human trafficking and I thank Governor Scott for signing it in such a public forum."
Representative Dennis Baxley said, "Human trafficking is the modern form of slavery and a heartbreaking reality of our time. Gov. Scott and the legislature are making clear we will not sit by and allow this abuse of our most vulnerable. We thank Gov. Scott for leading to make Florida a safe place to live and work and a place where every person is valued."
Representative Matt Gaetz said, "This legislation will help strengthen the punishment for those who engage in this terrible trade. I am proud Florida has a leader in Governor Scott who supports these necessary changes for the protection of young people."
Representative Ross Spano said, "Victims of human trafficking will get more protections and rights because of this bill; thank you to Governor Scott and the legislative leadership for supporting it."
Representative Larry Metz said, "Human trafficking is an evil and insidious crime that victimizes the young and vulnerable. To eliminate it will require strong leadership and an unwavering commitment over time. Governor Scott continues to lead the way and by signing this important legislation once again demonstrates his commitment to protecting the most vulnerable among us. Thank you Governor for your leadership and for signing these bills today!"
Representative Charles McBurney said, "Today is a very important day in the lives of those who are impacted by human trafficking and I appreciate Governor Scott standing in support of victims' rights and protections."
Representative Dwight Dudley said, "I appreciate the leadership of the Florida Legislature for enacting meaningful change for those adversely impacted by human trafficking and I appreciate Governor Scott for signing both bills."
Representative Irv Slosberg said, "As a Legislature we have made a commitment to crack down on human trafficking and begin a "fresh start" in the state of Florida. It was an honor to be a part of this team of co-sponsors and I thank Governor Scott for signing these bills today."
Representative Daphne Campbell said, "Human Trafficking is a very serious issue and one that hold with great importance. I am honored that I was able to be co- sponsor to both HB 989 and HB 7141. I know that the lives of many will be greatly improved with the increased penalties that these bills provide. I would like to extend a sincere thank you to Governor Scott for extending his support for increasing these penalties."