TAMPA, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott highlighted efforts Florida is taking to combat human trafficking and help victims of these horrendous crimes. Governor Scott ceremonially signed four bills that raises awareness of the signs of human trafficking, protects survivors from further exploitation, and establishes harsher punishment against perpetrators. Last week, the Governor also held a bill signing ceremony in Miami.

Governor Rick Scott said, “Our goal is to end all forms of human trafficking present in Florida and to protect our state’s most vulnerable citizens. I am honored to join many advocates in the Tampa area today to sign legislation against human trafficking and provide funding for more safe houses in Florida. By working together, we can continue to shine a light on this crime so every person trapped by any form of exploitation is rescued and restored.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “I want to thank Governor Scott for his efforts to stop human trafficking in Florida and for the additional funds in this year’s budget to help victims of this abhorrent crime heal in a safe environment. The Statewide Council on Human Trafficking will continue to work with Governor Scott and state lawmakers to make Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking.”

Governor Scott ceremonially signed the following bills:

  • HB 369 Human Trafficking – This bill requires the display of human trafficking public awareness and reporting signs in certain locations.
  • HB 465 – Human Trafficking – This bill enhances protections for victims of human trafficking and provides enhanced sanctions for a person who solicits another to commit prostitution.
  • HB 467 – Public Records/Human Trafficking Victims This bill expands an exemption from public records requirements for criminal intelligence and investigative information that may reveal the identity of human trafficking victims.
  • HB 469 – Public Records – This bill provides an exemption from public records requirements for the location of facilities serving victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

The Governor also highlighted $2.6 million in the “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget for five safe homes for victims and other service providers located across the state, as well as $250,000 for Selah Freedom and over $2 million for the PACE Centers for Girls. This funding includes three safe homes in the Miami area – the Agape Network, Camillus House and Kristi House.

Governor Scott also recognized $250,000 for Selah Freedom and $2 million for the PACE Centers for Girls. Two service providers receiving funding are located in the Tampa Bay area:

  • Camillus House (Miami) – $500,000
  • Kristi House (Miami) – $550,000
  • Agape Network (Miami) –  $100,000
  • The Porch Light (Lakeland) –  $50,000
  • Devereux (Orlando) – $359,999
  • Bridging Freedom (Tampa Bay) – $1,000,000

Senate President Andy Gardiner said, “Our ultimate goal is to eliminate the evil of human trafficking in Florida and these additional measures demonstrate that this horrible crime will not be tolerated in our state. I appreciate Governor Scott and the many lawmakers who are working to bring attention to this very serious issue and am grateful for their commitment to significant investments that protect victims of human trafficking as they begin to recover.”

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said, “Governor Scott has shown tremendous leadership in fighting against human trafficking in Florida. I am proud of the four bills passed this year by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, as well as the increased funding in the budget. We’re not just fighting to prevent these horrible crimes, but we have enhanced protections for victims of human trafficking so they can heal from the trauma they experienced and begin on the road to recovery.”

Representative Ross Spano said, “HB 465 increases criminal penalties for soliciting another to commit prostitution and similar offences. This bill addresses the issue of demand for the purchase of sex, which I believe will have a positive effect in the fight against human sex trafficking.”

Majority Leader Dana Young said “Survivors of human trafficking in Florida will receive the vital services and protections they need and deserve thanks to Governor Scott and our Legislature’s commitment. We have an obligation to do all we can to stop these practices in Florida, and funding in the ‘KEEP FLORIDA WORKING’ budget allows us to make Florida an even safer place.”

Senator Anitere Flores said, “Victims of human trafficking should feel protected as they recover, and HB 469 gives survivors more freedom and peace of mind that they are safe from their abusers. We must continue to fight until every victim is freed from the threat of this monstrous crime.”

Senator Bill Galvano said, “I am thankful to Governor Scott and the Legislature that provided $2.6 million in the state budget to build five safe houses for survivors of human trafficking. Our state will do everything we can to protect those affected by this crime and get them the help they need to fully recover.”

Senator John Legg said, “Human trafficking is a horrible crime. The Florida Legislature and Governor Scott worked together to raise awareness of this deplorable act, with legislation and funding for the compassionate support of the survivors of human trafficking.  Awareness, help and treatment will assist those affected to begin the healing process.”

Representative James Grant said, “The Governor’s ‘KEEP FLORIDA WORKING’ budget designates $2.6 million for safe houses across Florida, protecting the men, women, and children affected by human trafficking.  By putting laws into place that protect victims, I am proud to stand with Governor Scott and take an aggressive stance in the battle against human trafficking.”

Representative Dave Kerner said, “The passage of HB 369 is a huge step to raise awareness of human trafficking in Florida.  We’ve made great progress making our communities safer but there’s still more to do. One violent crime is one too many- by signing this bill into law we are continuing our commitment of protecting victims of abuse.”

Representative Ed Narain said, “I am grateful for the passage of HB 465 that will implement harsher punishments for traffickers, and thank Governor Scott for signing this bill helping to make our state safer for all Florida families and visitors.”

Dotti Groover-Skipper, Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, said, “Human trafficking is a horrific crime that must be stopped in our state, and we will not relent while even one is victimized by any form of abuse. I am proud to join Governor Scott, survivors, and leaders from across Florida that have committed to doing more than just addressing the state-wide issue, but have taken swift actions to free those still oppressed.”

Pamela Woody, Founder and Executive Director of Tampa Bay Advocates Against Human Trafficking, Inc., said, “It’s an honor and a privilege to stand alongside many fellow advocates against human trafficking today as Governor Scott signs these bills into law. Each one has done their part to help their fellow man and woman gain freedom, and these new laws will help pave the way for those still held captive to find freedom and restoration.”

Jerry T. Haag, Ph.D., CFP, President, The Porch Light, said, “At the Porch Light, we have seen first-hand how providing shelter and a safe place for child victims of sex trafficking is essential on their path to healing and restoration from past abuse. We are grateful to Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for helping to provide greater resources in our state that will help save more children from this terrible crime.”

Michele Newsome, Director, The Porch Light, said “The leadership of Governor Scott and others is truly making a difference for children affected by sex trafficking in Florida. With the presence of these new laws in our state, we can bring greater awareness to this crime, that too often goes unnoticed, and protect those most vulnerable.”

Elizabeth Melendez-Fisher, President and CEO, Selah Freedom, said “No person should ever experience exploitation and we must do whatever possible to protect Florida’s most vulnerable in the fight against human trafficking. These measures and the additional funding for safe homes will provide greater protections for those affected by any form of modern day slavery.”

Laura Hamilton, President, Bridging Freedom, Inc., said “The four bills signed by Governor Scott is a big win for Florida children who are victimized by human trafficking. We thank the Governor, Florida Legislature, and Representative Jeanette Nunez for their commitment to keeping families safe in our state and in bringing healing to our children.”

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