TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Senator Lauren Book filed a new version of her old bill aimed at cracking down on hotels where human trafficking occurs.
Many considered this to be slam dunk legislation after a similar bill last year mysteriously died just before the session ended.
However, this year's bill (SB 540) is receiving push back from an unlikely source: "consensual" sex workers and even some survivor advocates.
At the Senate committee meeting on Criminal Justice last week, Senator Book urged her fellow lawmakers to pass this legislation.
"Florida is one of the hotbeds for human trafficking in the United States, coming in at the third-highest trafficking destination in the country, with half of all victims under the age of 18," said Senator Book.
However, shortly after Senator Book spoke, others in opposition took the podium.
Sandra Brown identified herself as a "consensual" sex worker. She spoke at the meeting.
"Not all of us are victims of human trafficking, and those of us who are consensual sex workers, as we go throughout our day and we work within our society is to look for those who are minors, who are victims, who are being managed by people," said Brown. "We are the first line defense because we are there."
Some opposed the bill because they believe requiring hotel workers to report human trafficking will further endanger victims. Others said the support organization Senator Bill wants to create does not leave a seat at the table for consensual sex workers who they argue have crucial perspective.
SWOP Behind Bars is an advocacy group for sex workers. Representatives urged lawmakers not to pass the bill because they believe decriminalizing prostitution will help victims.
Corporal Alan Wilkett with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office disagrees. Wilkett believes a registry with convicted buyers and sellers will be a game-changer for law enforcement.
"If we reduce that demand, we reduce the market and we can start putting an end to human trafficking," Wilkett said.
Despite opposition, the bill passed the Criminal Justice Committee meeting and will go to the Community Affairs Committee next.
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