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Victims raise questions after changes to Florida human trafficking bill

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A bill designed to crack down on establishments that look the other way when it comes to human trafficking is drawing criticism from survivors who say the bill fails to address hotels and motels, the very places they say are best able to stop the crime.

The bill (HB 7045) increases penalties for establishments that benefit from human trafficking, while also giving victims the right to sue these establishments in court. However, the bill only targets strip clubs, with hotels and motels removed from the proposed legislation.

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“That was the main place that I was trafficked, I was taken to the same hotel all the time. I was normally in the same room, and the staff there would work with my trafficker so that my trafficker would not have to stay with me,” Savannah Parvu said. “I was 12 years old when I was being sold out of hotels in Central Florida. I was taken to a hotel room and sold to several men each night. People who worked at the hotel knew what was happening and never did anything to help me.”

For survivors like Parvu, the change to the bill is unacceptable, and they’re not alone.

Read: Florida among top three states for human trafficking response

“We’re further enabling the people who are doing the trafficking,” Rep. Dotie Joseph (D - Miami Dade) said.. “There’s no reason that we should not be able to pass something with not just hotels, but all these other large establishments that can do something because otherwise we’re encouraging them with our policy decisions to continue to turn a blind eye to stuff that they know or should know is happening within their establishment.”

“I’m very disappointed to hear that they’ve taken out the hotel component,” said Rep. Webster Barnaby (R - Deland).

Read: Human trafficking survivors raise concerns about Central Florida safehouse, lack of state regulation

One of the groups registered to lobby on the bill is the Florida Hotel and Lodging Association, although state records do not show if the association was behind the change.

As for the bill, it has passed its two committee stops and is now headed to the House floor.  A similar Senate version has not moved out of committee.

Read: State senator to introduce bill to help fight human trafficking

You can click here to read the bill.

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.