New Law Puts Spotlight On Human Trafficking

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Signs intended to raise awareness about human trafficking are expected to be prominently displayed at rest areas, airports, emergency rooms and strip clubs starting Friday, as a law passed during the 2015 legislative session goes into effect with the new year.

Another new law revises requirements for athletic trainers, while a portion of a tax-cut package also is put in place.

The new laws taking effect this week are almost the last of 232 bills that came out of the 2015 session. The bulk went into effect July 1.

The last of the 2015 bills (HB 1215) — repealing the Alachua County Boundary Adjustment Act, which is a law regarding annexations — takes effect Feb. 29.

The law (HB 369) aimed at raising awareness about human trafficking requires signs to be posted in a wide range of places, including rest areas, turnpike service plazas, weigh stations, welcome centers, airports and strip clubs.

The requirement was part of a series of proposals approved this year and signed by Gov. Rick Scott as the state tries to crack down on human trafficking for sex or forced labor. Attorney General Pam Bondi has made the issue one of her priorities.

“Raising awareness is a key component to stopping human trafficking and helping victims get the help and services they desperately need,” Whitney Ray, a spokesman for Bondi, said in an email.

The law, in part, requires the Florida Department of Transportation to display English- and Spanish-language signs that are at least 8.5 inches by 11 inches at every rest area, turnpike service plaza, weigh station, primary airport, passenger rail station and welcome center open to the public.

Evelyn Hernandez, a Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said in an email that the agency is working with airports and rail stations to determine the number of public-awareness signs needed at each facility.

“Some of these facilities have chosen to make and install their own public-awareness signs and some facilities have chosen to use the FDOT’s public-awareness signs,” Hernandez said.

The signs, which include phone and text-message numbers to report trafficking, are also required to go up in hospital emergency rooms and to be “in a conspicuous location that is clearly visible” at strip clubs, adult entertainment establishments and massage parlors.

The law doesn’t impose penalties for failure to comply with the law. However, the measure gives county commissions the ability to set noncriminal fines of up to $500 for strip clubs, adult entertainment establishments and massage parlors.

A trio of other trafficking-related measures from the 2015 session went into effect Oct. 1. They increased criminal penalties for people who solicit others to commit prostitution (HB 465) and created public-records exemptions to protect the identities of human-trafficking victims and to shield the location of safe houses for victims of sexual exploitation (HB 467 and HB 469).

Also taking effect Friday is a law dealing with regulation and licensing of athletic trainers. In part, it would remove a requirement that applicants to be licensed as trainers must be at least 21 years old.

The measure also includes other changes, such as requiring that people who apply to become athletic trainers as of July 1, 2016, undergo criminal background checks and be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of automated external defibrillators.

Also taking effect Friday is a piece of a $428.9 million tax-cut package approved in a June special session.

The bill keeps active, starting Friday, a tax credit for groups such as Habitat for Humanity and Building Homes for Heroes for certain projects within areas of former enterprise zones. Lawmakers in the 2015 session agreed not to reauthorize the enterprise zones program, but through the tax-cut package the credits will remain available through Dec. 31, 2018.

The majority of the tax cut package (HB 33-A) — highlighted by a reduction in the communications-services tax on cell-phone and cable-TV bills became active July 1.

The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.

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