Florida House Cracks Down On Human Trafficking

By  //  April 19, 2015

Week 7 Legislative Session Update

As committees and subcommittees have completed their work for the year, we will begin spending significantly more time on the House floor debating and voting on legislation.

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – As committees and subcommittees have completed their work for the year, we will begin spending significantly more time on the House floor debating and voting on legislation.

Highlights of Bills Passed On the House Floor

Cracking Down on Human Trafficking:

This week, the House passed HB 465 to further crack down on human trafficking in our state. The greatest driver of human trafficking in Florida is prostitution.

This bill aims to reduce prostitution by increasing the criminal penalties for soliciting, inducing, enticing, or procuring another to commit prostitution. Combating human trafficking is a long-term, multifaceted fight that must be approached from several different angles.

This bill aims to curb the demand for the trafficked victims by increasing the severity of the penalty for the crime committed. This legislation puts these criminals on notice that Florida has zero tolerance for those who support or promote human trafficking.

Improving Education:

House Bill 587 requires the Department of Education to administer a statewide educator liability insurance program for public school educators. All full-time instructional personnel are provided this coverage free of charge. Currently, public school educators are immune from personal liability through the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

There are also specific statutory protections in place for such educators. However, there is currently not a publicly administered statewide liability insurance program for educators. In an increasingly litigious society, I believe that this program will provide teachers peace of mind and allow them to focus on instructing their students.

We also passed House Bill 747, a bill that modifies the community service requirement of the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. The bill clarifies that community service must be done on a volunteer basis and prohibits any student from receiving remuneration or academic credit, except for credit earned through service-learning courses.

The bill also establishes accountability requirements for student volunteer work that includes documentation in writing by the student, the student’s parent, and a representative of the organization for which the student volunteered. The number of community service hours required for each Bright Futures award remains unchanged.

I believe it is important that our best and brightest are rewarded for their academic achievement, as well as their involvement in their communities, through programs like the Bright Futures Scholarship.

Mental Health Services in the Criminal Justice System:

HB 7113 focuses on treatment options for mentally ill people in our criminal justice system. This bill allows counties to create and fund treatment-based mental health court programs and permits a defendant with a mental illness who meets qualifying criteria to participate in a pretrial mental health court program. I believe that helping those with mental illness obtain needed treatment will focus on the ultimate cause of their behavior, with the goal of reducing recidivism.

Florida Agricultural Exports Reached Record $4.2 Billion in 2014

This week, Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) announced that Florida exported a record total of $4.2 billion in agricultural commodities last year to 159 countries and territories. This marks the third year in a row Florida has exported over $4 billion dollars in “Fresh from Florida” agricultural commodities like fruits and vegetables.

Our farmers not only grow produce, they grow our economy. According to DACS, the $4.2 billion in agricultural exports support 109,000 Florida jobs and has a total economic impact of more than $13 billion. I believe this is great news for all Floridians and I will continue to work with my colleagues to keep Florida a national leader in agricultural and economic growth.

Florida Adds 29,400 Jobs in March

In March, Florida’s economy added over 29,400 jobs, for a total of 284,100 jobs since March 2014 and 841,100 private sector jobs since December 2010. Our annual jobs growth rate of 3.7% is 1.4% higher than the national rate. In Brevard County, our unemployment rate is 6.0%, down from 7.4% one year ago.

Florida continues to be a national leader in job growth, and our economy’s continued improvement is helping more Florida families find success and live the American Dream.

For regular updates on House District 51, be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter (@SteveCrisafulli).