A bill building on reforms to help young sex trafficking victims passed its first House panel Wednesday. The so-called glitch bill seeks to prevent further victims from being charged.
Rep. Ross Spano (R-Dover) is carrying the bill in the House.
“Simply surprising to me that there were actually 39 children charged with prostitution in the state of Florida in the last fiscal year alone, which was very surprising to me based on the law that we passed several years ago, stating our intent that that not be the case,” said Spano.
In 2012, Florida lawmakers passed the Florida Safe Harbor Act, which states child prostitution is abuse of a child. But, a glitch in the law does not allow children under arrest or prosecuted to be seen as child sexual abuse victims. And, Spano says that has to stop and clarifies the legislative intent.
“A few years ago, the legislature found that minors are unable to consent to prostitution as children, and this bill will simply ensure that children will continue to be qualified and able to receive dependent state and benefits from the state,” he added.
Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) praised Spano’s work on the bill, saying it builds on the legislature’s anti-human trafficking efforts.
“And, this really falls into the same line,” she said. “We passed the bill originally in 2012 that changes the definition, and really made it quite clear that minors cannot consent to prostitution. So, this is a cleanup bill, and we thank you for doing it and continuing the good work that this legislature is doing to really assure that when a minor is charged…well, a minor cannot be charged with prostitution. They indeed have no ability to consent.”
The measure passed the House Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee Wednesday. Its Senate companion has not yet had a hearing.
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