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Abrupt Pull Of Sen. Lauren Book's Human Trafficking Bill Confuses Advocates

Ryan Dailey

Momentum has stalled for a bill that would have allowed human trafficking victims to sue hotels that do not take action and train employees to prevent such atrocities. The measure’s sponsor isn’t saying why she pulled the plan.

Victim advocates are raising their eyebrows after Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, tabled her sex trafficking bill. The measure was touted as a step forward in holding hotels and motels accountable, enabling victims to sue businesses that overlook or facilitate the crimes.

The bill had only one more committee stop, but Book postponed a hearing out of concern that the House’s version did not look promising.

"There are a lot of forces that have been working against that effort and continue to do so," Book said, not getting specific with names. "And so, I am going to continue to try to do all that I can to unstick it from where it is, and move it forward."

That’s baffling for the advocates and trafficking survivors who'd worked with Book and Rep. Ross Spano,  R-Dover, the bill's House sponsor.

"We were hopeful as well for Sen. Lauren Book, having a(n) abuse past of her own, that she was also going to make this happen," said Tomas Lares, Executive Director of Florida Abolitionist, an Orlando-based group that works to rescue trafficking survivors and help them recover. 

Lares added advocates for the measure had considered Spano their champion for some time.

"I think that was the disappointment, " he said. "When the survivors met with her last Monday, and they were promised that she'd do everything in her power to see this go through."

Spano told the Tampa Bay Times he didn't know where Book had heard that the House version would fail in the chamber. It passed its final House committee stop Thursday.

Meanwhile, Book says she has been frustrated at the pushback she has gotten while trying to advance the measure:

"If my record and the things that I’ve done in the space of protecting victims of sexual abuse and assault wasn’t so long and so personal to me – it is laughable," Book said.  As a child she was molested by a nanny for several years.

"So some of the ire that I’ve received from some individuals is misplaced."

Now, the proposal's supporters – both in-state and out – are calling and emailing the offices of Book and Senate Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto in the hopes to get SB 1044 heard on the Senate floor.