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Jack Latvala to pursue human trafficking legislation with House Dem Dave Kerner

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Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala announced yesterday that he will seek passage of SB 534 a bill to increase reporting of human trafficking by expanding the public’s awareness of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline.

The proposal would mandate that the number be posted in all Florida transportation hubs and establishments near major roads, where employees and patrons are most likely encounter victims and perpetrators of trafficking.

“Human trafficking is a sick, but profitable criminal enterprise that affects up to 300,000 children and many young adults in the United States each year,” said Latvala in a statement Thursday. “Florida is among the top three states for human trafficking. SB 534 will get more of these cases reported and hopefully help put an end to this widespread practice of modern-day slavery.”

Sponsoring the House companion bill, HB 369, is Rep. Dave Kerner, a Democrat from Palm Springs. Known as an accommodating moderate despite his deep-blue district where Charlie Crist took almost 64 percent of the vote, Kerner likely makes sense as a partner to Latvaa on this issue because of his background in law enforcement and his earlier work on the issue back in 2013.

Both bills were filed in January and have yet to be taken up in committee. They first face the Senate Transportation Committee and House Transportation & Ports Subcommittee respectively.

Human trafficking — by far more prevalent in Florida than in most states — has also been a cause célèbre for Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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