By JIM TURNER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
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THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, May 7, 2013 …..Attorney General Pam Bondi is enlisting private businesses to help combat human trafficking, in both the sex and labor industries.
Bondi held a meeting with a group of business leaders in Tallahassee as her office establishes a "zero tolerance tool kit" for companies to train employees on how to identify signs of human trafficking.
"Of the calls to the (Polaris Project) National Human Trafficking Hotline Florida ranks third, and it's going to stop," Bondi said.
Among the organizations meeting with Bondi were the Florida Petroleum Council; the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association; Florida Retail Federation; Florida Trucking Association; the Florida Chamber Foundation; and Associated Industries of Florida.
Bondi said agricultural interests will be invited to the next meeting.
As part of Bondi's initiative, Terry Coonan, executive director of Florida State University's Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, will meet with businesses to address how employees can identify victims of human trafficking.
The FSU Center claims Florida is the third most likely place in the U.S. to find enslaved and forced workers. But Coonan supported recent measures by the state to combat trafficking.
"Florida has been very attentive to both the need to criminalize trafficking and also the need to work with our victims," Coonan said.
This past session, legislators sent a number of bills to Gov. Rick Scott directed at the trafficking trade.
One bill (HB 7005) places new restrictions on massage establishments.
The bill would prevent the operation of massage establishments between and , though it includes exceptions for such things as health facilities and hotels that might offer massage services. Also, the bill would largely prevent people from living in massage establishments.
Others (HB 1325 and HB 1327) in part create a public records exemption for a criminal history record picked up by a victim of human trafficking in which the offense was committed as part of the human trafficking scheme.
The bills follow legislation approved in 2012 that increased criminal penalties for human trafficking.
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