I recently made several trips to Tallahassee with two other survivor warriors and two of our biggest supporters to testify in committees regarding human trafficking that occurs in hotels. It wasn’t easy to get up in front of Senate Committees and the Judiciary Committee to testify as to what happens in hotels. We watched as members voted unanimously to pass a bill that would require hotels, motels and restaurants to train their staff to recognize and report human trafficking. The bill would allow survivors to sue hotels if they could prove the hotel staff willing turned a blind eye. If the hotel trained their staff they could not be held liable.
Members of the Senate and some of the House Representatives encouraged us to keep sharing our experiences and to continue what we’re doing. Senator Garcia said to me, “the government is supposed to be a voice for the voiceless, but you’re here doing that today.” Rep. Byrd and Rep. Spano referred to us a Survivor Warriors. They saw how difficult it was for us to testify, but we did it anyway because this law could help so many victims.
Our trips to Tallahassee left us feeling exhausted and drained, but also encouraged, empowered and hopeful… hopeful that they were going to do the right thing and continue to pass this bill along so that it would become a law.
Unfortunately, ‘Special Interest’ was working against us behind the scenes and got to certain members of the legislature. The bill had sailed through committee hearings with no one in opposition, however, it was destined to be killed on the floor during the general vote. Senator Book, in an effort to save the bill from being killed on the floor, pulled the bill to change some of the language and try to put the bill back in hopes of saving it. Senator Book met with me and another survivor and promised us that she would not stop fighting for this bill and our cause. She called me the next day and told why she pulled it and that she was still fighting for it.
On Thursday, March 8th we watched as Senator Book fought for us. She went over the chair of the Rules Committee and requested the senate vote to add the bill as an amendment onto another bill. All members of senate, except for 4 voted for that to happen.
At the same time, Rep. Ross Spano and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen were working hard in the House of Representatives to accomplish the same. They also worked to amend a bill and add on the language as an amendment to mirror what happened in the Senate.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening meeting with Senators and Representatives. At the end of the night Senator Book told us that the bill was on ‘life support’ and ‘special interest’ would be working through the night to try to change the Senators minds. On Friday we watched as Senator after Senator spoke against the bill and requested it be thrown out due to a technicality… unfortunately they succeeded.
Watching Senator Book fight for me was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. Nobody has ever cared enough about me to stand up and fight for me, but she did that day!
Special interest may have won the fight, but the battle is not over. We will work hard this year and we will be back fighting for this bill again next year. We are survivor warriors and we are not giving up. We will continue to be the voice for the voiceless because the government is not!
Thank you Senator Book and Representative Spano for working so hard on these bills. Also, a big thank you Representative Fitzenhagen for helping us try to get this bill passed. I consider each of you to be an advocate that is making a difference.
Lisa, Linsey, Tina and Jan, thank you for embarking on this journey with me. I look forward to many more!