Florida lawmakers made headlines last month with a proposal to let people sexually exploited in hotel rooms sue the hotel where the abuse took place. The bill would have imposed $50,000 to $100,000 in fines on defendants who lose, in addition to any money awarded to the victim. The legislation had "widespread support, passing three committees without anyone voting against it," according to the Tampa Bay Times. But on Thursday, the bill's sponsor yanked the legislation from current consideration, asking that any further action on it be postponed.
The bill had needed one more committee vote before moving on to the full Senate. But state Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation) said that because the bill was unlikely to pass in the House, she didn't want "waste the committee's time" on something with no future.
Reasonable, right? Not to Times reporter Lawrence Mower, who casts Book's move as cowardly kowtowing to the tourism industry. Disney and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association were reportedly lobbying against the bill behind the scenes.
But whatever the senator's motives might have been, the outcome here is undoubtedly a good one.
Allowing the victims of sex trafficking to sue hotels where they were exploited does nothing to prevent exploitation in the first place or to punish those responsible for it. It creates enormous incentives for fraud. It also gives sex traffickers an incentive to avoid hotels and motels in favor of more private places—places where their victims are much less likely to able to make their plight known.
It creates a new imperative for hotel staff to harass innocent customers and invade their privacy. It ensures that sex workers will face more arrests. It defies criminal-justice logic. (After all, we don't allow the families of people murdered in hotels to file such suits.) And it paves the way for more third parties to be held legally liable for the actions of criminals.
Alas, Book promised to revive this terrible idea in the future.
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