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Safe Harbor Act clears House Floor

A bill known as the Florida Safe Harbor Act won the unanimous support of the House Thursday.

The bill allows police officers to route the child victims of human trafficking through specialized safe houses, instead of through the criminal justice system.

The also proposal spells out the duties, responsibilities and requirements of safe houses and their operators. What's more, it requires special training for police officers who work with sexually exploited children.

"This represents a paradigm shift," said Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, who co-sponsored the House bill with Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, R-Miami. "Never before did we have, in the law, the recognition that these girls should be presumed to be victims, not criminals."

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, is carrying the bill in the Senate. That version has already passed through two committees, and is awaiting a hearing by the Budget Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations.