TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's massage parlors would close at midnight and face more scrutiny under a bill that breezed through a state House panel Thursday.
The bill's sponsor said his proposal is a response to requests from law enforcement to clamp down on an unsavory side of an industry dotting some urban centers in the Sunshine State.
The measure targets massage parlors that "are really just a cover-up for human trafficking, where young women are brought over to this country unlawfully," said state Rep. Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth.
The measure (HB 7005) easily cleared the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.
It would require the parlors to be closed from midnight to 5 a.m., though local governments would have the option to allow parlors to operate for longer hours to coincide with big events in the area.
"If you're getting a massage at 3 in the morning, that's probably not a legitimate massage establishment," Kerner said after the committee hearing.
Law enforcement report that some women employees are confined to live in squalid conditions at the parlors, he said.
Parlor owners would face criminal charges if their employees are forced to live in the parlors.
Violations of the bill's provisions would strengthen the hand of law enforcement in seeking to close the establishments, he said.