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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit on July 22, 2022.Getty Images

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(LifeSiteNews) – Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed five new laws Wednesday to intensify penalties and strengthen enforcement against those who prey upon minors and participate in sex trafficking.

According to the governor’s office, HB 1545 bars adults from “pattern(s) of communication” with minors involving “explicit and detailed verbal descriptions of sexual activity,” strengthens penalties for child porn possession, promoting underage sexual performances, and similar crimes, and making both categories of offenses third-degree felonies.

HB 1131 creates an Online Sting Operations Grant Program within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) that provides for annual funding of sting operations and the necessary equipment to track and capture child predators over the internet.

HB 1235 tightens standards for the state sex offender registry, including preventing offenders from evading registration via temporary residences, requiring them to register any vehicles they may possess as living quarters and to give advance notice of any international travel, and strengthens the conditions necessary to be removed from the registry.

SB 1224 enhances the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office with a new position and grant program tasked with assisting children aging out of foster care and mandates lethality assessments for any law enforcement responses to domestic violence reports.

Finally, HB 305 permits hearsay statements made by minors of any age to be accepted as evidence and mandates that a first conviction of human trafficking minors suffices to be placed on the sex offender registry.

“In Florida, we stand for the wellbeing and the innocence of our children,” DeSantis said at a press conference about the new measures, Florida’s Voice reported. “We have taken action over these many years to protect the wellbeing of children in a variety of ways. We’re proud of that, but we also know there’s always more to do, but at the end of the day, we want kids to just be kids. When you have adults that are looking to harm them, we’ve got step in and we’ve got to protect them and that’s exactly what we’re doing here today.”

“A child’s safety and innocence should never be compromised, but when it is, the laws of our state should provide swift and severe punishment,” said Dave Kerner, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. “Our residents and law enforcement should have every tool to prevent these terrible people from ever having the opportunity of taking advantage of children. Parents in Florida can rest easier knowing that their children are safe and protected. Governor DeSantis has always been a strong supporter of families, and today’s bill signings are just another example of his dedication and leadership in putting the people of Florida first.”

Throughout his governorship, DeSantis has made children’s welfare and parental rights against “grooming” cornerstones of his efforts to generally make Florida the place “where woke goes to die,” as he said in his second inaugural address

That record fueled his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, but while it was not enough to overtake former President Donald Trump this year, Sunshine State voters continue to reward it, with GOP voter registration now leading Democrats by 889,569 as of April 4 in the former swing state.

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