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News from Tallahassee for 3/10/14
by Sascha Cordner | WFSU
A series of gun-related measures are now heading for floor votes, including a House bill aimed at revising Florida schools’ zero tolerance policies. Both chambers are also expected to take up a measure that seeks to protect gun owners from insurance discrimination.
"Pop Tart" Gun Bill
Unlike its Senate companion, there hasn’t been a single “no” vote against the House bill (HB 7029) seeking to relax Florida’s zero-tolerance policies. Ocala Republican Representative Dennis Baxley says he wants to make sure kids aren’t facing suspension or a juvenile record for an act as simple as wearing a T-shirt with a gun on it...
Insurance Discrimination Ban Bill
But, in another House panel, debate grew contentious as lawmakers vetted another bill (HB 255) seeking to enhance penalties against insurers who discriminate against gun owners.
Fort Walton Beach Republican Representative Matt Gaetz says he’s only seeking to protect gun owners from discrimination by allowing them to have the added protection of bringing their grievance to court. But, after repeatedly requests from lawmakers on the panel, he could only provide a few instances where his bill would have applied.
Florida joins Deepwater Horizon oil-spill suit posted on 3/6/14
by Susan Jacobson | Orlando Sentinel
Florida on Wednesday joined a federal lawsuit against BP and others involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Gov. Rick Scott announced.
The state wants BP and other companies involved in the spill held liable for damages to Florida's environment and natural resources.
"Joining the lawsuit will ensure these resources and the interests of people who depend on them are fully considered and fairly compensated," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Nick Wiley said in a statement.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection filed suit in the Eastern District of Louisiana because a settlement with the companies could not be reached, Scott said.
Florida senate passes tougher sexual predator bills posted on 3/5/14
by brendan farrington | AP
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate passed a package of bills Tuesday that will lock up child rapists longer, force sexual offenders to disclose more information and close loopholes that allow the most dangerous predators to avoid civil commitment after they’re punished for their crimes.
All four bills were approved unanimously and without debate on the first day of the 60-day legislative session. The Senate wanted to send a clear message that protecting people from sexual predators was its top priority. That message will be repeated in the House next week when it is expected to send the bills to Gov. Rick Scott at the first opportunity.
The wide-ranging package would make released sexual offenders list all cars registered to their address and double the mandatory minimum sentence for child rapists and sexually dangerous offenders to 50 years in prison. They will also strengthen the Jimmy Ryce Act, which allows for the civil commitment of sexual predators once they finish their prison terms. The law named for a 9-year-old boy who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in Miami-Dade County, is designed to keep the most violent sexual predators locked up.
Bill Giving Judges Discretion Over Certain First-Time Drug Offenders Narrowly Passes posted on 3/4/14
by Sascha Cordner | WFSU
A bill revising the penalties for trafficking certain illegal drugs narrowly cleared its first Senate hurdle Monday. It’s the second time lawmakers have attempted to give it a hearing.
Last month, Tampa Democratic Senator Arthenia Joyner tabled her bill so concerns from Republican members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, the Florida Sheriff’s Association, and State Attorneys could be addressed.
Joyner says her aim is the same: give judges the discretion not to impose a three-year minimum mandatory sentence for a first-time offender caught in possession of a small amount of illegal drugs, including cocaine and LSD. On Monday, she told the committee she changed the measure to include certain criteria to make that happen.
“The trafficking violation only includes possession. It cannot be argued that the amendment applies to selling, manufacturing, or delivering a controlled substance. The defendant must also demonstrate that the possession of the controlled substance does not involve possession with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver the controlled substance,” said Joyner.
by Sascha Cordner | WFSU
A measure inspired by the story of a young Maryland boy who got suspended for chewing his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun cleared its first Senate committee Monday. But, some say the bill aimed at loosening Florida schools’ zero-tolerance policies regarding kids and guns goes a little too far.
Currently, a Florida student could face suspension or referral to the state’s juvenile justice system for using a finger as an imaginary gun and making a gun sound, or wearing clothing with a gun on it. And, the National Rifle Association’s Marion Hammer says she knows of even more extreme examples...
The measure passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee 5-2 with Democrats opposed. They also voted against a measure that would allow for the carrying of a concealed weapon without a permit during a mandatory evacuation.
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