News from Tallahassee for 4/26/15

Senate passes bill to let children secretly record rapists posted on 4/23/15

by AP

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A bill passed by the Florida Senate would let children who are victims or potential victims of rape and other violent acts secretly record their attackers.

The Senate unanimously approved the bill (HB 7001) on Wednesday. It applies to victims who are under the age of 18.

The law generally prohibits conversations to be recorded or otherwise intercepted without the consent of both parties.

The bill was filed after the Supreme Court ordered a new trial for an ice cream truck driver convicted of raping his teenage stepdaughter over a period of years.

The girl twice secretly recorded him talking about the assaults with an MP3 player hidden under her shirt. The court said the recordings shouldn't have been used as evidence.

The bill now goes back to the House.

Florida Senate votes to limit access to police camera videos posted on 4/23/15

by Gray Rohrer | Orlando Sentinel

TALLAHASSEE — Amid an ongoing national debate about police tactics, Florida may soon place limits on who is allowed to access video taken by body cameras worn by law enforcement officers.

The Florida Senate on Wednesday voted 36-2 for a bill that would keep confidential police videos that are shot in a house, a health care facility or any place that a "reasonable person would expect to be private."

Supporters of the measure contend that placing some level of restrictions on who could have access to videos recorded by police officers might encourage more agencies to require their officers to use them. They also said it would guarantee the privacy rights of those caught on video.

There has been a call to have more police use body cameras as a way to hold officers accountable. Earlier this month, a police officer in South Carolina was arrested on murder charges after a bystander's video showed the officer shooting a man as he ran away.

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Paying for sex in Florida could become more costly posted on 4/17/15

by AP

TALLAHASSEE — People who solicit prostitutes would face increased penalties under a bill that passed the Florida House.

The bill that passed unanimously Thursday attempts to deal with prostitution by going after people who pay for sex.

The penalty for a first offense would increase from a second-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree misdemeanor. A second offense would be a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a third offense would be a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

First offenders would also have to take a course on the dangers of prostitution and perform community service.

Republican Rep. Ross Spano said his bill (HB 465) is a message that people are not commodities to be bought and sold.

Scott to sue feds over hospital funding posted on 4/16/15

by KATHLEEN MCGRORY | HERALD/TIMES TALLAHASSEE BUREAU

Republican Gov. Rick Scott plans to sue the federal government for allegedly coercing Florida to expand Medicaid, his office said Thursday.

"It is appalling that President Obama would cut off federal healthcare dollars to Florida in an effort to force our state further into Obamacare," Scott said in a statement.

The announcement is but the latest round in an ongoing spat between Scott and the feds.

It centers around a $2.2 billion program known as the Low Income Pool, which provides funding to hospitals that treat uninsured patients. The program is scheduled to expire in June, unless the state and federal government can negotiate a successor program.

Despite weeks of negotiations, no deal has been reached.

In a letter Tuesday, the federal agency handling the negotiations told Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration that any decision regarding LIP would be linked to whether the state uses federal money to expand health care coverage.

Scott said the action violated a U.S. Supreme Court ruling "that the president cannot force Medicaid expansion on states."

"Not only does President Obama’s end to LIP funding in Florida violate the law by crossing the line into a coercion tactic for Obamacare, it also threatens poor families' access to the safety net healthcare services they need," Scott said.

He called the actions "outrageous and specifically what the Supreme Court warned against."

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Florida Senate bill would set rules for police body cameras posted on 4/8/15

by Christine Stapleton | Palm Beach Post

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee unanimously passed a measure (SPB 7080) that would require law-enforcement agencies to establish policies and procedures addressing the proper use, maintenance and storage of body cameras and the data they record.

Agencies would have to establish policies and train officers before allowing them to wear the devices. Currently, Florida law does not require police agencies to have policies governing the use of such technology.

According to the Police Benevolent Association, 13 Florida police departments use the cameras, none of them in Palm Beach County. But West Palm Beach is among the nine other departments that has put a pilot program in place to test their use.

In December, President Obama proposed a three-year, $263 million legislative package to increase the use of body-worn cameras and expand such training for law-enforcement agencies. Part of the federal initiative would provide a 50 percent match to states and local entities that purchase body-worn cameras and requisite storage.

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