Haridopolos: Eric Brody bill a top priority for Senate
|Eric Brody and his parents, Charles and Sharon, visit Tallahassee in 2009. TIMES/HERALD PHOTO|
A bill that would compensate a 31-year-old man for a Broward Sheriff's Office crash that paralyzed him 13 years ago will be among the first bills passed by the Florida Senate next year, Senate President Mike Haridopolos said today.
"So there will be no doubt: We will be passing this bill early in the session," the Merritt Island Republican told reporters. "There will be more than sufficient time for the House to consider. And hopefully they'll pass something that the Senate will pass."
The bill in question (SB 4) would clear a hurdle to help Brody collect $12 million from the sheriff's office and its insurance company.
A jury awarded Brody more than $30 million in compensation, but to collect more than $200,000 from a government entity requires special approval from the state Legislature. The bill is being sponsored by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, and Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa.
"It is clear where the Florida Senate stands," Haridopolos said. "We believe that justice should be served in a very smart way."
Brody, who was 18 at the time of the crash, has watched as the bill has taken several forms over the years. In May, a compromise received support from Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti but the bill was snagged by frantic final day politics. Fearing last-minute political machinations by the Senate, the House spent much of the final day in recess, without taking up a long list of bills including Brody's.
Eric's and his parents, Charles and Sharon, sat in the House gallery from noon until 2 a.m., when it was clear they would have to wait another year.
"Never heard what happened, never heard why," Charles Brody said today.
"It was like it didn't exist," Charles Brody said. "It was like he didn't exist and the bill didn't exist."
The Brody bill has also become one of the most heavily lobbied of what are known as claims bills. The company formerly known as Ranger Insurance was represented this year by Peter Antonacci, a lobbyist with the firm Gray Robinson - the former employer of House Speaker Dean Cannon. The Brody family has hired lobbyist Lance Block, an attorney who specializes in claims bill, and Ron Sachs Communications, a Tallahassee PR firm.
1.) Cannon sends word through spokeswoman that he won't be commenting. "Speaker Cannon does not feel that it is appropriate to comment on member bills as they make their way through the process," Katie Betta said in an e-mail.
2.) Antonacci sends this comment through Sarah Bascom of Bascom Communications & Consulting:
"We agree that justice delayed is justice denied and sadly this bill only delays compensation for many more years and may deny Eric any compensation at all as it is peppered with shadowy language that requires a new trial and lengthy appeals. The novel language in this bill questions its very legality further jeopardizing any potential compensation for Mr. Brody," said Pete Antonacci, on behalf of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Insurance carrier.