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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gaetz says a bipartisan "initiative" aimed at sexual violent predators on its way



A bipartisan Senate initiative aimed at a “broad range” of issues related to violent sexual predators and the Department of Children & Families is expected to be announced by Christmas, Senate President Don Gaetz said Thursday.

“I think you will see in the next few days a bipartisan initiative in the Senate to address the issue of sexually violent predators and the broader issues associated with foster children and related issues in DCF,” Gaetz,R-Niceville, said at a press breakfast.

While he didn’t outline specifics, Gaetz said that Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, and other senators have been working on these issues over the summer.

The violent sexual predator initiatve would involve a "criminal justice element" that affects the jurisdiction of Senators Greg Evers, R-Baker, and Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island; a human services element that impacts Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring; and Sen. Sobel, who is "right at Ground Zero," Gaetz said.

When asked about problems at DCF, Gaetz stressed that policy changes should become part of the law and not just "the promise of the administrator du jour."

“DCF has some very fine people working there, very dedicated people,” he said, “but also, DCF, left to its own devices has lurched between crisis, trouble, solutions, crisis, trouble, solutions whether Democrats have been in charge or Republicans have been in charge.”

DCF has been working on implementing changes after revelations of a cluster of deaths of children under state care, a scandal that prompted the resignation of former Secretary David Wilkins.

Gaetz, who attended part of a Senate Committee meeting on Children, Families and Elder Affairs on Tuesday, said he was encouraged by a presentation by Stephen Pennypacker, DCF’s new assistant secretary for programs, but emphasized that “I don’t think we can rely upon who’s in charge. I think we have to make some changes in statute.”

"This is an issue dealing with helping and protecting Florida’s most vulnerable children,” Gaetz said.

He noted that these children are also a priority for House Speaker Will Weatherford.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if a broad range of initiatives dealing with Florida’s vulnerable children didn’t find its place in the Weatherford-Gaetz 2.0 work plan.”

[Last modified: Thursday, December 12, 2013 11:17pm]


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