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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

'Stand your ground' changes, juvenile diversion program expansion near-dead in Florida House



The House Judiciary Committee won’t meet again this session, and that means two high-profile pieces of legislation are all but dead in the Florida Legislature.

Judiciary Chairman Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, ended his final committee meeting Thursday after choosing not to put changes to Florida’s “stand your ground” law on the agenda and postponing a vote on an expansion of juvenile civil citations.

The issues could theoretically come back up — say, if Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, ordered another meeting of the committee — but it’s not likely.

The “stand your ground” issue (SB 344), which would have increased the burden of proof on prosecutors of certain cases that involved deadly force, like gun violence, was already presumed dead in the Legislature after McBurney didn’t put it on the agenda for the final meeting.

“I had concerns from the members, concerns from various groups, concerns from victims,” McBurney, a former prosecutor, said. “I was concerned about the policy.”

But the decision not to hear the civil citation bill (HB 7085) was unexpected.

Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, proposed the bill to expand existing diversion programs for juveniles who commit misdemeanors.

Under the program, law enforcement would be required to send first-time offenders of most misdemeanors to diversion programs, assuming they are younger than 18. And it would give police the option to do the same for second- and third-time offenders.

It’s a favorite reform for a growing movement that believes criminal laws are too strict on children. A group of supporters traveled to the Capitol on Thursday to speak in favor, although the bill was pulled from the Judiciary Committee’s agenda before they could do so.

“The votes weren’t there,” McBurney said.

There had been rumors that the bill was on the agenda as part of a favor or deal struck with the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, although McBurney said that was not the case.

Pulling the bill was simple professional courtesy, he said. “If you know that it’s going to be voted down, why put it up for a vote?"

[Last modified: Thursday, February 25, 2016 4:06pm]


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