Thursday, February 22, 2018
Politics

SouthShore and Brandon reps promote legislation

There's more to the two-month state legislative session in Tallahassee than partisan politics and poring over the governor's priorities.

It also gives each state representative and senator a chance to champion specific bills. Here's a review of some of the legislation being pushed by the primary SouthShore and Brandon representatives.

Human trafficking: Some legislators led by Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, are trying to crack down on adult establishments that employ minors while also addressing other key issues related to human trafficking.

Following up on his work during last year's session, Spano referred to the legislation as an omnibus bill. The bill addresses some hot-button issues his first piece of legislation on human trafficking didn't cover.

The bill, which significantly increases penalties against pimps and johns, likely will face a vote in the House of Representatives next week.

It is especially relevant, Spano said, after officials found a 13-year-old girl who was forced to work at a strip club in Miami this year.

The bill requires adult theaters to verify ages of employees and maintain specific documentation, eliminates the statute of limitations for prosecutions, and provides for expunction of criminal history records of victims, among other things.

It also imposes more substantial penalties.

"If you traffic a minor, then the penalty is now a life felony," Spano said. "You have to serve a mandatory sentence of 25 years … I think we're sending a clear message."

Education data privacy: Parents who are concerned about the privacy of their children's personal information should keep an eye on legislation from Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, that would prohibit school districts from gathering data such as fingerprints from students.

The bill would ban school districts from collecting any biometric data — such as characteristics of an individual's fingerprints, hands, eyes and voice — on students. It also phases out some districts' use of a student's Social Security number as his or her student identification number.

The bill has passed in the House and is waiting to be heard in the Senate.

Homeless unaccompanied youths: Young people who meet the state definition of homeless and unaccompanied youth will be able to consent to medical, dental and mental health services for themselves and their children if a bill sponsored by Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, passes.

The term "homeless unaccompanied youth" applies to about 7,000 people in Florida, Raulerson said. Though Florida law allows these individuals to be treated in emergencies, they need a parent or guardian to sign off on all other medical services.

The bill, which is waiting to be heard on the House floor, would allow these youth to take advantage of preventive health care services before waiting for their concerns to reach a crisis level.

"They need our help," Raulerson said. "They're out there on their own and don't need any more impediments to take care of themselves."

Poet laureate: Florida will have a poet laureate for the fourth time in the state's history if a bill sponsored by Raulerson that has passed the House is also passed in the Senate.

The Department of State's Florida Council on Arts and Culture would accept nominations and recommend at least five nominees to the secretary of state. Each nominee must be a permanent Florida resident and public literary poet with significant standing inside and outside the state. The secretary of state would then forward three nominees to Gov. Rick Scott, who would make the appointment.

Judicial appointments: Governors about to leave office could make appointments to the Florida Supreme Court if a joint resolution sponsored by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, passes this session and is approved by voters in November.

Lee said the Florida Constitution is unclear on whether the outgoing or incoming governor has the right to make appointments when a justice's term expires on inauguration day.

"Right now, the Constitution is silent on that subject," Lee said, "and under the next governor's term, we will have four Supreme Court justices retiring. I would be shocked if that's not unprecedented in Florida history — nearly half the court reaching the mandatory retirement age."

The legislation has passed in the Senate. If it passes in the House, the amendment would require 60 percent voter approval in November.

   
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