Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday signed into law four bills targeting violent sexual predators, following the murders of two young girls in the Jacksonville area and news coverage that exposed problems with the sexual predator law known as the Jimmy Ryce Act.
"As the father of two girls and the grandfather of three little boys, I think about how the legislation I'm signing today will affect Florida's families. It will make Florida's children safer," Scott said.
The bills — SB 522, 524, 526 and 528 — all passed by unanimous votes on the first day of the 2014 session. They will impose minimum mandatory 50-year prison sentences in certain cases and prohibit incentive gain time for offenders convicted of certain sex offenses, and require sex offenders to report specified information to police, such as address and vehicle changes.
"Florida will not be a catch-and-release state as it relates to violent sexual predators," said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.
At an emotional bill-signing ceremony in the Capitol, Scott was joined by legislative leaders, law enforcement officers and victims of sexual abuse and family members. Present was a Jacksonville-area mother, Diena Thompson, whose 8-year-old daughter Somer was abducted and killed, and a tearful Ron Book, a prominent South Florida lobbyist whose daughter, Lauren, an abuse victim, has spearheaded a national effort to call attention to the widespread problem of sexual abuse.
Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, credited a series of articles in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel with forcing legislators to confront the issue. "Sometimes good things happen when the media digs deep," he said.
Convicted official in Scott ad
Gov. Scott's re-election campaign released a new Web ad Tuesday, featuring footage of the governor talking to now-convicted former South Bay City Manager Corey Alston and Alston's brother Tory in Fort Lauderdale.
"That's definitely Corey and his brother,'' said Sen. Chris Smith, the Democratic leader in the Florida Senate from Fort Lauderdale, who knows both Alston brothers.
Corey, 35, of Lauderhill pleaded not guilty in March 2013 to charges of grand theft, corrupt misuse of a official position and misuse of public office or employment. Prosecutors accused him of coordinating a deal to be compensated $25,139 for 498 hours in unused sick time and he resigned in February 2013. He was later indicted on four additional counts of grand theft, one count of grand theft over $20,000 and one count of aggravated white-collar crime.
The footage appears to be from 2010 as another man in the video is Spencer Geissinger, former external affairs director for Scott.
The ad titled "540,000" touts what Scott says is the creation of 540,000 jobs in Florida since December 2010.
Legislator must pay filing fee
Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Spring Hill, says that a screwup by a campaign consulting firm resulted in his re-election petitions being rejected by the Florida Division of Elections and that he'll have to pay the $10,440 filing fee instead. "The Florida Division of Elections has informed me that, despite written assurances of validity from my campaign vendor, Jamestown Associates, my petition cards are not in compliance with the formatting requirements established by the state," Nugent wrote in a statement Monday. "While the petition cards had all of the appropriate fields and disclaimers, and voters had filled them out sufficiently, the shape of the cards and some other aesthetic formatting elements were not up to statute."
Palin helping in District 19
Sarah Palin will appear Thursday at a Naples fundraiser for Lizbeth Benacquisto, who is running for the vacant Congressional District 19 seat. Tickets are $500 per person, according to an invite obtained by the Buzz.
Alex Leary contributed.