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Faster executions bill headed to governor's desk

A bill intended to prevent convicted killers from languishing on Death Row is headed to Gov. Rick Scott.

If the bill becomes law, people sentenced to the death penalty would be executed as soon as seven months after exhausting all their appeals and having a Supreme Court case review. During debate on the measure, proponents said they wanted to provide swifter justice for victims and their families, but opponents argued the new rules could allow innocent people to be executed.

Senate sponsor Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said the bill would not impede the appeals process or preclude people from being compensated if they are wrongly convicted. Meanwhile, too many people are spending time on Death Row despite no evidence that they don't deserve the penalty, he said.

"That isn't justice, that is a mockery to the court system," he said.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, voted "no," citing concerns that innocent Floridians could be executed before they had a chance to prove their case.

"The question that I have is, is swift justice fair justice?" Joyner said.

The Senate approved the bill, HB 7083, on a 28-10 vote that included a handful of Democrats joining the Republican majority. The House signed off on the measure last week in similar fashion.

Later, the Senate unanimously approved SB 662. The bill attempts to end a bitter four-year battle between the business community and doctors that sell repackaged drugs to patients on workers compensation. The House companion, HB 605, is also ready for a floor vote.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said the bill should end this dispute for good by controlling costs in a manner that both sides have signed off on.

"This is the 4th year, we finally reached an agreement, we're bringing it home to rest," he said.

After the vote, Senate President Don Gaetz made light of the attempt to solve the long-running feud. "Senator Hays, see how easy that was?" he quipped.