State News
5:08 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

Bill Aiming To Tweak Florida's Stand Your Ground Law Clears First Committee Stop

A bill that aims to clarify Florida’s Stand Your Ground law passed its first committee Tuesday. The Senate Judiciary Committee was initially set to consider two similar bills seeking to tweak the law. But during the hearing, the measures filed by Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith and Altamonte Springs Republican Senator David Simmons were combined into one.

The new bill includes provisions Simmons says came from recommendations made by Governor Rick Scott’s Stand Your Ground task force.

“So, the first two things to prove to be able to rely upon Stand Your Ground, you have to be where you have the right to be. You can’t be engaged in any unlawful activity. Next is, you can’t be the aggressor. You can’t be the person who provoked the use of force and claim Stand Your Ground,” said Simmons.

It also includes a provision that could allow an innocent bystander to sue, for example, if they’re shot by someone defending themselves from attack. That troubled St. Augustine Republican Senator John Thrasher.

“It’s something that weights this particular product down that you all have worked so hard on. It concerns me. I don’t think it was a specific recommendation of the task force, and I just have a difference of opinion about it,” said Thrasher.

Still, the bill passed the committee 7-2, with Thrasher as one of the “no” votes.  And, Smith hopes the bipartisan passage of the bill sends a strong message to members of the other chamber that it’s possible for both sides of the aisle to work together to improve the controversial law.

“I think today sends a strong signal when you had a bipartisan vote of the Senate and you had Senators even those that voted ‘no’ showed there were some concerns and some things we can work on to get their vote. I think that sends a great message to the House that this is something we need to discuss and this is something that you can vote on in a bipartisan fashion,” said Smith.

Meanwhile, Shalimar Republican Matt Gaetz, a vocal proponent of the law, has said he doesn’t want any changes made. Any bill that could do that would go before the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee—a panel Gaetz chairs. His committee is expected to soon hear a bill aiming to repeal the law, but that's since been delayed.

Stay tuned to Friday's Capital Report for more on this story!

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.