State News
6:43 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Florida Senate Passes Inmate Porn Ban, Hit-And-Run Driver Crackdown

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The Florida Senate approved a slew of measures, teed up some others, and put several measures on hold. They range from an inmate porn ban to a bill stiffening the penalties for hit-and-run drivers.

Flood Insurance Bill

The Florida Senate started off the Session by quickly passing St. Petersburg Republican Senator Jeff Brandes’ Florida Insurance legislation. The measure aims to make it easier for private companies to sell flood insurance.

“Senator Brandes, you are recognized on the bill,” said Senate President Don Gaetz.

“Thank you, Mr. President. This is the Flood Insurance Bill the Senate has worked so hard on these last few months,” Brandes replied.

Hit-And-Run Drivers Crackdown

Senators also approved a bill by Miami Republican Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla that creates a minimum mandatory for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.

“If you hit somebody and kill them while driving under the influence of alcohol, there’s a minimum mandatory of four years. If you hit somebody and kill them and leave the scene of an accident, there is absolutely no minimum mandatory, and in fact, there’s an incentive to flee. Now, this removes that incentive by making it proportional —the penalty—for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death proportional with DUI manslaughter,” said Diaz de la Portilla.

Pregnancy Discrimination Bill

Orlando Democratic Senator Geraldine Thompson’s bill aimed at protecting women who are pregnant from workplace discrimination also passed.

“And, it makes it unlawful for an employer to treat a pregnant woman differently than her counterpart in the same position. It covers a woman who was affected by her pregnancy, child birth, or related condition, and guarantees that they would receive equal treatment for all purposes of employment,” said Thompson.

Drug Sentencing Bill

Another measure won unanimous support aimed at revising the penalties for trafficking in certain prescription drugs, like oxycodone and hydrocodone. It’s estimated to save that state at least $17 million over the next five years. That bill’s authored by Fleming Island Republican Senator Rob Bradley.

“Under current law, possession of seven pills of hydrocodone results in a minimum of three years in prison to the state of Florida. This bill changes that reality today. This bill introduces common sense into this area of our criminal sentencing, specifically the minimum weight threshold increases from 4 grams to 14 grams and the minimum weight threshold for oxycodone trafficking is increased from 4 grams to 7 grams,” said Bradley.

And, Delray Beach Democratic Senator Maria Sachs says it takes away some of the unintended consequences of the state’s war on pill mills.

“And, so we had this great rush towards putting folks away who are addicts. This bill is a statement by this body and the legislative branch that we are recognizing addicts—those who are addicted to these painkillers—as folks who need rehabilitation first and rather than incarceration and warehousing,” said Sachs.

Other measures approved by the chamber include more ethics reform, expanding the state’s open-records laws, creating a regional Central Florida Expressway Authority, and another that bans schools from collecting students’ biometric information, including fingerprints or palm scans.

Parasail Bill

The Senate also teed some bills up for upcoming votes, including Sachs’ bill regulating the state’s parasailing industry to curb the deaths associated with the water sport. Sachs says since the state started reporting the accidents, there have been 28 so far—six have resulted in death.

“The last two really went viral that occurred here in the Gulf of Mexico, and we just want to be sure that these regulations are such so that those who want to enjoy the sport know that it’s going to be a fun amusement, and it’s going to be safe. But, they’re not so onerous that the commercial parasail operators will not be able to continue to operate successfully along our coasts,” Sachs stated.

Inmate Porn Ban

There’s another measure by Lakeland Republican Senator Kelli Stargel that seeks to prohibit sex offenders from viewing or possessing pornography. It includes a provision that states no images of children can be morphed onto adult bodies in sexual images.

“Basically, we had two people in my district where they took the pictures of children. They cutoff the tops of the pictures and placed them on adult pornography, and that was child pornography. It went to court, and it was overturned, saying that was not clearly defined in our statute. So, we’re clearly defining it, saying that that type of activity should not be allowed in the state of Florida,” said Stargel.

"Warning Shot" Bill

Meanwhile, a measure that was expected to come up for a vote Wednesday and was instead put on hold was the so-called “Warning Shot” bill by Baker Republican Senator Greg Evers. It would allow someone to legally display a gun or fire warning shot in a situation where they’re in danger. Its House companion already passed the House last week.

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