Septic tanks, Caylee's Law and Wage Theft clear House

Feb 29, 2012

The Florida House passed close to 70 bills Wednesday, ranging from a bill that allows the eviction of tenants on holidays to one that would essentially eliminate a wage-theft protection program in Miami-Dade. But, as Sascha Cordner reports, while some legislation passed with little debate, other measures did not have both parties seeing eye-to-eye.

One of the first bills to pass out of the Florida House Wednesday is a bill that would allow advertising on public school buses. It was also one of the first bills to receive bi-partisan support, like a repealer bill by Republican Representative Chris Dorworth.

It would eliminate the current statewide septic tank inspection evaluation program, and allow locals to handle the establishment of their own evaluation programs with the aim of protecting area springs.

“I do think we’ve found a good balance at protecting our spring, protecting our water supply, while not putting some truly burdensome regulations on homeowners.”

Another bill that attracted a largely bi-partisan “yes” vote is one that would allow people to be evicted on holidays, like Christmas. The bill was actually only debated by Democrats, both for and against. While opponents say the bill is kicking tenants when they’re already down, proponents, like Democratic Representative Darryl Rouson, say the bill allows all parties to be treated fairly:

Of course, there were issues that grew into a heated bi-partisan debate, like a bill that would speed up the process of mortgage foreclosures. While supporters say it would cut down on the amount of foreclosure cases Florida currently faces, critics, like Democratic Representative Darren Soto, say the process will now be unfair to those about to lose their homes:

“Justice demands due process and fairness, when we’re dealing with taking people’s property. This bill on its face attempts to quicken the mortgage foreclosure process, collapsing the process into one short hearing at a time when mortgage fraud has been rife in our real estate market.”

A heated debate ensued on a bill that would stop individual counties from making their own wage-theft protection programs to help low-wage workers whose employers do not pay them. Three attempts to change the bill failed, including an amendment by Democratic Representative Cynthia Stafford to try and save a wage-theft protection program in Miami-Dade enacted by county commissioners:

Miami-Dade County has a program and it’s proven successful, and it’s working. Miami-Dade passed this ordinance in response to a big problem in the community. The time, the effort, and the resources put into the program, coupled with its success thus far, should not be ignored and thrown away.”

But, business owners, like Republican Representative Eddy Gonzalez, say local governments, like Miami-Dade’s shouldn’t be able to authorize such a program and workers should have to go through the courts.

“It should be a state-wide standard when it comes to these things as a former small business owner and restaurant owner. Miami-Dade County is part of the state, and we’re not a separate state, and they should sometimes be on the same level as everybody else. I come up here to represent the people of Miami-Dade and the business owners of Miami Dade, not the county commissioners.”

House members unanimously passed a bill inspired by the Casey Anthony trial. The bill would increase the maximum from one year to five years in jail if someone knowingly lies to police about a missing child. Republican Representative Bill Hager says if this bill had become law before the trial, the outcome would have been different where the mother lied about the whereabouts of herself and her missing child, Caylee:

Had this bill been in place in connection with the Casey Anthony matter, the jury would have had an additional basis for a felony conviction. This bill ensures we do not have a repeat of the Caylee Anthony fiasco.”

The House is expected to take up several bills on Thursday, including a bill that would allow state agencies to submit their employees to a random drug test.