Two bills dealing with how Florida prosecutes and punishes sex offenders passed their first legislative hurdle Monday. One bill deals with statutes of limitations while the other stiffens penalties for sex offenses.
Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto’s statutes of limitations bill, which expands upon a 2010 effort to remove limitations on prosecuting people for felony sexual assault, molestation and battery, glided through the Senate Criminal Justice Committee within the first ten minutes of the panel’s meeting. Fleming Island Republican Senator Rob Bradley’s legislation ups minimum sentencing for adult-on-child sex crimes by revising the state’s sentencing equation. It also says imprisoned sex offenders won’t get additional credit for time served for good behavior or participation in prison programs. It was that part of the bill that made Fort Lauderdale Democratic Senator Chris Smith uncomfortable.
“We’re getting rid of gain time and that makes it tougher within the prison system, as well as the cost estimates on this. And a little bit towards – are we just saying we’re getting rid of rehabilitation? That’s not even a word any more in our vocabulary,” Smith said.
Smith ultimately voted with his colleagues to pass both bills. They’re part of a flurry of bills filed after a 2013 Florida Sun-Sentinel investigation exposed holes in the state’s sexually violent predator program.