Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed four sex offender bills into law Tuesday during a public ceremony at the Capitol. The event brought together a number of Republican lawmakers to show off the first bills passed by the Legislature.
Flanked by lawmakers, sheriffs and victims’ advocates, Scott said the package of bills will make the state safer.
“As a father of two girls and a grandfather of three little boys,” Scott says, “I think about how the legislation I am signing today will affect Florida’s families. It will make Florida’s children safer, and the four-bill package adds protections for our communities, especially for our children.”
Diena Thomspon, who started the Somer Thompson Foundation in honor of her daughter who was killed by a sexual predator in 2009, says she thinks the laws will send a clear message.
“Today we are all taking a stand together, to let those know who prey against our children that Florida is scorched earth and we will not stand for it,” Thompson says.
Senate President Don Gaetz says the quick passage of these bills shows the Legislature’s commitment to the issue. House Speaker Will Weatherford agrees.
“To take up this bill on the very first day of session, in the first hour of the Florida Senate, showed the commitment of the Florida Senate and of this legislature to make sure that we got this issue done,” Weatherford says.
Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Port St. Lucie) says the new laws will completely change the way Florida deals with sexual predators.
“So this was a partnership, an endeavor together to make sure we covered all aspects of the spectrum, from law enforcement, from arrest, through incarceration, through the process once they finish their prison terms, so we could keep the public safe, and most important keep our children safe,” Harrell says.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) says the new laws come with tough new penalties.
“There’s going to be a 50-year mandatory minimum state prison sanction for anyone who rapes a child under 12, a senior or someone who’s developmentally disabled,” Gaetz says.
On July 1, two of the new laws take effect. The others take effect in October.