As expected, Gov. RickScott signed bills into law that will place a statue of Florida educator and civil-rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune in the U.S. Capitol, and create a slavery memorial at the state Capitol.
Those two measures were among 30 the governor signed Monday that were passed during the 2018 Legislative Session.
Florida will be making history: Bethune will be the first African-American woman to get her own likeness in in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall in its 154-year history. She founded what is now known as Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black university in Daytona Beach.
The statue of Bethune, a child of former slaves, will replace a likeness of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, who has represented Florida for decades in the Capitol.
The measure creating a slavery memorial at the Capitol calls on the Department of Management Services to develop a plan after receiving recommendations from the Florida Historical Commission. That plan would then be submitted to the governor and legislative leaders.
The full list of bills signed Monday, along with summaries provided by the Governor’s Office, are below:
Appointment of Attorneys for Dependent Children with Special Needs – This bill requires certain court costs be paid by the state when pro bono attorneys represent special needs children in dependency proceedings.
Bankruptcy Matters in Foreclosure Proceedings – This bill authorizes documents filed in a federal bankruptcy proceeding to be admitted as evidence in a foreclosure.
Public Records/Public Guardians/Employees with Fiduciary Responsibility – This bill creates a public record exemption for former and current public guardians and employees with fiduciary responsibility.
Consumer Finance – This bill provides additional repayment schedule options for consumer finance loans and sets a maximum delinquency charge of $15 per calendar month for each loan payment in default.
Fire Safety – This bill requires the Division of State Fire Marshal to establish specified courses as a part of firefighter and volunteer firefighter training and certification.
National Statuary Hall – This bill directs the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to replace the statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith in the National Statuary Hall Collection with a statue of Mary McLeod Bethune.
Office of Public and Professional Guardians Direct-Support Organization – This bill repeals the sunset date for the Foundation for Indigent Guardianship.
Reporting of Adverse Incidents in Planned Out-of-Hospital Births – This bill requires that adverse incidents of planned births that occur outside of hospitals be reported to the Florida Department of Health.
Homestead Waivers – This bill provides language that can be included in a deed to waive spousal homestead rights.
Telephone Solicitation – This bill expands the ‘Do Not Call’ list to include direct to voicemail sales calls.
Health Care Facility Regulation – This bill amends numerous provisions related to the regulation of health care facilities.
Florida Insurance Code Exemption for Nonprofit Religious Organizations – This billexpands the nonprofit religious organizations’ insurance code exemption to include people sharing a common set of ethical or religious beliefs.
Deferred Presentment Transactions – This bill creates a new type of small loan up to $1,000.
Vessel Safety Inspection Decals – This bill provides an expiration date for vessel safety inspection decals.
Postsecondary Revenue Bonds and Debt – This bill allows Florida A&M University to participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program.
Controlled Substances – This bill takes significant steps to combat opioid abuse in Florida.
Pregnancy Support and Wellness Services – This bill codifies the Pregnancy Support Services Program in Florida Statute.
Coral Reefs – This bill creates the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area.
Florida Slavery Memorial – This bill establishes the Florida Slavery Memorial to honor the nameless and forgotten men, women, and children for their contributions to the United States.
Voter Registration List Maintenance – This bill enhances the Florida Department of State’s ability to prevent voter fraud by joining a nongovernmental organization with other states to verify voter registration information.
Public Records/Statewide Voter Registration System – This bill creates a public records exemption for voter registration information received by the Florida Department of State from another state in which the information is confidential or exempt.
Linear Facilities – This bill provides legal certainty for decisions made under the Power Plan Siting Act and Transmission Line Siting Act.
Trusts – This bill updates and revises provisions of the Florida Trust Code relating to revising trust decanting procedures, electronic delivery of trust documents, and trust accounting.
Donation and Transfer of Human Tissue – This bill requires the Florida Department of Health to develop and publish on its website educational information relating to tissue transplants.
Out-of-Country Foreign Money Judgments – This bill increases protections from unjust foreign court judgments.
The Guardian Ad Litem Direct-Support Organization – This bill continues the Direct Support Organization for the Guardian ad Litem Office.
The Relief of Cathleen Smiley by Brevard County – This bill directs Brevard County to provide $25,000 in relief to Ms. Cathleen Smiley for injuries caused by a county bus.
A Review Under the Open Government Sunset Review Act/Human Trafficking Expunction – This bill continues the public record exemption of criminal history records relating to a victim of human trafficking.
A Review Under the Open Government Sunset Review Act/Criminal Justice Commission – This bill continues the public meeting exemption of a criminal justice commission while members discuss active criminal intelligence or investigative information.
Ratification of St. Johns River Water Management District Rules – This bill ratifies a St. Johns River Water Management District rule for Silver Springs.
Background provided by The News Service of Florida.
As U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis pursues the GOP nomination for Florida governor, new scrutiny has been visited on two unrelated cases involving sailors who possessed child pornography.
DeSantis was Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in each of these cases, in which lesser sentences than the maximums were ultimately delivered.
DeSantis was a signatory to the plea deals.
However, despite the fact that the sentences were lesser than what a lay person may have seen as appropriate, multiple accounts – including that of DeSantis himself – tell a story of a tough prosecutor who pursued the strongest sentences he could.
The cases got contemporaneous coverage in the Jacksonville media market.
“Two Mayport sailors were in court Monday answering to federal indictments charging that they possessed or transmitted child pornography while on their Navy ships,” read the original Florida Times-Union article from 2008.
“Matthew S. Orth, a sailor on the USS Roosevelt, [faced] charges he used a computer to transmit from the ship six images depicting minors as young as 9 engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Orth was indicted last week on one count of transporting child pornography and two counts of possession. Chase E. Keefover was arraigned on one count of possessing nine images of child pornography on his laptop computer aboard the USS Halyburton,” the article continued.
Orth, who possessed hundreds of images of child pornography, got eighty four months of prison time and eighteen years supervised release. Keefover got six months in prison and six months house arrest, in addition to 18 years supervised release.
Ronald Henry, a former deputy chief who was also DeSantis’ direct supervisor, supervised all Assistant U.S. Attorneys in these cases.
Henry said DeSantis, an “aggressive prosecutor who didn’t go light,” “absolutely” got what he could in these cases, especially given judicial discretion.
“If you get a sentence within the guidelines,” Henry said, “you’re doing a good job.”
DeSantis likewise described the reason he took the cases out of the court martial system, saying that the sentences were not strong sentences, as members administered them. And he wanted the cases federal for more predictable results.
“The possession of child pornography is not a victimless crime,” DeSantis explained Monday in a telephone interview, describing one judge who told him in a courtroom “why bring these cases — everyone has this crap on their computer.”
“It’s not true that [many people] have it,” DeSantis said. “It’s beyond the pale.”
The Orth case got the harshest sentencing for good reason; the sailor had transmitted numerous images of children engaged in sexual contact, via filesharing services from his home port in Mayport. He had also taken the images on cruises, and downloaded them while in the Navy.
Weeks after he was detained, Orth accepted a plea arrangement. The two counts: transportation of child pornography and possession of obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
Per the plea deal, Orth had hundreds of images of child pornography on his computer equipment, including animated images. Routine network maintenance in August 2007 led to the discovery of images he had saved on the ship’s server.
Cumulative penalties ranged from five to 30 years with a $500,000 maximum possible fine. In that context, the plea deal of seven years was at the low end of the guidelines. Orth was compelled to register as a sex offender also.
DeSantis notes that sentence was “three or four times” what a court martial case would be, and that people in the Navy “said wow” at the length of the sentence.
The plea deal exempted Orth from any further related charges known to the feds at the time of the plea deal.
The Keefover case likewise showed a sentence far short of the guidelines for the images. But here too there were circumstances that explained why.
“I think Keefover would have been acquitted in the military system,” DeSantis said.
The government wanted 30 months, but the case was hampered by a lack of evidence beyond the images Keefover downloaded before he was 18, DeSantis said.
As a transcript of a court proceeding involving Keefover revealed, mitigating circumstances led to the six-month prison sentence and the six months of house arrest.
Ultimately, the judge has discretion, and considered the fact that Keefover had downloaded the material while still a minor himself, and didn’t download or distribute any child pornography after the 2004-2005 timeframe.
“But, obviously, part of my judgment is that — is that this was something you did, it was really wrong, you shouldn’t have done it, you’ve got to be punished for it, but that you are unlikely to ever do anything like this again, and that I am unlikely ever to hear about anything that you’ve done again of this type or any other criminal type,” asserted Judge Timothy Corrigan.
The sentencing memo was in a similar vein, citing “incredibly poor judgment by a teenager, rather than the calculated victimization of children by a sex offender.”
Keefover got a six month prison sentence and six months of house arrest, both below the 10 years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine that were theoretically permitted by sentencing guidelines. Keefover also had to register as a sex offender.
Corrigan noted that the government was “thinking that [Keefover] should have gone a lot longer with this” in terms of sentencing.
Even in a case like this, DeSantis thought it important to prosecute to send a message. That accords with his NCMEC training, he said.
The plea deals DeSantis signed are not unusual in their types.
The gap between maximum sentences and what is dispensed is common to many of these cases which involve peer to peer filesharing.
As an ABA Journal article reports, there is a tendency for judges to give reduced sentences for defendants in these cases for a variety of reasons.
Per Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the combination of low recidivism in these cases with a “current sentencing scheme [that] is plagued with problems and has led to extraordinary injustice” has increasingly led judges to give sentences on the lower end of the spectrum than the guidelines would dictate, with a majority of judges believing the sentencing guidelines are harsher than the crime merits.
Florida Politics’ A.G. Gancarski contributed to this post.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams will fill a vacant seat on the council, and will serve through October 2018.
Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast will succeed Sheriff Larry Ashley, and his term will expire in October 2020.
The group’s mission is “to provide statewide oversight of justice information systems and data while developing plans and policies to facilitate the coordination of information sharing and interoperability, and ensuring appropriate access and security.”
One area targeted by Scott in his vetoes was more than $29 million in local road projects, which Scott said were funded outside the Department of Transportation’s normal evaluation process. The largest veto was $7 million for a road project in Lake County.
The budget (HB 5001) approved by lawmakers included the $400 million school safety plan crafted after the Parkland mass shooting with $67 million for the controversial program that would arm school staff and train them for active shooter situations and $25 million that would go toward a memorial and the demolishing of the building where the massacre occurred.
No funding in that plan was chopped from the 2018-19 blueprint for state spending.
“Following the tragedy in Parkland where 17 died, we came together as a state and I was proud to sign the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which invests nearly $375 million to keep our students and communities safe so this never happens again,” Scott wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
The 452-page budget passed by the Legislature also included $100.8 million for the Florida Forever land preservation program, $130 million in Medicaid funding for nursing homes, and nearly $90 million in last-minute spending that included hurricane-related projects to repair infrastructure at universities and charter schools.
Scott’s $64 million in vetoes was lower than the $69 million he eliminated in 2014, when he was running for re-election. Scott, a Naples Republican, is term limited this year. He’s widely expected to challenge incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. BillNelson.
“Typical politicians think about their next job. I’m focused on this job,” Scott told reporters Sunday after the Legislature’s ‘sine die’ ceremony. “I’m glad we had a very successful Session. I’ll think about my future in the next few weeks.”
The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.
Despite a proposed tweak to a constitutional amendment, the Protect Tobacco Free Florida coalition says it still opposes the underlying measure.
The proposal (P94), filed by Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) member and House Speaker pro tempore Jeanette Nuñez, originally would have redirected dollars from tobacco-prevention efforts to cancer research.
Nuñez on Wednesday filed an “amendment to the amendment” deleting the section about cancer research funding, however. That change would have to be adopted by the commission, which meets in Session beginning Monday in Tallahassee.
No matter, a coalition statement said.
“Despite this change, her proposal would still remove the requirement that one-third of Florida’s tobacco prevention funding be dedicated to countering Big Tobacco’s massive marketing efforts in the state,” it said. “Because the one-third provision is required to follow CDC best practice standards for tobacco prevention programs, the Protect Tobacco Free Florida coalition still opposes Proposal 94.
“The CDC’s best practice regarding marketing efforts is not arbitrary and is essential to the other parts of the Tobacco Free Florida program functioning at their peak. The cessation program that Commissioner Nuñez has praised, for example, would not be as successful if not for the marketing program that supports it.
“It’s also important to remember that tobacco companies still spend more than $558 million a year to market their deadly and addictive products in Florida, often in ways that appeal to our kids. That means Big Tobacco outspends Tobacco Free Florida by 24-to-1 on marketing efforts.
“Reducing the amount Tobacco Free Florida can spend on marketing would further exacerbate this problem and give Big Tobacco more opportunities to target Florida’s kids with their deadly products … There has not been a single member of the public or organization that has testified in support of Proposal 94 since its introduction.
“Proposal 94 would be bad for the health of Florida’s kids and adults. Therefore, the public health community remains joined in opposition to Proposal 94.”
The 2018 Legislative Session finally wrapped. Now, in front of us, the madcap dash to the 2018 primaries in August is about to hit full stride.
For Jacksonville area voters, especially Democrats, these are exciting times. From competitive races for Congress to state Senate and state House, there are choices on the ballot. And narratives.
We will have them all for you in the coming months.
Speaking of that Legislative Session, Jacksonville did relatively well — $12.5 million, to be precise, for the Talleyrand Connector.
And we even have good news on other topics … including the right to yell DUUUUUUU-VALL … which (apparently) was in doubt.
Northeast Florida among Session’s big winners
Nobody expected a tragedy like Parkland to suck all the oxygen out of the Legislature’s Regular Session. Lobbyists were left scrambling to save their clients’ priorities as lawmakers hustled to rejigger the budget to accommodate hundreds of millions of dollars for school safety and mental health initiatives.
Some survived, many did not; although that’s no different from any other 60-day tumble in the Capitol.
That said, the past year has been an eventful one for Northeast Florida: Rob Bradley became Appropriations Chairman and performed like a seasoned professional. Future House Speaker Paul Renner capably handled his chamber’s tax package. Sen. Travis Hutson took some major steps toward becoming a future presiding officer.
And don’t forget Sen. Audrey Gibson, who ascended to the role of Leader-designate of the Senate Democrats.
If only there were a Jacksonville-based lobbying firm that works with them all … oh wait, there is — The Fiorentino Group, as well as Southern Strategy Group’s Matt Brockelman and Deno Hicks.
Lawson talks access to capital in Jacksonville
At the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Monday Morning, Rep. Al Lawson and Rep. James Comer helmed a Congressional field hearing for the Small Business Committee regarding access to capital disparities.
Access to capital disparities disproportionately impact female and minority-owned businesses, and the hearing in Jacksonville was intended to discuss potential remedies to the challenge.
“Capital is the lifeblood of any business,” Lawson said, noting that the average African-American startup is 18 percent less likely than white business owners to get help from the lending industry.
“Investors are predisposed to a preference to people who are similar to them,” Lawson added, and to that end, Monday’s hearing was intended to help women and minority-owned businesses voice their needs in the marketplace.
Brown appeals conviction
For great moments in ironic ledes, check out this chestnut from Roll Call:
The similarities between former House members and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers are few. But disgraced former Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida and Jon Bon Jovi are both livin’ on a prayer.
Last week, Brown’s attorney filed a 76-page appeal to her conviction on fraud and tax evasion charges, saying the judge in the case wrongfully removed a juror who claimed a “higher power” told him Brown was not guilty,
“The district court reversibly erred when it questioned a juror who had voted to acquit Congresswoman Brown,” the appeal states, “and then dismissed the juror over [a] defense objection based on nothing more than the juror having prayed for guidance and [believing] that he received guidance from the Holy Spirit that Congresswoman Brown was not guilty.”
Appeals on these grounds so far have flopped, and this one likely will also. Notable: prosecutors objected to the motion, saying it went over word count.
Fundraisers for Levine, Gillum
Two major Democratic candidates for Governor plan Jacksonville-area stops this week, as fundraising efforts continue for the August primary.
Philip Levine plans a “cocktail party” event Thursday evening, with a nascent host committee including Mark Frisch, Matt Kane and Ted Stein, among others.
The event honoring the Miami Beach Mayor will be at the Beaches Museum in Jacksonville Beach and will kick off at 6 p.m.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will have his own Jacksonville area event as well, from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, at the home of Erica and Colin Connor in Ponte Vedra Beach.
A minimum $50 buy-in is requested to attend the Gillum affair.
Levine and Gillum have had different approaches to campaign finance in this campaign.
Levine has spent over $4.6 million of personal funds on his campaign.
Gillum, without recourse to that kind of personal wealth, has had slower fundraising than other significant candidates and had just under $800,000 cash on hand.
Talleyrand Connector cash leads budget haul
Unless Gov. Rick Scott casts a surprising veto, it looks as if Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will get state money for the “Talleyrand Connector,” which tears down the current Hart Bridge offramps that would activate Bay Street and help traffic flow to the port.
As the Florida Times-Union reported, $12.5 million of state money made it into the budget. Curry had personally lobbied regional and state power brokers and the capital moved from a $1 million placeholder to the full appropriation sought.
Jacksonville still seeks other money — specifically, $25 million from the Feds for an infrastructure grant — but city officials tell us that they could begin the project with the state money regardless.
By far, the Talleyrand money was the most prominent get from the state in this year’s budget.
“Senators approved it after barely 10 minutes of discussion. Immediately after, Sen. Dennis Baxley … walked across the Senate floor to shake Bradley’s hand,” the Times article asserted.
“I don’t think anybody’s rights or responsibilities changed with what we did,” Bradley said. “What we did is ensure that there will not be litigation on these questions.”
Record dings Hutson for last-minute ‘stealth annexation’ try
Sen. Hutson ran afoul of the St. Augustine Record this week for attempting to move some St. Johns County land that is part of the Nocatee land tract to Duval County.
The reason: The owners of the land (the Davises of Winn-Dixie fame) want the property in Duval.
The charge: “Nocatee has been given a pass by County Commissioners over the years to gut the affordable and workforce housing components and to renege on all its plans to put commercial property within the development. Perhaps more correctly, Nocatee is locating nearly all its commercial component into the sliver of land that juts into Duval County. Apparently, Duval might be considerably more zoning and impact fee-affable than we are.”
The plan failed this session … however, the Record vows vigilance.
“Much more likely is they saw that the window for approval was closing too quickly — and word got out. Better to quietly yank if from the bill and find another way to skin that cat next session. We bet they’ll be trying. You can bet we’ll be watching.”
Slow February in legislative fundraising
February offered a unique opportunity for people running against incumbents, who can’t fundraise during the Legislative Session, to make up ground in fundraising.
But — at least in competitive Northeast Florida races — they didn’t take up the gauntlet.
SD 6: Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown raised no money in February, his first month challenging Sen. Audrey Gibson for the Democratic Party nomination. Gibson, who couldn’t raise money, has $121,410 on hand.
HD 12: Republican Clay Yarborough has over $122,000 on hand, despite not being able to fundraise in February. Democrat Tim Yost, who did fundraise in February, brought in $1,429 and had $3,300 cash on hand.
HD 13: Incumbent Democrat Tracie Davis has $35,715 on hand; her intraparty challenger, Roshanda Jackson, was in the race for five days in February and spent not one of them fundraising.
With roughly a year before first elections in 2019 Jacksonville City Council races, now’s a good time to take a look at fundraising in selected races through February.
With $8,400 of new money in February, Matt Carlucci, a former Council Republican running for at-large Group 4, is still the clubhouse leader with just over $221,000 raised. Carlucci’s opponent, fellow former Council Republican Don Redman, has a lot of ground to make up. Word on the street is there will be more candidates in this one.
As we reported last week, Republican Ron Salem has over $150,000 on hand in at-large Group 2. This number puts him well ahead of former Jacksonville Councilman Bill Bishop. Bishop raised just $2,000 and has just over $13,200 on hand. Democrat Darren Mason only entered the race in March.
In Jacksonville City Council District 14, Democrat Sunny Gettinger showed respectable first-month fundraising numbers in February, bringing in over $34,000. Gettinger still has a way to go to catch Republican Randy DeFoor, who raised $4,350 in March, and has nearly $90,000 on hand.
The Florida Times-Union spotlights one of Jacksonville’s best-known nonprofits, Operation New Hope.
The Donald Trump administration has taken notice. Weeks after CEO Kevin Gay met with Jared Kushner to talk prison re-entry, the Springfield group hosted HUD Secretary Ben Carson doing a roundtable with former inmates who reformed their lives and got jobs with JAXPORT.
“It is the most bipartisan issue that our country has now,” Gay said. “Our country just needs something that we can all come around on. I don’t care where you are on the spectrum. Who can argue with improving public safety?”
As Florida Politics reported last week, Carson’s comments were a breath of fresh air from a Republican administration that postures as a law and order shop. Carson spoke at length about the penal system’s effects on young black men.
“Purely looking at the cost of someone who is incarcerated versus someone who is trying to bolster the economy,” Carson noted, “the difference is night and day. When we start to think about it that way, what it costs to train somebody, what it costs for someone to go to college, it costs more to keep somebody incarcerated.”
“It’s also costing us their own positive contributions and one of the things we need to realize about our young people is that we have so many in our penal system, particularly young black males, is that for every one we can keep from going down that path of self-destruction, it’s one less person we need to be afraid of or protect our family from,” Carson added.
Pinto named ’40 under 40′
This week, the Jacksonville Business Journal named Mark Pinto of the Fiorentino Group among 40 of Northeast Florida’s brightest, most promising professionals under the age of 40.
In 2012, Pinto served as the Special Assistant to then-Republican Party of Florida Chair Curry, where he worked with House and Senate Leadership, members of the Florida Cabinet, and the Governor’s Office.
Pinto began his political career with Florida Senate President-designate Bill Galvano of Bradenton during his tenure as Rules Chair of the Florida House. He worked on Galvano’s first political campaign and served as his aide in the House.
Prior to his service in the House, Pinto worked for former Congressman Dan Miller, also from Bradenton, and has been active in local, state, and national politics, and has volunteered and raised funds for numerous political campaigns. He also recently served on the St. Johns County Chamber Economic Development Council.
Fanatics owner mulls NFL team purchase
Jacksonville’s Fanatics had all but cornered the market on licensed sports apparel. And soon, its owner may be moving from clothing to owning a franchise.
Per the Florida Times-Union: Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin is seriously interested in making a run at owning the Carolina Panthers.
“Rubin would be entering a somewhat crowded field of bidders for the Panthers, who were put up for sale by owner Jerry Richardson late last year following allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct. According to ESPN, other bidders include a hedge fund billionaire and the founder and CEO of a debt collection firm.”
“Rubin, 45, is worth an estimated $3 billion by Forbes and would be a familiar name to the league’s other owners. Last May, the NFL invested $95 million for a 3 percent stake in Fanatics. That deal boosted Fanatics’ value to more than $3.17 billion at the time.”
DUUUUUVALLL for Y’all
Another piece of football news. In March, no less.
First Coast News reports that “The Jaguars, who caught flak from local groups after trademarking the phrase, “Duuuval,” have seemingly dropped the trademark tag from their social media after receiving criticism for the move.”
From the Jags: “It’s important to note that the Jaguars have not submitted an application to register the wordmark ‘DUUUVAL.’ The only actions taken to date were intended to protect our ability to continue to use this specific wordmark to promote our fan base and our team in the future, given that it became associated with our fans and the team on a national level this past season. In addition, even if we were to seek trademark registration, it would not prohibit any fan from continuing to say or use the word Duval in general.”
Long story short, keep yelling it from the mountaintop.
Survivors, advocates, elected officials and law enforcement turned out in St. Petersburg Wednesday to rally for an end to sexual abuse, taking added significance in light of the growing #MeToo movement.
With Wednesday’s 4.8-mile walk, which began at the St. Petersburg Police Department headquarters, protesters wanted to send a message: “Enough is enough!”
Since 2010, Book — herself a sexual abuse survivor, advocate, mother of twins and now state Senator from Plantation — has walked throughout Florida every year to raise awareness and eradicate sexual abuse.
In 2018, Walk in My Shoes — along with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements — illustrates there is still more to do to remove the shame surrounding sexual abuse, protect Floridians, support survivors and hold abusers accountable.
According to statistics cited on the Lauren’s Kids website, a sexual assault occurs every 98 seconds in the U.S. One in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys in America will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday by someone they know, love and trust.
However, since statistics also show that 95 percent of child sexual abuse can be prevented through education and awareness, Lauren’s Kids has made it a mission to walk through cities across Florida to educate the public.
“We are proud to share the road with the St. Petersburg Police Department, along with survivors, advocates and elected officials all committed to increasing awareness and protecting children,” Book said a statement. “Our law enforcement partners set the tone as the first responders to abuse reports. This department has long sent a strong message that there is zero tolerance for sexual abuse in the St. Petersburg community.”
Walk in My Shoes — which crisscrosses the state every year — began Saturday in Tallahassee, a departure from its traditional starting point in Key West, which is still recovering from Hurricane Irma.
Since she also serves as a state lawmaker, Book postponed the walk until after the recently ended Legislative Session.
During this year’s 60-day work period, Book had sponsored several bills to combat sexual abuse and assault — including those aiming to hold hotels accountable if they turn a blind eye to human trafficking (SB 1044) as well as legislation to combat sexual harassment in state government (CS/SB 1628).
“We recognize that one way to foster a safe community is by proactively aligning ourselves with organizations committed to crime prevention and keeping our citizens safe,” said Sgt. Jason Deary of the St. Petersburg Police Department Crime Watch Unit. “Lauren’s Kids has done a tremendous job increasing awareness about the threat of sexual abuse while empowering children and adults with tools to keep themselves aware and informed.”
While in Pinellas County, the Lauren’s Kids team also visited the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department to refresh a children’s intake room with a Dr. Seuss theme. The intake room is designed to be a safe place for children involved in a crime. Participants updated the area to help it become more comfortable and friendly for children experiencing trauma.
After traversing the state, 2018’s Walk in My Shoes will conclude with a celebration in Key West on Mallory Square Friday, March 23.
Of the bill’s 94 co-sponsors, 18 are members of the Florida Delegation. The bill was introduced two weeks before the murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The bill offers funding for training to prevent student violence against others and self, including training for local law enforcement officers, school personnel, and students, including but not limited to active shooter training.
As well, the bill funds technology and equipment to boost security and stymying attacks, including anonymous reporting measures and school hardening technology. Threat assessment and crisis intervention teams are funded within the legislation also. Additionally, the bill makes provisions for better cooperation between law enforcement and school officials.
Legislators, including the two Florida co-introducers, lauded the passage of the legislation.
“Today’s vote in the House marks an important step toward keeping our children and our schools safe,” Jacksonville Republican Rep. John Rutherford, one of four introducers of the legislation, said Wednesday.
“As a career law enforcement officer in Jacksonville, I know that security requires a multi-layered approach. The STOP School Violence Act will give schools and communities the resources they need to identify threats and prevent acts of violence before they occur so we can avoid tragedies like what transpired at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a month ago today.”
“I commend Rep. Ted Deutch, along with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, for working with us to make schools more secure, and I look forward to seeing the Senate join us in the effort to protect our kids,” Rutherford said.
Deutch lauded the bipartisan commitment to the bill, even as he pushed for more action.
“When we first introduced this bill,” Deutch said, “I had no idea it would hit so close to home for me and my community. This vote is proof that Congress can take bipartisan action to keep our children safe. However, my colleagues should not be mistaken to think this is enough. We cannot tackle the rampant gun violence in our country without addressing guns themselves. Let’s move with this bipartisan momentum and pass meaningful legislation to make our communities safe.”
Rep. Brian Mast, a Florida Republican, used the bill’s passage as a tie in to that further action.
“Our schools should be as safe as the halls of Congress and today we moved one step closer to that goal by passing the STOP School Violence Act,” Rep. Mast said. “At the same time, we must recognize that this issue is not limited to our schools. We must make sure that our concerts, night clubs, churches and other community areas are just as safe. We won’t accomplish this without a comprehensive approach that addresses security, mental health and gun violence.”
“That’s why today I’m introducing the first bipartisan bill to address the sale of assault weapons by putting a 60-day pause on the sale of firearms like the AR-15 while President Trump’s task force evaluates school safety and Congress works on a comprehensive solution to address this community safety crisis,” Mast asserted.
Sen. Marco Rubio is a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, which he has stumped for vociferously in recent weeks.
Rubio extolled the legislation in a meeting between members of Congress and President Donald Trump weeks ago.
Incoming Florida Senate President Bill Galvano announced Wednesday that longtime senior policy adviser Lisa Vickers will serve as his chief of staff.
“She brings a wealth of management experience gained from service as executive director of the Department of Revenue under two Governors, combined with a strong and diverse background in public policy,” Galvano said in a statement Wednesday.
Vickers is a well-known figure among senators and Senate staff as she has served as an adviser to the last three Senate presidents. She also worked for the state’s Department of Revenue for more than 20 years. In 2007, she was appointed to be the executive director of the department and served under both Gov. Charlie Crist and Gov. Rick Scott.
“Lisa came to the Senate the same year I was elected … [and] quickly earned a reputation as a problem-solver due to her tireless work ethic and ability to combine institutional knowledge with a thoughtful, innovative approach to public policy,” Galvano said.
Vickers is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Business and the Florida State University College of Law. She was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1990.
The Tallahassee-based chief of staff will work with Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, during his 2018-20 legislative term.
On Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio introduced two bills that would make daylight savings time permanent.
One bill, the Sunshine Protection Act, would make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent across the country.
Meanwhile, his Sunshine State Act would give Florida federal approval to establish permanent DST within its boundaries.
“Last week, Florida’s legislature overwhelmingly voted for permanent Daylight Saving Time for the State of Florida,” said Rubio in a media release.
“Reflecting the will of the Sunshine State,” Rubio added, “I proudly introduce these bills that would approve Florida’s will and, if made nationally, would also ensure Florida is not out of sync with the rest of the nation.”
The sponsor of the Florida bill, Miami Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, Speaker Pro Tempore of the Florida House of Representatives, offered support for Rubio’s legislation.
“As the 2018 session just recently concluded, I am proud to have sponsored HB 1013 which overwhelmingly passed both the House and Senate.We have heard from countless Floridians about the importance of maintaining Daylight Saving Time, including benefits to our economy, public safety and health. I look forward to working with Senator Rubio and his colleagues on addressing this issue. I am confident that the Sunshine State will lead the growing movement across the nation in adopting DST year-round,” Nunez said.
The Rubio media release cites a number of potential benefits of perpetual DST. Among them: economic benefits, including specific benefits for agriculture; improvements in physical fitness; a decrease in robberies and car wrecks involving pedestrians.