State Sen. Aaron Bean is one of the most compelling personalities in the Florida Senate, and he has a number of bills that hit hot-button topics loaded up for the current session.
Among the topics: EBT cards, non-citizen voting, sanctuary cities, and foreign terror organizations.
We talked to Bean, a Republican representing part of Duval and all of Nassau County, about them on Monday.
One bill – SB 1260 – would impose new restrictions on EBT users, barring the use of government food subsidies for soft drinks, candy, and other simple sugars.
Bean calls this a “win for taxpayers,” one that would help to drive positive health outcomes by not subsidizing the purchase of “empty calories” on the government dime.
Regarding the question of “food deserts,” where grocery stores are in short supply, Bean noted that shouldn’t mean a “candy bar for dinner and a Tootsie Roll for dessert.”
SB 1260 – which does have a counterpart in the House – will be a “tough sell,” said Bean.
Among those stakeholders with concerns: the Florida Retail Federation.
Another hot-button Bean bill: SB 786, the “Rule of Law Adherence Act.”
This bill, asserted Bean, requires wayward local authorities to comply with federal immigration law – a rhetorical priority of the Donald Trump administration.
Currently, the senator said, “it’s not against state law to be against federal law.”
The bill defines what sanctuary cities are, and gives the State Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General the “right to nudge” non-compliant jurisdictions toward enforcement.
The bill creates a “duty to report” immigration violations for local authorities, while allowing for local ordinances compelling reimbursement of costs incurred on the local level in immigration enforcement.
Bean also is tackling an issue in the news recently with the Kamiyyah Mobley kidnapping case: changing the statute of limitations in cases involving victims who are minors.
SB 998 would remove a statute of limitations for victims under the age of 13, a salient point in the Mobley case given that it took over 18 years to recover the kidnapped infant – who grew into an adult raised by her abductor.
That issue, said Bean, is a priority of State Attorney Melissa Nelson.
SM 944 — a memorial bill – urges Congress to remove obstacles preventing non-citizens from voting.
Bean quipped that CFO Jeff Atwater told him that in D.C., there’s a “special dumpster” where memorial bills go.
Meanwhile, supervisors of elections – including Secretary of State Ken Detzner – discounted in 2016 the potential voter fraud that non-legal voters potentially could pose.
For his part, Bean says “we might have a problem,” and that his legislation seeks to “eliminate might.”
Bean’s goal: the feds providing the info needed for the state to “scrub its voter lists” with the goal of “the most fair elections possible.”
Yet another Bean bill of interest: SB 476, which amends and expands existing statute regarding terrorism.
The bill creates a more expansive definition for “terrorism” and “terrorist activities” in the wake of the Pulse massacre in June.
Additionally, the measure explicitly prohibits “using, attempting to use, or conspiring to use” training from a “designated foreign terrorist organization.”
Terroristic crimes, intended to “influence … affect … or retaliate against” a government via attacking citizens, would be defined as felonies of the first degree in the legislation, drawing a maximum prison term of 30 years.
We asked Bean about the particulars of this bill.
“This is the package the governor requested. The governor realized agencies need to communicate better,” Bean said.
When asked why the bill targets foreign terror groups, but not the so-called “homegrown” terror organizations, Bean said “we are still looking at language.”