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Skylar Zander says AFP-Florida plans more aggressive action for criminal justice reform.

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AFP-Florida plans major push to criminal justice reform

Conservatives look to follow up on the First Step Act.

The free-market advocates at Americans for Prosperity-Florida will pursue changes to the state’s criminal justice system during the 2019 Legislative Session.

That’s according to Skylar Zander, the new state director for the nonprofit conservative advocacy group.

In an interview with Florida Politics, Zander suggested many don’t know AFP for its criminal justice reform — but that’ll change.

Zander said the Sunshine State is overdue for bipartisan changes that have been done in other states and most recently at the federal level with the passage of the First Step Act.

“There’s been a lot of splash about it in the past few years, so we’re going to focus on making sure we’re passing solidly measured criminal justice reform,” Zander, who leads a team of 40 full-time employees, said.

Specifically, AFP-FL will prioritize changing the state’s felony-theft threshold. Lawmakers last year tried but failed to increase the current limit of $300. Zander said he’d like to see that number get to “at least $1,000.”

AFP-FL also will be reviewing data collected under a new law passed in 2018. Lawmakers and the public, Zander said, will soon have access to new information on justice metrics that will inform arguments for and against any proposed reforms.

The law requires, for example, that more information is collected on criminals who go through pretrial release programs. 

“We’re excited about that because it will allow legislators to get data and make decisions based on that data,” Zander said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis also has said he will look at the data from the new law to make cost-effective changes to the state’s criminal justice system.

While the organization is expanding its focus on criminal justice, Zander said AFP-FL will continue to work other issues — and potentially build or maintain partnerships with people or organizations that might traditionally be viewed as ideologically opposed to AFP-FL.  

“Our focus over the next year is to ensure that we’re working with everyone to do good and no one to do wrong,” Zander said, saying he’d continue to work with the ACLU on things like free speech and criminal justice concerns.

Eventually, Zander said AFP-FL would have a “point person” for each issue. He also said he expects to champion health care changes backed by House Speaker Jose Oliva, who already is prioritizing related reforms. 

The group will release its legislative agenda shortly before the March 5 start of the 2019 Legislative Session.

Written By

Danny McAuliffe is a Tallahassee correspondent for Florida Politics. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. He is a lifelong Floridian and indulges in swimming, hiking, running and memes when the news cycle permits. Reach him at dmcauliffe500@gmail.com.

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