Connect with us
Rapid transit continues to get federal funding in Jacksonville.

Headlines

New legislation would worsen criminal penalties for attacks on state transit workers

A Tampa bus driver was brutally slain last year.

State lawmakers will consider legislation this year strengthening the criminal penalties for people who attack state bus drivers. 

The bills are being sponsored by Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry and State Rep. Mike Beltran, a Lithia Republican whose district includes part of Hillsborough County where a bus driver was killed last year after a rider slit his throat before exiting the bus. Another Tampa bus driver was stabbed several times with a box cutter and pepper sprayed after a passenger grew upset about the bus fare.

The legislation (SB 1416) would put bus drivers in the same category as other uniformed public servants such as law enforcement and fire firefighters. It would reclassify a physical attack on a transit worker from a second degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony.

The bills would require bus drivers to get de-escalation training. They would also mandate all public transit agencies post a sign by January 2021 warning that attacks on transit workers could result in imprisonment for up to five years and put up barriers to restrict public entry into bus drivers’ workstations. 

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is in the process of installing such barriers, while the Hillsborough agency has completed its installation. Those barriers not only protect drivers from people entering their space, they are ballistically-graded.

Mark Delegal of Holland & Knight said he expects the legislation will get support from various stakeholders, including the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, the Tampa Police Department and the Hillsborough County State Attorney. Other transit agencies are also likely to support the measure.

Adding safety barriers to protect drivers is a national trend as assaults on drivers become more common. Congressional leaders introduced federal legislation this year called The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act. The bill would require transit agencies to add safety improvements to help reduce the number of assaults on drivers.

Written By

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to sarah@floridapolitics.com.

Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Connect
Sign up for Sunburn

Receive our team's agenda-setting morning read of what's hot in Florida politics. Delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday.