The Legislature sent Donna’s Law, a bill to eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual assault against minor victims, to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday after unanimously passing it in both chambers.
Senators passed the House’s version of the law (HB 199), co-sponsored by Rep. Tracie Davis and Rep. Scott Plakon, after the House passed it Monday. Sen. Linda Stewart carried it through the Senate.
The bill is named after Donna Hedrick who was sexually abused by her music teacher and finally went public with her story after more than 40 years. Currently, a patchwork of statutes of limitations apply to victims under 18 depending on their age, how soon they reported the abuse and other reporting requirements.
“This is a major win for survivors and shows the true power of speaking out and sharing your story,” Stewart, an Orlando Democrat, said. “This is proof that the Florida Legislature hears your voices, and that change is made by people who show the strength to come forward and fight to protect victims.”
The bill will not apply to offenses committed before July 1.
“When I think of the many lives that this bill could impact in the future and the message that it will send to people who seek to hurt children in Florida, I cannot help but think of the lives it could have touched, had there been no statute of limitations on the prosecution of sexual battery against minors on the books,” Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat, said.
“Over the years, time limitations have continued to expand for victims, but the time has finally come for them to be removed altogether for minors. This is just the right thing to do, and I thank my colleagues in both chambers for listening to the experiences and being a part of this positive change for the future,” said Stewart.
Stewart’s version of the bill (SB 170) passed its committee stops with unanimous votes.