Senate panel advances a bill … and a legacy
Legacy: Dan Markel will never see the effects of the visitation bill, but his children and parents will.

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‘Markel Act’ moves forward, looking to expand grandparent access to courts for visitation.

“What is a legacy?” 

Alexander Hamilton asks himself this in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” before his fateful duel with Aaron Burr, replying to himself: “It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.”

Dan Markel did not get to see one small piece of his legacy take root today, as the Florida Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee voted unanimously in support of SB 1408, a multiyear effort inspired in part by Markel’s 2014 murder-for-hire.

But his two children and parents very well might.

Sponsored by Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry and co-sponsored by Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, SB 1408 would allow grandparents to access courts to petition for visitation with grandchildren in cases where one parent died, and the living parent was found responsible for their death by a civil or criminal court.

Florida families report a variety of reasons for experiencing separation from grandchildren — but the stories often share a common thread: a surviving parent cuts ties after alleged wrongdoing, and children who once enjoyed the love and support of grandparents are left suddenly without.

“This bill would create a point of access to courts for grandparents whose child was killed, and the courts have ruled against the surviving parent in a wrongful death,” said Perry, concluding, “This is certainly a step in the right direction.”

Some seeds of this effort took root, in part, in this same committee last year, when Plantation Democratic Sen. Lauren Book hosted a workshop to consider legislative options for addressing terrible circumstances such as those Dan Markel’s parents and children found themselves in — cut off from one another by a surviving parent while criminal investigations and proceedings crawl slowly forward.

The bill’s companion, HB 1119, sponsored by Tampa Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo, has the support of Speaker Chris Sprowls and passed through House Judiciary last week, also with unanimous support.

Book commends Perry for his work on the bill, saying: “I just want to thank you for this piece of legislation. This is an issue that this committee has worked on for quite some time … This is a really wonderful day for children across the state of Florida.”

If this progress continues and the “Markel Act” — as HB 1119 and SB 1408 are unofficially called — passes into law, it could mean not only a reconnection for this namesake family, but for so many Florida children and their grandparents in the aftermath of tragedy.

And what better legacy than one that helps families foster strong roots that last generations?

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


One comment

  • Charles

    February 8, 2022 at 3:11 pm

    Good, well documented information

Comments are closed.


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