Senate passes ‘Miya’s Law’ bill to protect apartment dwellers
Messing with evidence could come with more consequences soon.

Crime scene of a murder case. 3D illustration
The Senate bill requires background checks on apartment employees, master key controls.

The Senate unanimously approved a bill Wednesday aimed at offering new protections for apartment dwellers, named after a young woman who was murdered in her Orange County apartment last September.

The Senate gave a 39-0 approval to Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart’s “Miya’s Law” (SB 898).

The bill is intended to create new safeguards that might save others from the fate of Miya Marcano, who was believed to have been murdered by an apartment maintenance worker with a violent criminal background, an obsession with her and a master key that opened her apartment.

“She was 19 years old and a college student in my district,” Stewart said in closing for the bill Wednesday. “She was tragically killed in her apartment after being stalked by this person. And unfortunately, a couple days later, after they found her in the woods, he committed suicide.

“There wasn’t really any prosecution. I hope this gives Miya’s family closure,” Stewart said.

“Miya’s Law,” as spelled out in SB 898, would require apartment owners to conduct extensive criminal background checks on employees who could enter apartments. It also would institute rigorous controls, including logs, over master keys to apartments. The law also would require apartment employees to give tenants at least 24 hours notice before entering an apartment, up from the current requirement of at least 12 hours.

The Senate’s unanimous vote Wednesday evening continued the unimpeded run Stewart’s bill made through the Senate. It cleared three committees without a “nay” vote, and with only one amendment.

On Wednesday, Stewart offered a second amendment, one that had been requested by Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes in one of the committees. But as she presented it, Stewart backed off, saying the amendment’s purpose of limiting employee background checks to the past five years would have missed some of the violent behavior in the criminal record of the suspect in Marcano’s murder.  She withdrew the amendment with no objection.

The House version (HB 577), from Democratic Rep. Robin Bartleman, has not fared as well. Much of the House’s provisions were stripped away in a committee substitute. The only significant new protection that remains is the provision that apartment employees give 24-hour notices before entering apartments.

Marcano’s apartment was in Stewart’s Senate District 13. Marcano’s family is from Pembroke Pines, in Bartleman’s House District 104.

Stewart expressed hope that the House will take up her version now that it swept through with not just unanimous votes, but applause.

“I know that Miya’s family, law enforcement, the apartment association, everybody had all signed off on this version,” Stewart said. “I hope we can get this sent over and accepted by the House.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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