Hate crimes are on the rise, members of the Broward County delegation learned Wednesday, but the law doesn’t recognize a category that’s becoming more common lately: Crimes based on gender or gender identity.
And delegation members say they want that fixed.
State Attorney Harold Pryor and Broward County Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott were among those who addressed the lawmakers Wednesday. The delegation is beginning to map out legislative priorities for the coming Session that starts March 7.
Sen. Rosalind Osgood said she’s going to be working with Pryor to work on a law that increases penalties for those who commit crimes based on gender and gender identity, adding to the state’s hate crime statute. Right now, Florida Statute 775.085 increases penalties for any felony or misdemeanor when it can be proven it happened based on race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status or advanced age of the victim.
Osgood said that’s a gap in the law.
“If someone attacks you based on your gender, the hate crime law does not allow” it to be applied, Osgood said.
Pryor also discussed so-called “Glock switches” that can turn a common handgun into a semi-automatic pistol. It’s already illegal under federal law, but apparently people are still making them on 3-D printers.
“I’ve got to look into what we can do to be a little tighter on that,” said Rep. Christine Hunschofsky of Parkland, whose also going to be reintroducing her bills that address allowing psychologists from other states in an interstate compact to practice telepsychology or on a temporary basis in Florida, sea level rise effects, legalizing fentanyl testing strips and strengthening rape reporting laws.
The delegation members who appeared Wednesday are all Democrats and the Delegation Chair said this year promises new challenges. Voters elected a supermajority of Republicans, giving them the power to shut Democrats out of debate entirely.
“In order for us to get anything done right now, we have got to stand fast and hold tight because we have so few numbers in Tallahassee,” said Rep. Patricia Hawkins-Williams, who is leading the Broward delegation. “So all of us working together to get things done for Broward County and the state of Florida in general is going to be very, very important.”
The lawmakers also heard from residents Wednesday, pleading for a way to fix the situation in which many homes are rented over online platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO, destroying the quiet enjoyment of their homes. Human trafficking and next year’s election rules were also discussed.
Elections chief Scott urged lawmakers to educate voters about how everyone who votes by mail needs to specifically request a mail-in ballot. By law, the new registration requires providing new identifiers, he told them. Starting next year, mail-in voters have to include either their Florida driver’s license number or the last four numbers of their Social Security number.
Osgood said it’s going to be a tough sell.
“People have been told their whole lives that this is information that’s kept private,” Osgood said.
Just 10 delegation members came for Wednesday’s meeting — not a quorum — so some of the items were delayed until the next scheduled meeting next month.