A bill that would grant exemptions from jury duty to new mothers cleared its first committee hurdle — with recommendations for how to improve it.
The sponsor of the measure (HB 461), Windemere Rep. Carolina Amesty, said she is open to amending its language to reflect those suggestions.
As written now, Amesty’s bill and a similar companion (SB 462) by Vero Beach Sen. Erin Grall would enable women who have given birth within six months to be excused from complying with a jury summons.
They’d only have to provide a written request and a copy of the child’s birth certificate.
“Strong and healthy families should be at the heart of our state policymaking,” Amesty said Wednesday at a meeting of the House Civil Justice Subcommittee, which unanimously voted “yes” on the measure.
Amesty said more than a dozen states, including California and Iowa, have enacted similar exemptions.
The measure comes at a time of increasing judicial system accommodation to mothers with newborns. In March, lawmakers gave uniform support to a bill requiring many courthouses across the state to provide free, clean and private lactation rooms.
Rep. Ashley Gantt, a Miami lawyer who sponsored the lactation rooms legislation in the House, pointed out that Amesty’s bill lacked details about how Clerks would verify the authenticity of birth certificate copies and the time frame within which requests for exemptions must be made.
Amesty said she could contact Gantt’s Office to work on those details.
Tampa Rep. Traci Koster, a marital and family law lawyer, noted growing support for fathers’ rights in the state and asked, “Is there an appetite for including new dads that might be on paternity leave or just had a baby as well?”
Amesty said that while the bill is solely “focused on women” now, she is “open to adding that.”
“I’m more than happy to look further into that (as) something we can do,” she said. “We want families to thrive in Florida, so I’m open to considering that.”
HB 461 will next go to the House Judiciary Committee, its last stop before a floor vote. SB 462 is scheduled for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at 9 a.m. Dec. 13.