Legislative Session Preview: Christine Hunschofsky highlights social work, homeowner protections, gun safety

Hunschofsky, Christine
The goal, she said, is to improve Floridians’ health, safety and security.

Last year, all three bills Parkland Democratic Rep. Christine Hunschofsky designated as top priorities passed and became law.

She’s now hoping for a repeat of that success with three policy proposals filed for the 2024 Legislative Session.

The first (HB 99) would authorize Florida to become a member of the Social Work Licensure Compact, a burgeoning interstate agreement to allow social workers licensed in one member state to practice in other participating states.

Hunschofsky also filed a related measure (HB 101) that would ensure the personal information of social workers participating in the program is kept private.

“Access to quality behavioral health is incredibly important, and this is just another way to make sure we have more access to those services and that people who might live in Florida now but go to another state temporarily still can get those services from a trusted professional,” she said.

“Given that we have such workforce shortages in behavioral health, it’s vital that we do everything we can to make sure our residents have access no matter where they are, and this is just one more tool in that workforce toolbox.”

Doral Republican Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez is sponsoring Senate versions of the measures (SB 68, SB 70).

To help curb a disturbing rise in property theft, Hunschofsky has also filed HB 285, which is designed to encourage participation in alert programs similar to one that’s operated since 2021 in Broward County.

Under Broward Property Appraiser Marty Kiar, homeowners can opt into a free program that notifies deed holders if a document has been filed changing the ownership of their property. It’s meant to help counteract deed fraud, a growing problem where scammers file fake deeds to steal houses from their rightful owners.

In the first six months of 2023 alone, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that there were 92 cases of deed fraud under investigation in the county.

State lawmakers last year approved legislation (HB 1419) that, among other things, launched a pilot program authorizing county Clerks and Property Appraisers across Florida to create similar notification programs. All Hunschofsky’s bill does is establish a public records exemption so that the personal information of homeowners who sign up to be notified — including their names, email addresses, phone numbers and parcel identification numbers — are exempt from public inspection without a court order.

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Nick DiCeglie is carrying a similar companion measure (SB 1000).

“We want to encourage people to sign up for these alert programs so they can keep an eye out if anything happens and they can be on top of it,” Hunschofsky said.

Then there’s HB 291, a bill Hunschofsky worked on last year that became a caucus priority but ultimately died unheard.

Titled the “Responsible Gun Ownership Act,” the measure would, among other things, require universal background checks even in private sales, increase safe storage strictures and expand risk protections to allow residents to seek protection orders for immediate family members they believe intend to break the law.

It would also address so-called “ghost guns,” firearms sometimes made partially or entirely of 3D-printed plastic that are largely undetectable by metal detectors and many security scanning systems. If passed, the measure would require that any such weapon without a serial number must have one installed on it.

“This all just makes sure people who own guns are safe and also responsible,” she said. “I’ve had lots of discussions with gun owners about these measures, and everyone I’ve talked to agrees with them.”

Hunschofsky and Boca Raton Sen. Tina Polsky previously sought to ban ghost guns through twin bills filed for the 2022 Legislative Session. Both bills died without a hearing.

U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, whose district includes parts of the areas they represent in Tallahassee, filed similar federal legislation in June.

Hunschofsky and Polsky last year retooled their efforts into bills (HB 1513, SB 208) similar to HB 291. The Republican-controlled Legislature ignored those proposals as well.

Undeterred, the pair are again teaming up on the measures this year.

“The whole point is that we want to make sure people are responsible gun owners,” she said.

“Having to go through a background check is important. We want to make sure firearms are safely stored so things like kids getting their hands on a gun and accidentally shooting someone or people leaving their guns unsecured in their cars so they can be stolen don’t happen. We want to make sure ghost guns have serial numbers on them like regular guns, because that helps our law enforcement when a crime is committed. These are all pretty common-sense safety measures.”

Hunschofsky, a former Mayor of Parkland, also hopes to bring back ample appropriations for House District 95, which covers a northwestern portion of Broward including Coconut Creek, Margate, Parkland and a small portion of North Lauderdale.

Priority appropriations, she said, include funds for real-time crime centers, behavioral health services, pre-apprenticeship workforce programs and other initiatives “that will really make a difference for not only the people I serve but all Floridians.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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