LIBERTY FIRST NETWORK LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FOR JANUARY 9, 2014
*** This update is for information only. No reader action is needed unless desired or specified, see Red Light Camera section for an Action Item ***
This week was another committee week. Legislation of interest this week included threatened use of force and red light camera bills, as well as an indirect REAL ID bill.
Threatened use of force
The first bill of interest was SB 448
, which is titled "Threatened Use of Force
." It was heard by the Senate Criminal Justice committee on Wednesday January 8.
This bill in our opinion is needed to correct some unintended consequences wherein people that threatened to use force were charged and convicted and received a mandatory minimum sentence. The committee barely had enough Senators present to form a quorum, and was delayed until enough could arrive to do so. Several speakers in favor of the bill appeared, including Paul Henry from Liberty First Network, Eric Thursday from Florida Carry, Greg Newbern from Families Against Mandatory Minimums, and Marion Hammer from Unified Sportsmen of Florida. The only person to sort-of speak against the bill was a representative from the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, who indicated his issue was how prosecutors were being portrayed. He conceded the bill had good provisions, but reminded the committee there were two sides to all stories, and people in prison had been found guilty by a judge and jury.
Once the vote came, it was easily passed with a 5-0 vote. The bill moves next to the Judiciary committee, and if passed there to the Rules committee. There is a companion House bill, HB 89, that we are tracking. Back in November, it passed its first committee with a12-1 vote. It has two more committees to clear, the Justice Appropriations subcommittee and the Judiciary Committee.
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Red light cameras
The next bill was a proposed committee bill (PCB) in the House called THSS 14-01
. THSS is the T
ransportation and H
ubcommittee. This bill has several sections dealing with transportation, but of interest was the section dealing with red light cameras
. Rep. Frank Artilles
has a legislative record of opposing the camera scheme, and his bill was on-topic once again. His reasoning was that since the stated reason by so many local officials was that of safety and not revenue, he would introduce a bill to remove local revenue from the equation. Needless to say, the hypocrisy of the camera scheme was exposed yet again. Rep. Linda Stewart
offered an amendment to remove all red light camera changes. In our lengthy conversation with Rep. Barbara Watson
, her main concern was that local cities would not make enough with the $25 allowance to pay for the cameras. Rep. Artilles offered a substitute amendment that would replace the $25 with leeway to cover the administrative cost of the cameras.
It was interesting to watch Rep. Stewart try to figure out the amendment process. Rep. Artilles had created a substitute amendment for her amendment and Chair Daniel Davis
went out of his way to clarify that the substitute amendment replaced (substituted) her amendment. When she had the chance to oppose it, she failed to do so. In a subsequent re-vote (Chair Davis again went well out of his way), she again failed to oppose the substitute amendment.
Even though Rep. Artilles' compromise amendment squarely addressed her funding concerns, Rep. B. Watson voted against the bill along with Reps. Bobby Powell
and Linda Stewart.
The bill passed with a vote of 10-3. It will have several more committee stops. We do not have full information at this time. Since there is no Senate companion, we suggest calls to your Senator to get one filed.
Please find your Senator here
, contact them, and ask they sponsor a companion bill.
This was not so much as REAL ID bill as a fairness issue that involves REAL ID. Today the Senate Transportation Committee heard SB 274
, titled Inmate Reentry. What this bill does is give financial and time relief to Florida inmates being released from prison. It gives them a certified birth certificate and also uses tax dollars to help them obtain the documents needed due to the REAL ID law. Citizens on the other hand receive no help in either the cost or time required to obtain these documents. By itself, it is a good idea to help them re-integrate into society. However, this is the third time in 12 months that the Legislature has helped someone other than the citizens of Florida with driver licenses. In March 2013, in the space of 21 days the Legislature filed and passed a bill to repeal the international license requirement that was opposed by foreign tourists. This was the first bill to be signed last session by Gov. Scott. Later in the same session, the Legislature passed with only 2 no votes a bill to allow certain illegal immigrants to use federal "Deferred Action" letters to obtain a Florida driver license. This bill was vetoed by Gov. Scott.
We see this as a basic issue of fairness, as the Florida Constitution in Article 1 Section 2 talks about basic rights and equal treatment. We cannot understand some in the Legislature's desire to put all of these others ahead of Florida citizens.
A companion bill HB 53
was heard in under "120 seconds" by the House Criminal Justice committee. Even though there were speakers to redress their grievances with their government (this is language from the 1st Amendment if it sounds familiar), Chair Matt Gaetz
prohibited any public testimony. The bill was basically rubber-stamped passed with a 12-1 vote.
In our opinion, these bills are not likely to fail, and we will not be following up on them so that we can focus on other more important issues. We thought it was important to document the level of concern for non-citizen or convicted felon licensing relief that the Legislature has expressed.
Another committee week is scheduled for next week, and the regular session begins on March 4. We'll be updating relevant activity on a weekly basis.
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