News Release: Governor Rick Scott's Office
Updated: April 1, 2014, 4:45pm
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott was joined by Senate President Don Gaetz, Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, Senator Rob Bradley, Representative Matt Gaetz and other members of Florida Legislature, as well as victims, advocates, parents and law enforcement officials to sign Senate Bills 522, 524, 526 and 528, 528 to protect vulnerable Floridians.
Governor Scott said, “The safety of Florida’s families, especially our children is of paramount importance and I am proud to sign this legislation that adds protections for vulnerable Floridians during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As a father of two girls and a grandfather of three boys, I think about how the legislation I am signing today will affect Florida’s families. It will make Florida’s children safer and adds protections for our communities, especially for our children. These measures will make a positive difference for generations to come.”
News Release: Lauren's Kids Foundation
March 12, 2014, 4:30pm
Statement from Lauren Book regarding passage of comprehensive legislative package to protect children from sexual predators:
Today marks an important milestone in the fight to protect Florida’s children from sexual predators. In a unanimous, bi-partisan vote the Florida House passed a comprehensive legislative package that addresses loopholes in Florida law to more severally punish, detain and track violent sexual predators.
As a result of the leadership of the Senate and House, these bills will make their way to the Governor’s desk where we hope Governor Scott will sign them into law. With Governor Scott’s signature, these bills will be the powerful tools that protect powerless people from the monsters who would prey upon them.
After five years of walking the state of Florida to make survivors’ voices heard in the Capitol, I am deeply grateful that this issue has become a priority of our state leaders. Their commitment today to bring about change will allow a new generation of Floridians to be safer than ever before from sexual predators.
Lauren Book, M.S. Ed is the Founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids Foundation and child sexual abuse survivor.
Lauren’s Kids is a non-profit organization that works to prevent abuse and heal survivors. The organization, headquartered in Aventura, Florida, was started by Lauren Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who endured abuse at the hands of her nanny for six years. Her organization offers a 24-hour crisis hotline, elementary school prevention curriculum for the general population and children with developmental delays and disabilities, an annual 1,500-mile awareness walk across the state of Florida and speaking engagements. For more information, visit laurenskids.org.
News Release: Florida House
March 12, 2014, 4:30pm
Tallahassee, Fla.—The Florida House of Representatives today unanimously passed a series of bills that will strengthen laws to protect children from sexually violent predators as part of the Legislature’s Work Plan 2014 “Protecting Florida’s Vulnerable” initiative.
“The House took an important step today to make Florida the most unfriendly state in the nation for sexually violent predators,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). “With these reforms, law enforcement will be better able to keep predators off our streets and away from our children.”
“Today, the Florida House took a stand against sexually violent predators. With the passage of this important legislative package, we have put these predators on notice that they are not welcome in our state and will be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said State Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach), Chair of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee and sponsor of CS/HB 7027.
“This bipartisan initiative highlights the House’s commitment to ensuring the safety of Florida’s children and families,” said State Representative Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart), Chair of the House Healthy Families Subcommittee and sponsor of CS/CS/HB 7021. “By strengthening our state’s laws, these reforms help to ensure that sexually violent criminals are no longer allowed to slip through the cracks of our justice system and reoffend.”
The House’s “Protecting Florida’s Vulnerable” initiative is comprised of a series of bills, which includes the following:
- CS/CS/SB 522, substituted for CS/HB 7019, closes a loophole by creating a process by which persons sentenced to a term of imprisonment in a jail can be referred to DCF for civil commitment. The bill also raises standards and increases accountability in the DCF evaluation process for determining whether an offender meets criteria for commitment to the Sexually Violent Predator Program. It also requires DCF to notify victims, the Department of Corrections (DOC), the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), and the sheriffs in the county in which the person intends to reside or, if unknown, in the county in which the person was last convicted, of the release of all persons in the custody of DCF – not just those committed as sexually violent predators.
- CS/SB 524, substituted for CS/CS/HB 7021, creates enhanced standards for the membership of the DCF multidisciplinary team (MDT), whose duty is to assess whether convicted sexual offenders meet the clinical definition of a sexually violent predator, and requires additional annual training for all members of MDT. The bill also requires private and public colleges and universities to inform students and employees about FDLE’s sexual predator and offender registry website and toll-free telephone number that gives access to sexual predator and offender information.
- CS/CS/SB 528, substituted for CS/CS/HB 7025, strengthens the registration requirements applicable to sexual predators and offenders to bring those requirements further in line with the federal Adam Walsh Act.
- CS/CS/CS/SB 526, substituted for CS/HB 7027, increases the penalties for specified sexual battery and lewd or lascivious offenses against children, increases to 50 years the minimum mandatory sentence for dangerous sexual felony offenders, requires the court to impose a split sentence in which an offender convicted of specified sexual offenses is sentenced to 2 years of community supervision after serving his or her term of imprisonment, and creates a new sentencing multiplier for specified adult-on-minor sexual offenses. The bill also ensures that the probationary period of an offender in DCF’s custody pursuant to the Jimmy Ryce Act does not begin until the person is released from DCF’s custody.
In January, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz announced Work Plan 2014, which included “Protecting Vulnerable Floridians” as a priority. To read more about Work Plan 2014, please visit the Florida House of Representatives online.
Tougher laws for sexual predators in Florida took a major step forward Tuesday.
The State Senate passed four bills on the first day of session designed to make the Sunshine State the most difficult place in the country for sex offenders.
Diena Thompson was overcome with emotion as she sat in the Florida Senate Gallery and watched it unfold.
In 2009, her 7 year old daugther Somer was abducted, raped and murdered from the suburban Jacksonville community of Orange Park.
Her body was later found in a Georgia landfill.
"We don't feel like we can waste any more time or certainly lose any more lives," said Senate President Don Gaetz.
For that reason Gaetz vowed last year to push through a series of proposals to toughen Florida's laws against sex offenders on the first day of the next session.
The measures close loopholes for civil commitment or court ordered treatment of sex offenders, enhance criminal penalties and require more extensive registration and monitoring of sex offenders once they're released from prison.
"This is priority number one for our senate president," said State Senator Rob Bradley of Fleming Island. "He's made that clear from the beginning." he said.
Bradley represents the Orange Park area where Somer was abducted.
He sponsored one of the four bills and made it clear why.
"This is for Somer," said Bradley.
Each one of the four bills passed by a unanimous 40 to nothing to vote.
"I'm grateful to the efforts of my colleagues and am proud of our
bi-partisan cooperation to advance this critical issue," said State Senator Eleanor Sobel of Hollywood.
After all the bills were passed, Gaetz praised his colleagues.
"Good work senators, good work," he said.
The House is expected to pass the bills next week and then pass them on to Governor Rick Scott to be signed into law.
Associated Press News Release
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A package of bills designed to strengthen sexual predator laws will be the first measures the Senate passes when it opens its annual session.
The four bills will be voted on Tuesday. They're designed to tighten loopholes in a law that allows the state to civilly commit the most dangerous sexual offenders once they've finished their prison terms.
More offenders could be reviewed if the legislation passes, including people serving jail sentences for sex crimes. Right now, only people convicted of felonies can be reviewed for commitment.
Prosecutors and victim advocates would also be part of the review process.
Another bill will also create a 50-year mandatory sentence for people who rape children, the developmentally disabled and the elderly. The mandatory minimum for raping children is now 25 years.
Associated Press News Release
Updated: March 3, 2014, 7pm
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A package of bills designed to strengthen sexual predator laws was approved by its final House committee.
The House Judiciary Committee combined parts of seven bills to form four bills that exactly match their Senate counterparts and then approved them Monday.
The Senate plans to pass their bills Tuesday and the House is expected to send them to Gov. Rick Scott next week.
One bill would require a mandatory 50-year sentence for people who rape children or who are considered dangerous sexual offenders -- double the current mandatory penalty.
Lawmakers will also make changes to a program that allows the civil commitment of sexual predators who have finished their prison sentences in an effort to close loopholes that allow the release of some dangerous offenders.
Associated Press News Release
By BRENDAN FARRINGTON
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Lawmakers are coming to the Capitol next week in agreement that some of the first bills they'll pass could have saved the life of an 8-year-old Jacksonville girl.
The death last June of Cherish Perrywinkle, who was abducted at a Wal-Mart, is part of the inspiration to try to close loopholes in the state program that allows the civil commitment of sexual predators once they've completed their prison terms.
A package of bills is ready for a vote as soon as the Senate begins its annual 60-day session and the House is expected to approve them the following week.
The man charged with murder in Perrywinkle's death could have been reviewed for civil commitment if the bills had been laws when he was released from jail shortly before her death. But the law then didn't allow it.