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Public-records exemption for murder witnesses heading to Governor

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The Senate met the two-thirds requirement Thursday to send Gov. Rick Scott a bill creating a public-records exemption for information that could identify murder witnesses.

The vote was 34-3 to accept CS/CS/HB 111, the House version of legislation sponsored in the Senate by Ocoee Democrat Randolph Bracy.

Exemptions to Florida’s stringent public-records laws require two-thirds votes in both Houses. The House overwhelmingly approved the measure on March 30.

Voting “No” in the Senate were Rob Bradley, Jeff Brandes, and Jeff Clemens.

Bracy opened by introducing about a dozen family members of murder victims who’d traveled to Tallahassee to lobby for the legislation.

“This is a group who have endured a terrible tragedy, in their kids being murdered,” he said. “They have been here through every hearing in the Senate and the House.”

The idea is to shield witnesses from intimidation or retaliation.

“It’s long overdue,” Hialeah Republican Rene Garcia said.

“Back in our community, the biggest problem we have is that people don’t want to speak up when they see a crime. This bill is going to go a long way to ensure that people’s voices are heard and their identities are kept private,” Garcia said.

“I talk a lot about senseless violence and things that happen in my community. This is one of those bills that will help the law enforcement find the perpetrators of these senseless acts,” Democratic leader Oscar Braynon said.North Miami Beach Democrat Daphne Campbell pointed out a constituent in the visitor’s gallery.

“She has only one son — only one son. And she got a phone call, and her son is gone,” Campbell said. “This bill really is just a little token of what this parent is going through.”

“I just want again to thank the parents of murdered kids for your advocacy,” Bracy concluded. “Our hearts and prayers are still with you.”

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Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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