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Mitch Perry Report for 3.31.16 – Pinellas lawmakers reflect on bills likely positive for entire body politic

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

You hear a lot in the news these days about how conservatives are poised to work with liberals on criminal justice.

It actually happened a few times during this past Legislative Session in Tallahassee.

At Wednesday’s Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting in St. Petersburg, the assembled lawmakers were asked to cite what they thought was the most important piece of legislation of the Session.

Clearwater House Republican Chris Latvala referred to his bill that allows certain juvenile offenders apply to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to have their record automatically expunged when they reach 21.

The bill was sponsored by Chris Latvala in the House and by Venice Republican Nancy Detert in the Senate. SB 386 allows for those who committed certain offenses before turning 18 to file to have records expunged. The petition has to be filed before one turns 21, but if a youth forgets or can’t afford the $75 fee to FDLE or the filing fees in their county court, they will be expunged automatically upon turning 21. It also removes a requirement that a petition happens no later than 12 months after completion of a diversion program.

“That was a bill that I was most proud of this year, and I think it will have a lasting impact on a lot of kids and young people,” Latvala said, adding that it brought disparate groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the James Madison Institute together to support it.

Pasadena House Republican Kathleen Peters was proud that there were nine separate bills that dealt with either mental health and substance abuse. “That is at the core of every crisis that we have,” she said of those two issues.

Peters called it the most comprehensive change when it comes to mental health and substance abuse that the state has seen since the 1970s.

“I promise you that within five years, we will have a good, comprehensive system with quality and access of care,” she said.

In other news …

Those Pinellas state lawmakers also discussed a whole lot of other things including their thoughts on how Rick Scott could work better with them, and of course, their thoughts on Donald Trump.

• • •

Scott signs legislation providing $7,500 in funeral expenses to the families of the more than 50 deceased children discovered from the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.

• • •

Patrick Murphy, who turned 33 Wednesday, received as a gift an endorsement from the largest federal employee union in the country in his race for U.S. Senate.

• • •

Much has been made about the increased turnout for Republican primaries and caucuses this election season, with Trump’s emergence being considered the leading factor. One of the seven counties in Florida that have switched from a dominate Democratic registration edge to a Republican one is in Pinellas — but DEC Chairwoman Susan McGrath is confident about her party’s chances there this November.

• • •

The advocacy group Florida Strong is hammering state Sen. Jeff Brandes on ethics in a new radio ad playing in the Tampa Bay area market.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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