A series of measures protecting children from violent sexual predators passed the Florida House on Wednesday.
The “Protecting Florida’s Vulnerable” initiative is a collection of bills that make up part of the Legislature’s Work Plan 2014, announced in January by Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford.
“The House took an important step today to make Florida the most unfriendly state in the nation for sexually violent predators,” said Weatherford. “With these reforms, law enforcement will be better able to keep predators off our streets and away from our children.”
Among the initiatives passed:
- CS/CS/SB 522 closes a loophole by creating a system to refer offenders to the Florida Department of Children and Families for civil commitment. The bill also increases accountability in the DCF evaluation process for determining commitment to the Sexually Violent Predator Program.
- CS/SB 524 enhances standards for the DCF multidisciplinary team (MDT), whose function is to designate convicted sex offenders as sexually violent predators, and requires additional annual training for all MDT members. Private and public colleges and universities will have to inform students and employees about FDLE’s sexual predator and offender registry website and provide the toll-free telephone number for sexual predator and offender information.
- CS/SB 528 strengthens the registration requirements applicable to sexual predators and offenders to bring those requirements in line with the federal Adam Walsh Act.
- CS/SB 526 increases penalties for specified sexual battery and lewd or lascivious offenses against children; increases minimum mandatory sentence to 50 years for dangerous sexual felony offenders. 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.
“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 Rep. Matt Gaetz, Chair of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee and promoter of the bill that became CS/SB 526.