Post Date: June 26, 2013
Hello, Florida FAMM!
I’m writing to bring you up to speed on what happened this year with FAMM’s Florida project, and what we’re doing to prepare for the start of the 2014 legislative session.
The legislative year in review
The Florida legislative session concluded two months ago. Despite losing Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff, the sponsor of our bills from previous sessions, we secured House and Senate sponsors for both of FAMM’s legislative priorities, drug sentencing reform and 10-20-Life reform.
Drug sentencing reform
Representative Katie Edwards (D, Broward) sponsored HB 159, a sentencing safety valve that would apply to first-time nonviolent prescription drug offenders. Rep. Edwards’ bill was co-sponsored by 16 other state representatives, including members from both parties and House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley. The bill passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, and its Senate companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Maria Sachs (D, Palm Beach, Broward), passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee as well. Unfortunately, that bill did not move through the other committees to which it was assigned, and died.
FAMM went back to the drawing board and drafted an alternative reform that we thought was even better. The amended HB 159, again sponsored by Rep. Edwards, changed the amount of pills necessary to trigger “trafficking” (and thus mandatory minimum sentences), and changed the sentences associated with “trafficking” in prescription painkillers. The bill passed the committees in the House with just one “no” vote against it. However, there simply wasn’t enough time to pass the bill, and it died before receiving a full vote in either the House or Senate.
Though the drug sentencing reform bill did not pass, it was endorsed by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association. The Florida Sheriffs Association remains neutral on the bill and is not currently opposing it. FAMM has firm commitments from our sponsors to reintroduce the legislation early in the committee process, which should give the drug sentencing reform bill plenty of time to work its way through the system. We are confident that sentencing reform will be a priority of the legislature next year.
10-20-Life reform faced longer odds this year, but FAMM didn’t give up. We had enthusiastic sponsors, Rep. Neil Combee (R, Polk) in the House and Sen. Thad Altman (R, Brevard, Indian River) in the Senate, but the bill did not receive the necessary committee assignments to move forward. Rep. Combee and Sen. Altman pledged to reintroduce the bill next year, and FAMM is hard at work finding more cosponsors and other support for the bill, including among gun rights organizations and Second Amendment advocates.
This year was the third legislative session FAMM has been actively involved in Florida. We have improved our position every year, despite seemingly impossible odds. We’re able to do that because you continue to support this good cause. I know how easy it is to look at the political system and despair, to think change is impossible, and even to want to give up. But I’ve seen the fruits of our efforts and the effect your support has on this system. It’s a long, often painful, always slow road. But we are getting there.
Once again, thank you for your support. If you have any questions about FAMM’s Florida Project, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at (352) 682-2542.
Florida Project Director