Florida Reform Bills on the Move!

Post Date: March 7, 2013

Hello, Florida FAMM!

It has been too long, and for that I apologize. But we have been hard at work getting mandatory minimum reform on the 2013 legislative agenda, and I’m happy to say we’ve succeeded. FAMM and our partners have successfully convinced legislators from both parties and in both the House and Senate to file bills that would reform both drug trafficking sentencing and “10-20-Life.” 

As you know, we’ve tried for a few years now to pass reform of the least defensible law on Florida’s books, our drug trafficking sentencing law. This year we’ve taken a slightly new direction, and we’re hopeful that will yield success this time around. You can see summaries of the bills at the Florida FAMM web page, but briefly HB 159 (Rep. Edwards) and SB 420 (Sen. Sachs) would create a “safety valve” that would allow judges to depart from mandatory minimums for prescription drug “trafficking” if the defendant meets certain criteria. We’re happy to report that this bill has Republican and Democratic co-sponsors in the House (including Judiciary Chair Dennis Baxley) and has already passed the key Senate Criminal Justice Committee (6-1, with four Republicans voting for the bill). Click here for FAMM’s summary of the bills.

Additionally, for the first time since the launch of the Florida project, FAMM has successfully added 10-20-Life reform to the legislative agenda as well. After some high profile self-defense cases last year, we worked to have Governor Scott’s “Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection” recommend the legislature review 10-20-Life and make changes to reduce any unintended consequences. After nearly a year of studying the issue, the Task Force did make those recommendations in its report. After that, we were able to identify some friends and allies on the issue, and now two Republicans have filed HB 1047 (Rep. Combee) and SB 1446 (Sen. Altman) to provide for a safety valve in certain 10-20-Life cases. Click here for FAMM’s summary of the bill.

Both the drug trafficking sentencing reform and the 10-20-Life reform are important bills, and they represent crucial first steps in the fight to make Florida’s sentencing policy fairer and saner. The legislative session began this week, and our bills are already moving. Of course, it’s a long process and there are many hurdles along the way, but I can guarantee we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to pass these bills and continue our fight for sentencing reform in Florida.

If you haven’t yet, please check out our updates to the Florida FAMM site. You’ll see summaries of our bills, including a “one-pager” analysis of both bills that you can print or email to friends and colleagues, and a new issue brief about gun sentencing reform in Florida. I’ll be posting new material throughout the legislative session (including a forthcoming and comprehensive response to the Florida Sheriffs Association’s opposition paper to our drug sentencing bill), and sending ealerts as our bills are heard in committee. Of course, for real time, daily updates on FAMM and our work in Florida, follow us on Twitter (@FloridaFAMM) — House Speaker Will Weatherford follows us, and you should, too! — or find the Florida Project on Facebook.

Thank you for your patience and support during the legislative process. You know as well as anyone how long, difficult and at times painful the fight for reform can be. Thank you as well for standing right there with us; we couldn’t do this without you.



Greg Newburn
Florida Project Director