Post Date: January 8, 2014
(Broward-Palm Beach New Times) — A limited but significant revision of sentencing guidelines for certain nonviolent drug crimes will be taken up by the Florida Senate this week. Another crack in the crumbling wall of Stone Age attitudes about drugs and criminal justice — even here in Florida — the proposal has bipartisan support and a chance of passage.
Senate Bill 360 eliminates the mandatory minimum for trafficking of less than 14 grams of oxycodone and hydrocodone and adjusts sentences as related to specified quantities. Currently, possession of those pills is treated according to total weight of the pills rather than weight of the pills’ active ingredients.
Going today to the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, the measure is coauthored by GOP Sens. Rob Bradley and Greg Evers. It is a companion to House Bill 99, which was coauthored by Broward Democratic Rep. Katie Edwards and Daytona GOP Rep. Dave Hood. That measure was introduced in the House in September and referred to committee there in November.
In an email to New Times, Greg Newburn, Florida project director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, called the proposal “a meaningful step forward in the effort to restore some sanity” to Florida’s drug laws. But, he added, “the real problem” is the existence of any mandatory minimums whatsoever:
Mandatory minimums are expensive, they’ve contributed to an explosion in Florida’s prison population, and worst of all they haven’t done a single thing to stop prescription drug trafficking or abuse… [They are] a complete failure by the standards of the (few) proponents themselves.
Newburn expressed confidence in the bill’s passage by the Senate committee, praising Bradley and Evers for “tremendous leadership.” Pointing also to support from Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, he said he was “hopeful” the bipartisan backing will “highlight how reasonable this reform is.”
We asked Bradley what happened to the “tough on crime” stance typically ascribed to legislators from his North-Central Florida district. He replied, “We will continue to be tough on violent crime, but [SB 360] doesn’t fit the traditional paradigm. It’s a common-sense measure.” Read more