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State Public Policy Updates
Florida Policy Update April 30, 2013
SB 964 – Relating to Termination of Parental Rights
Sponsor: Sen. Abruzzo
This bill allows for the termination of parental rights if a court determines, by clear and convincing evidence, that the child was conceived due to sexual battery. The language also creates the presumption that the termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child if that child was the product of sexual battery. Under this bill, a petition to terminate parental rights may be filed at any time.
Effective Date: July 1, 2013
Status: The bill passed both houses on 4/30/13. It has been ordered enrolled to prepare for presentation to the Governor.
HB 7031 – Relating to Sex Offenses
Sponsor: Rep. Harrell
Currently in Florida, a victim of child sexual abuse who is 11 years old or younger may provide out-of-court testimony regarding the abuse suffered; victims age 12 and over must give their testimony in court. This bill would allow out-of-court statements by child victims with physical, mental, emotional, or developmental ages of 16 or less.
This bill includes a requirement for courts to hold a defendant being charged with a felony that would require, if convicted, registration as a sex offender or predator, without bail until first appearance for the safety of the community. It also allows for the evaluation of sex offenders on probation or community control to determine if sex offender treatment is required.
Effective Date: October 1, 2013
Status: Passed the House by a vote of 111/6 on 4/17/13. Both HB 7031 and its Senate companion bill, SB 1114 by Sen. Altman, were both referred to committees but no movement has occurred since 4/18/13.
HB 757 – Relating to Mandatory Reports of Child Abuse
Sponsor: Rep. Hood
The purpose of this bill is to eliminate multiple reports from law enforcement to the Central Abuse Hotline, and vice versa, regarding the same instance of child abuse. If provides that while law enforcement is investigating a case of child abuse by someone other than a parent or guardian, they will not have to make a report to the Central Abuse Hotline if the same incident was originally referred to them by the Central Abuse Hotline. It also provides that if DCF originally received a report of abuse from the county sheriff’s office, they will not have to refer that case back to that sheriff’s office.
Effective Date: July 1, 2013
Status: Passed the House unanimously on 4/17/13. On 4/18, it was referred to three committees but has made no movement since then. The Senate companion bill, SB 1162 by Sen. Bradley, has not moved from its committee since 4/11/13.
HB 353 – Relating to Juvenile Justice
Sponsor: Rep. Harrell
This bill provides for criminal penalties for employees in the juvenile justice system who abuse juveniles in the justice system. There are enhanced penalties for great bodily harm or permanent disfigurement to the juveniles abused. There is also a provision allowing criminal penalties for employees who witness abuse to juveniles in the justice system but do not report, keep others from reporting or alter records or documentation to conceal instances of abuse.
Status: Passed the House unanimously on 4/12/13. Referred to several committees but has not moved since 4/18.
The Senate companion bill, SB 0672 by Sen. Evers, cleared its first three committees of reference and was assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee on 4/17, but there has been no movement since then.
Public Policy Update February 28, 2013
Today, the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 286 – 138; the House substitute failed by a vote of 257 – 166. The Senate version of VAWA was passed in the U.S. Senate on February 12, 2013. Now, this version that has passed both the Senate and House will be presented to the President for signature.
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 contains improvements upon previous provisions for victims of violence. Below is a look at some of the most important aspects of the reauthorization:
- Acts as The Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2013. This will effectively extend VAWA grant programs until FY 2018.
- Makes changes to the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize and strengthen necessary healthcare system grant programs for victims of sexual, domestic and dating violence and stalking
- Establishes a national resource center on workplace response to victims of sexual and domestic violence to increase the likelihood of victims’ economic security
- Allows for Indian tribes to have criminal jurisdiction over protection order violations that occur on their lands, as long as the defendant has substantial tribal ties and has been apprised of his/her constitutional rights
- Recognizes various means of cyber stalking as forms of stalking in the Federal Criminal Code.
- Important Funding Provisions:
less than 25% of allotted VAWA funds must be used for projects aiding victims
of sexual assault
o No less than 5% of allotted VAWA funds must be used for funding tribal grant programs
o No more than 10% may be used for the provision of civil legal services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and/or stalking
o The Attorney General will have to authorize in writing expenditures for Department of Justice conferences that exceed $20,000.
These provisions and others not only expanded current protections but opened VAWA’s protections more meaningfully to a wider group of survivors of violence. Elder abuse grant proposals that are culturally specific will be given a higher priority by the Attorney General. Prevention of violence grants focusing on men and youth can now be awarded by the Attorney General. By amendment, the VAWA reauthorization also included a LGBT nondiscrimination policy that passed the House of Representatives.
Public Policy Update January 31, 2013
In his budget, released early this afternoon, Governor Scott recommended a $2.5 million appropriation for rape crisis services, making it a clear priority to support and help heal victims of sexual assault. Funding is intended to help raise awareness of rape and sexual abuse, improve law enforcement and prosecutorial response and to ensure that victims have access to high-quality recovery services. This is the first time in Florida that services for survivors of sexual violence have been funded in the Governor's Budget Recommendation and we applaud his leadership in addressing sexual violence.
Additionally, the Governor's Budget Recommendation includes $1,468,608 in nonrecurring funding to establish 50 dedicated group home intensive service beds in Miami, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale for female victims of commercial sexual exploitation who reside in the foster care system. The children are in need of placements and services that comply with requirements established by the Florida Safe Harbor Act of 2012.
Late this afternoon, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced that he had reached a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority to move forward S. 47, the Violence Against Women Act, which lapsed at the end of last Congress when lawmakers failed to reauthorize the legislation. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) signed on today as a co-sponsor. Though it wasn’t initially clear when the Senate would take up VAWA, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) announced this evening that the Senate will move to the Violence Against Women Act on Monday, February 4.
S. 47 would be a five-year reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and includes expanded protections for LGBT and tribal victims, measures that were in the bill that died last Congress. In hopes of moving reauthorization forward as quickly as possible, the Senate removed a provision – opposed last Congress by the House – that would have moderately increased the number of emergency visas (U-visas) available for immigrant victims of domestic or sexual violence (and some other violent crimes) who assist law enforcement with the investigation and prosecution of the crime. However, the U-visa expansion may be resurrected when the Senate takes up immigration reform. Added to S. 47 was the SAFER Act, a stand-alone bill from last year that supports the elimination of rape kit backlogs.
State Public Policy Update November 30, 2012
Sexual Battery Relocation Assistance
In 2012 the Florida legislature’s passage of HB1355 allowed for victim relocation assistance for sexual battery victims. A $1.5 million non-recurring appropriation was allocated to relocation assistance. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) will administer the funds as part of the Victim Compensation Program. The new law, 960.099, F.S., went into effect on October 1, 2012, and allows a victim of sexual battery to apply for relocation assistance if the sexual battery was committed in the victim’s place of residence or in a location that would lead the victim to reasonably fear for his or her continued safety in the place of residence. A certified rape crisis center in Florida must certify the need for assistance and assert that the victim has cooperated with law enforcement and developed a safety plan.
In November 2012, OAG finalized their administrative rule regarding the process of administration of relocation funds. The rule, 2A-2.015 F.A.C., establishes agency procedure regarding eligibility of funds, the application process and payment to victims. According to the rule, a rape crisis center representative will have to witness a victim accept payment of funds. An application for funds must include proof that a sexual battery offense was committed and that a report to law enforcement was made. Proof of sexual battery can be a law enforcement, Department of Children and Families or Child Protection Team report, or an information or other charging document from an Assistant State Attorney.
To view 2A-2.015, F.A.C., follow the link below:
To view 960.199, F.S., follow the link below:
2012 Legislative Wrap-Up
Florida's legislative session occured in January and February of 2012 rather than March and April because of the need to complete redistricting this year. A broad spectrum of sexual violence legislation was discussed and passed including FCASV's top priority bill and legislation relating to trafficking, stalking, video voyeurism, a public records exemption, the Civil Commitment Program, background screening, and adoption. A strong budget was passed to support Florida's rape crisis programs. Unfortunately, Governor Scott vetoed critical new funding to address waiting lists at rape crisis centers.
The final budget included appropriations for the Rape Crisis Center Trust Fund compatible with collection rates which will result in a small decrease in overall funding to rape crisis centers in FY 2012. Funding for rape crisis centers in Legal Affairs was increased from $250,000 to $500,000 and will continue to be funded by recurring general revenue for the second year. New funding for rape crisis centers, $1.5 in non-recurring general revenue in the Department of Children and Families budget, was passed by the legislature but vetoed by the Governor via line item veto on April 17, 2012.
This legislation includes several components including relocation assistance for victims of sexual violence, abuse hotline augmentations, enhanced penalties for engaging in prostitution with a minor, and increased accountability for universities:
- Relocation: This legislation provides relocation assistance for victims of sexual assault through the Victim Compensation Program, and a $1.5 million non-recurring appropriation for this purpose. Victims will be eligible for a $1500 one-time/$3000 lifetime relocation benefit if the need is confirmed by a certified rape crisis center. As with all victim compensation benefits, eligibility requires that the crime must was reported to law enforcement. The sexual violence must have occurred in the home or in a place that would lead the victim to reasonably fear for her/his safety.
- Abuse Hotline: On October 1, 2012 the Florida Abuse Hotline will start taking reports of non-caretaker abuse in addition to caretaker abuse. The non-caretakers abuse cases will be forwarded to the sheriff for investigation.
- Child Prostitution: The legislation enhances by one degree criminal penalties for prostitution when the person being prostituted is a minor (and does not further criminalize the behavior of the minor).
- Accountability for Universities: The legislation adds a $1 million fine for universities failing to report child abuse and forward copies of those reports to the appropriate authorities.
The bill creates the Florida Safe Harbor Act to protect and provide shelter for sexually exploited children. It makes amendments to definitions relating to abuse and sexual exploitation of children in Chapter 39, F.S. which could have the effect of considering a child as dependent and sexually exploited when they are engaging in prostitution. The bill retains law enforcement discretion whether or not to arrest and prosecute children for the crime of prostitution but requires law enforcement to deliver children picked up and alleged to be dependent and sexually exploited to the Department of Children and Families for assessment and possible shelter. The legislation allows the Department of Children and Families to place a child alleged to have been sexually exploited in a safe house, if one is available. It creates new sections of law related to safe harbor placements which provides process and requirements for services in safe houses. The bill increases the civil penalty for “pimping” from $500 to $5,000 and directs that $500 of the civil penalty be used for treatment based drug court programs and the remainder be paid to the Department of Children and Family Services to fund safe houses and short-term safe houses.
HB 7049 by the House Judiciary Committee (Rep. Snyder)
SB 1880 by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami)
Takes effect July 1, 2012
This legislation eliminates the concept that trafficking necessarily include “transport” of the victim. It Augments the definition of coercion to include enticing or luring a person through fraud or deceit and providing a controlled substance to a person. The legislation combines statutes on involuntary servitude, human trafficking, and sex trafficking into a single statute, enhances the applicability of these provisions, and increases penalties. Jurisdiction for human trafficking is provided to the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor and statewide grand jury. The legislation eliminates the requirement that prohibited trafficking of minors for commercial sexual activity be “coerced” and provides enhanced penalties for those who traffic minors and those who traffic persons who are not legally authorized to work in the United States. The legislation requires traffickers to register as sex offenders, expands the definition of “commercial sexual activity” and includes these activities as potential forms of trafficking. The legislation permits a judge to authorize the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications when such interception may provide evidence of the commission of the offense of human trafficking. The legislation requires an operator of a massage establishment and any employee of a massage establishment to present valid government identification to the Department of Health or law enforcement upon request.
This legislation augments the definition of proving “credible threat” to include verbal, nonverbal, electronic communication and also lessens the threshold of demonstrating that a threat is credibly. This legislation creates a new injunction for protection against stalking; provides a first degree misdemeanor penalty for violating an injunction against stalking; and specifies that victims applying for a stalking injunction have the right to have an advocate present and referral information from a certified rape crisis center and/or domestic violence center.
This bill increases penalties for
possessing or viewing photos depicting sexual conduct by a child, for repeat
video voyeurism, adds video voyeurism to the sex offender registry statute and
also specifies that if photographs include more than one child, each child in
each photograph is a separate offense.
HB 215 by Rep. Dana Young (R-Tampa)
SB 436 by Senators Ronda Storms (R-Brandon)
Takes effect July 1, 2012
This bill changes video voyeurism offenses that are currently first degree misdemeanors to third degree felonies if the offender was 19 years of age or older at the time of the offense and raises the offenses of video voyeurism against specified young persons and repeat video voyeurism from third degree felonies to second degree felonies. The bill also amends s. 810.145, F.S., to specify that the interior of a residential dwelling is a place where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
This legislation creates a public
records exemption for the automated process by which a petitioner may request
notification of service of the injunction and requires the clerk and law
enforcement to notify victims of this exemption.
Sexually Violent Predator Program
HB 1097 by Rep. Paige Kreegel (R-Punta Gorda)
SB 2052 by the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs
Takes effect July 1, 2012
This legislation relates to Florida’s civil commitment process. It requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to prioritize assessments for sexually violent offenders who are at least 365 days from release from confinement and who have not had an assessment or recommendation. The legislation removes a deportation detainer exception for sexually violent predators. As a result, DCF will be able to work with the courts to facilitate the deportation of sexually violent predators that can be safely deported. The legislation makes it a third degree felony for a person to knowingly and intentionally bring, send, take, or attempt to take “contraband” into any secure facility providing confinement and treatment.
HB 803 Rep. Jose Felix Diaz (R-Miami)
SB 2044 by Senate Committee on Children, Families & Elder Affairs
Takes effect July 1, 2012
The bill makes changes to numerous provisions in chapter 39, Florida Statutes, relating to the central abuse hotline, child protective investigations, and the dependency process. The bill redesigns the process of child protective services. Specifically, the bill:
- Amends the central abuse hotline procedures to provide that the hotline may accept a call from a parent or legal custodian seeking assistance for themselves when the call does not meet the statutory requirement of abuse, abandonment or neglect;
- Allows the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF or department) to discontinue an investigation if it is determined that a false report of abuse, abandonment or neglect has been filed;
- Requires the department to maintain one electronic child welfare case file for each child;
- Requires child protective investigators (CPIs) to determine the need for immediate consultation with law enforcement personnel, child protection teams, and others prior to the commencement of an investigation;
- Eliminates the current bifurcated investigative process and provides for a single procedure for every case accepted for investigation; and
- Requires that monitoring of protective investigation reports are used to determine the quality and timeliness of safety assessments, and teamwork with other professionals and engagement with families.
- In addition, the bill makes changes to the chapter 39, F.S., protective injunction process to prevent child abuse and to mirror language in the civil injunction process in chapter 741, F.S., amends requirements relating to criminal background and records checks for individuals being considered for placement of a child, and amends provisions relating to termination of parental rights that apply to incarcerated parents. The bill provides specific circumstances in which the court may order maintaining and strengthening families as a permanency goal in a child’s case plan when the child resides with a parent.
This bill was designed to fix several glitches in legislation passed two years ago to significantly enhance background screening requirements and the screening process. This bill creates the Care Provider Background Screening Clearinghouse to allow for the results of criminal history checks of persons acting as covered care providers to be shared among the specified agencies. It requires electronic fingerprinting vendors to use technology systems that are compliant with the systems used by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It also allows employers to hire an employee for training and orientation before the screening is complete, provided the employee does not have any contact with clients until successful completion of the screening. The legislation creates background screening requirements related to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) within the Department of Education. The bill exempts the following personnel and volunteers from either screening or rescreening:
- Mental health personnel working in hospitals with less than 15 hours of direct contact with adult patients per week in a hospital;
- Certified Nursing Assistant applicants who have successfully passed background screening within 90 days of applying for certification;
- Law enforcement officers who work or volunteer in summer camps and other facilities regulated under ch. 409, F.S., such as foster group homes and residential child-caring agencies;
- Certain volunteers, relatives of clients, and attorneys who provide services through a direct service provider that has a contractual relationship with the Department of Elderly Affairs.
Department of Children and Families Domestic Violence Program
HB 7093 by the House Health and Human Services Committee
SB 2054 by the Senate Children, Families and Elders Affairs Committee
Takes effect July 1, 2012
The bill amends the duties of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) relating to the domestic violence program by:
- Requiring DCF to contract with the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) to monitor, fund and provide services for the state’s domestic violence program;
- Limiting the role of DCF in the certification of domestic violence shelters;
- Repealing the certification requirement for batterers’ intervention programs, removing the authority to collect fees for certification; and providing clarifying language for batterers’ intervention program requirements.
FCASV worked on one provision of this legislation related to adoption of a child conceived by sexual battery. The original bill strengthened provisions preventing the noticing of “the father” if a child conceived by criminal sexual activity to make it clear that a conviction was not required. The legislation was amended late in session to weaken this provision by saying “the father” would have to be noticed if criminal charges were not filed. The final bill was amended language back to current law.