Gov. Scott Signs Legislation to Protect Vulnerable Floridians

Today, Governor Rick Scott was joined by Senate President Don Gaetz, Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, Senator Rob Bradley, Representative Matt Gaetz and other members of the Florida Legislature, as well as victims, advocates, parents and law enforcement officials to sign Senate Bills 522, 524, 526 and 528 to protect vulnerable Floridians.

Governor Scott said, “The safety of Florida’s families, especially our children is of paramount importance and I am proud to sign this legislation that adds protections for vulnerable Floridians during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As a father of two girls and a grandfather of three boys, I think about how the legislation I am signing today will affect Florida’s families. It will make Florida’s children safer and adds protections for our communities, especially for our children. These measures will make a positive difference for generations to come.”

Senate President Don Gaetz said, “With the stroke of Governor Scott’s pen, our state today sent a strong message – Florida is scorched earth for all those seeking to harm our children. This bill takes historic steps to better protect the most vulnerable among us. Now prosecutors, police, parents and communities will have the tools to effectively investigate and prosecute sexual offenders, making it less likely these vicious criminals have the opportunity to slip through the side door and reoffend. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Senators Bradley, Evers, Grimsley and Sobel, as well as our counterparts in the House and Governor’s office, Florida will be a safer, more secure place for families to call home.”

“As the father of three young girls, I understand how important it is to make Florida the most unfriendly state for violent predators,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). “I am happy to see Governor Scott sign into law one of our top priorities to protect Florida’s most vulnerable.”

Senator John Thrasher said, “There is no question that these bills will make a real difference in the lives of our children and their families. I commend Governor Scott for his leadership in quickly signing these priority initiatives into law, making Florida the safest state for families.”

Senator Rob Bradley said, “I commend Governor Scott for signing this entire legislative package, which included my bill—SB 526 that increases punishment for sex offenders. I am thankful to President Gaetz and Speaker Weatherford for including such important legislation in their 2014 Work Plan Agenda.”

Senator Denise Grimsley said, “I am proud to have sponsored Senate Bill 522, one important piece of the overall package that will help keep Florida communities safer. I appreciate the support of the legislative leadership and Governor Scott and am thankful for the governor’s prompt signing of these bills into law.”

Senator Greg Evers said, “On behalf of the children, parents and communities across Florida, I sincerely thank Governor Scott and House and Senate leaders for making Senate Bill 528 the law of our state today. I filed this bill to make sure that sexual predators have nowhere left to hide from oversight and accountability to the families of Florida and to make it easier for the men and women of law enforcement to track the whereabouts and behaviors of these predators. I am proud that Governor Scott and Senate President Gaetz have led the way in making Florida ‘scorched earth’ for anyone who victimizes our children and I am honored to have been able to carry this legislation.”

Representative Charles McBurney said, “There will be lots of efforts to increase education and awareness of sexual violence during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but none are as important as this bill signing event. The new laws increase protections for our children and I am thankful for Governor Scott’s attention to such an important topic.”

Representative Matt Gaetz said, “Keeping our communities safe is something everyone should support, and I’m thrilled our legislative leadership made it one of their top issues this year. Thanks to Governor Scott for signing the bills related to sexual offenders and sexual predators right away!”

Representative Gayle Harrell said, “Public safety, especially protecting children, is the number one responsibility of the government. I am honored to be the House sponsor of one of the bills in this comprehensive package dealing with violent sexual predators. As a result of the House, Senate and the Governor working together on this important legislation, Florida will be a safer place for our children.”

Representative Dane Eagle said, “I am proud to sponsor proactive legislation to protect our most vulnerable citizens. I applaud Governor Scott for signing this entire package of bills so quickly and remain committed to giving our law enforcement officers more tools to do their job.”

Representative Travis Hutson said, “Through my experiences as a new father, my work with St. Augustine Youth Services, and my time coaching football at Pedro Menendez High School, I see firsthand, every day the hopes and joys and limitless possibilities of Florida’s children. I am proud that the Governor and the Legislature prioritized our children’s safety, and I am humbled to have done my part to help this bill become a law and ensure Florida’s most innocent and vulnerable are protected.”

Lauren Book, Founder and CEO, Lauren’s Kids Foundation said, “Standing in the Cabinet Room today wearing teal — the color of sexual assault awareness — our State leaders showed true solidarity and commitment to ending sexual violence here in Florida. I am so proud of the work we have done this session with 50-year mandatory minimum sentences, strengthening the civil commitment process, closing loopholes in the statute of limitations, and all of the other measures contained within the four bi-partisan pieces of legislation we worked on this session. Since beginning my fifth annual 1,500-mile ‘Walk in My Shoes’ walk across the state at the Southernmost Point of the U.S. on March 16, I have been joined by thousands of Floridians whose lives have been affected by sexual violence. Each and every day, I talk with survivors and their families, listening to their stories and encouraging them with the very real and meaningful legislative change that is happening in Tallahassee. I am honored to bring their voices to the Capitol, and proud to know that Governor Scott and our state leaders are not only listening, but acting.”

“By signing these historic bills into law today, on the first day of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Governor is sending a clear message to all men, women, children and families whose lives have been shattered by sexual violence: that the State of Florida is committed to preventing these horrific acts through education and awareness, to punishing the sexually violent predators who commit them and to removing these individuals from our communities so they do not cause any further harm,” said Ron Book.

“The sexual predator bills signed into law by Governor Scott protect Florida families by keeping the most dangerous predators behind bars and by providing law enforcement the tools we need to track these individuals after release. I thank Governor Scott for his quick action on these bills,” said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

“The Florida Department of Corrections applauds the steadfast commitment of Governor Scott and our legislative leaders as they work together to keep Florida families and visitors safe,” said Secretary Michael Crews, Florida Department of Corrections. “This legislation will assist our community corrections officers in their vigilance to protect Florida communities and will further reduce victimization.”

“I applaud the Legislature, and especially Senators Grimsley, Sobel and Bradley, for taking incisive steps to strengthen the Sexually Violent Predator Program,” Department of Children and Families Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo said. “Protecting vulnerable Floridians, especially children, is our highest responsibility. We want to do more, we want to do better, and this legislation gives us the tools we need.”

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said, “This legislation will substantially strengthen Florida’s protections against sexual offenders who prey upon children and our most vulnerable populations. I applaud Florida’s Senate and House leadership and Governor Scott for working together to make our state safer through common sense reforms that will make it easier to incapacitate, track, and hold accountable dangerous sexual predators. Through these measures, Florida will be a better and safer place to live, work, and visit.”

Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said, “This is absolutely momentous legislation that will have a very direct and meaningful impact on the public safety of our state. The bills that the Governor signed into law today put sex offenders everywhere on notice that Florida is a very inhospitable place for them. And that’s exactly the message that we want to send to rapists and child molesters: If they victimize our citizens, the consequences will be quite harsh.”

Sheriff John H. Rutherford, Duval County/Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff’s Association Legislative Chair said, “The citizens of Florida should be proud of their Legislature for coming together in such a bipartisan way to tackle a very serious issue facing Florida’s children. They did this with complete unity, and today the Governor signs this new legislation as proof of our collective commitment to keeping Florida’s children safe. Thank you, all.”

Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley said, “We appreciate our Legislators and the Executive Branch providing these enhanced means by which we can hold predators accountable for preying on our children. Their efforts will help prevent needless repeats of sexual predators’ perverse crimes.”

Osceola County Sheriff Bob Hansell said, “The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office supports any legislation that works to protect our community by increasing guidelines for monitoring sex offenders and predators, and adding penalties for those who violate the law.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, “We appreciate the efforts of the Governor and legislature in working with and receiving input from law enforcement to craft the sexual predator/offender bills that will be signed into law today. The various pieces of legislation as a whole will not only increase accountability for sex offenders, but make Florida’s communities safer through its enhanced and broadened registration requirements.”

Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott said, “The Lee County Sheriff’s Office supports the continuing efforts of the FSA to best tailor laws regarding sexual offenders and predators. A unified effort will help make our communities safer for everyone.”



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