Senate passes prez Haridopolos priority claims billsby Dara Kam | January 10th, 2012
In the chamber’s first action on the opening day of the 2012 legislative session, the Florida Senate overwhelmingly approved two claims bills, priorities of President Mike Haridopolos that failed to pass last session.
One measure (SR 2) would pay $1.35 million to William Dillon, locked up for 27 years before DNA evidence cleared him of a Brevard County murder. Haridopolos, who sponsored the claims bill, said that the compensation would help correct the injustice done to Dillon.
“At least show when you make a mistake, you own up to it and you try to make it right. That’s what being a compassionate person is all about,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said before the 39-1 vote.
The Senate also signed off on a controversial claims bill that would pay the family of Eric Brody $10.75 million. Brody was catastrophically injured in 1998 when a Broward Sheriff’s deputy crashed into his car. Brody, then a high school senior, was left brain damaged and confined to a wheel chair.
A last-minute deal between Brody’s lawyers and insurers was finalized just before the Senate passed the bill (SR 4) with a 37-2 vote.
Lawmakers have tried for four years to get the “Brody bill” passed. Last year, the House’s failed to take it up on the final day of session, causing the session to end in chaos and Haridopolos to keep senators on hold until the wee hours of the morning before finally abandoning hope that the House would pass the measure.
The bill’s sponsor Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Ft. Myers, said carrying the bill for two years was a lesson in determination: the determination of Brody’s parents and advocates and of her Senate colleagues in their support.
“But most importantly, it is the determination of one individual who stood so strongly to make sure we would not leave the building until Eric was taken care of,” Benacquisto said, referring to Haridopolos.