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Nancy Detert’

Watered-down ban on texting and driving on its way to Gov. Scott

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 by Dara Kam

It could soon be against the law to text and drive under a diluted ban on its way to Gov. Rick Scott.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, asked her colleagues to support the House version of the bill (SB 52) despite a provision that prohibits a motorist’s cell phone records being used by prosecutors except in cases involving a crash resulting in death or personal injury. The Senate passed the measure with a 39-1 vote, with Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, casting the only “no” vote.

For three years, the Florida House has refused to sign off on the texting and driving ban.
“For the first time ever they have a speaker over there that allowed them to speak on this bill. That was the good news. The bad news was I didn’t like what they said,” Detert said this afternoon.

Critics of the modified bill say it will make it harder for law enforcement to prove drivers were texting. The measure makes texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning drivers would have to be pulled over for something else in order to get a ticket for texting.

Drivers who do get ticketed for texting can voluntarily bring their own records to court to prove they weren’t breaking the law, Detert said.

“And frankly they probably won’t do that over a $30 ticket,” she said.

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, asked if the amendment regarding the phone records “doesn’t take all the meat and potatoes” out of the bill, approved unanimously in its original version by the Senate earlier in the session.

But Detert said it was better to pass the ban instead of changing it and sending it back to the House where it could risk languishing before the session ends tomorrow.

“Basically this bill is still a good bill. It still will allow parents today to say to their kids don’t text while driving it’s against the law,” Detert said. “It really will save lives and it boils down to it’s either against the law or not.”

Crank it up! Florida Senate kills ban on loud car music

Friday, April 26th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Drivers can continue to crank up the volume as loud as they like after the Florida Senate killed an attempt to revive a ban on loud music on a tie vote.

Some lawmakers wanted to reinstate a 1990 law struck banning drivers from blasting radios, tape decks or other devices at a volume that can be heard 25 feet away or more. The Florida Supreme Court last year struck down the law, ruling that it is unconstitutional.

This year’s proposal tweaked a problem in the law that included an exemption in the noise ban for vehicles broadcasting commercial or political messages, such as ice cream trucks or campaign vehicles. The ban violates the First Amendment by restricting certain kinds of speech while not restricting others, the court found. The latest plan would have expanded the ban to all types of vehicles.

The 19-19 vote on the measure (SB 634) came after an at-times tongue-in-cheek debate on the merits of rocking out in your car.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, called the proposal a “crime prevention” measure because when loud music rattling car windows at times “makes you want to kill somebody.”

The measure would have made playing loud music a primary offense, which rankled Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah. Lawmakers just approved a measure that would make texting and driving a secondary offense, meaning drivers could only be penalized if they are pulled over for something else.

“That kills people. This doesn’t kill anyone,” Garcia objected.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, sponsored the texting and driving ban and spoke against the noise prohibition.

“It’s life. I don’t intend to pass a law that says you can’t ruin your own hearing if you want to,” she said.

And Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said making the prohibition a primary offense could open the door for giving law enforcement an opportunity to harass youngsters.

“Twenty-five feet is such a short distance to end up pulling over one of our young people and then something else escalates,” Gibson said. “You all remember when you were growing up maybe when you got your first car and you turned that radio up a bit, turned it up a little bit more.”

But Sen. Wilton Simpson, said that the loud music can be a distraction that can keep drivers from hearing ambulance sirens.

“This is a serious bill with serious implications,” he said.

Senators take aim at parent trigger

Thursday, March 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Senate is poised to close out the 2012 legislative session with a fiery debate over a controversial measure that would let parents decide the fate of failing schools after opponents scored several victories with amendments to the “parent trigger” bill late Thursday evening.

The proposal, based on one pushed in California by the “Parent Revolution,” would allow parents to decide on a turnaround option for schools graded “F” for at least three years in a row if more than 50 percent of parents sign petitions.

The petition process received the most attention Thursday night from opponents, a coalition of Democrats and Republicans who say the signature-gathering is rife for shenanigans as experienced in California, which became the first in the nation with its “Parent Empowerment” proposition two years ago.

The parent trigger plan is backed by GOP leaders including Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher and former Gov. Jeb Bush. Several Los Angles-based Parent Revolution lobbyists, in the Capitol for weeks advocating for the proposal, were in the public gallery during a heated debate over the bill (SB 1718) Thursday night.

Opponents include teachers unions and a coalition of Florida parent-led groups including the PTA, also watching the two-hour debate from the gallery. The measure has already flared emotions and procedural maneuvering in the Senate.

Proponents beat down several amendments on 21-19 votes – including one that would have criminalized bribing parents to sign the petitions – indicating Friday’s vote will be close. But opponents, including Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, said they believe they have enough votes to kill the measure on a 20-20 tie.

The anti-parent trigger group repeatedly tried to make changes to the signature-gathering process that would have put it on a par with petition-gathering requirements included in a controversial election law passed last year and signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

One change would have made it a misdemeanor to take or offer a bribe in exchange for a signature and made it a misdemeanor to falsify signatures. But opponents of that amendment called it overreaching, eliciting outrage from Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale.

“Are you kidding me? We put this in an election year last year people. We did this. But now it’s overreaching. It’s undemocratic. Are you kidding me?” Smith said. The amendment was defeated on a 21-19 vote.

But Rich scored a win with an amendment requiring that signatures be valid, undoing language in the original bill sponsored by Republican Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers that would have allowed signatures submitted after the validation period to be accepted.

“If you don’t vote for this amendment, it means you condone fraud,” Rich, D-Weston, said.

Accusations of fraudulent signatures and coercion of parents are plaguing a parent trigger effort at a Mojave Desert school in California, where both sides are accusing each other of wrongdoing and a judge is considering open an investigation.

The Florida proposal would give parents a say in federal turnaround options for failing schools that include conversion into profit or non-profit charter schools or hiring for-profit management company to take them over, which critics say is part of an overall effort to privatize Florida’s public schools.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, failed to convince a majority to sign off on her plan requiring the charter schools to pay rent to school districts if they take over a failing school.

But she rallied enough votes to include a provision banning foreign nationals from owning or operating the charter schools.

Before the floor session wrapped up at 10 p.m., Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner railed against his colleagues for objecting to giving parents more control over poor-performing schools.

“I know it’s late. And I know everybody’s emotional. But keep in mind what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about parents that are sending their children every day to an F school. Every day to an F school,” Gardiner, R-Orlando, said. “We’ve gotten off track here a little bit…These are F schools. These are just parents. Parents that want an opportunity to have their children go to a better school. We want to put a misdemeanor on them?”

Speaking against the bill, Sen. Larcenia Bullard invoked hanging chads, fraudulent petition-gathering campaigns in which dead people’s names were signed on petitions and other horribles.

“Trigger bill is double-barrel Glock,” Bullard, R-Miami, said.

Senate president-designate Gaetz’s time at the podium in question?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Senate President-designate Don Gaetz anticipated time with the gavel may be in question after a leadership coup staged by Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, a veteran lawmaker who also served as head of the state GOP, failed yesterday.

Gaetz said he played a “very, very limited” role in the still-unraveling presidency power play in which Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, tried to strip Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner of his expected ascendency to the throne in two years. Thrasher was joined in his effort by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who is angling to take over in 2016.

Gaetz told reporters this evening that who will follow in Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ footsteps will be determined after the November elections. Eleven senators – including eight Republicans – are leaving the chamber this year because of term limits.

“I’ve been designated as the next Senate president. Depending on the results of the 2012 election, the Republicans may or may not control the Senate. At that time, the Senate as a whole will elect its next president. I will be a candidate,” Gaetz, R-Niceville, said. It’s virtually impossible that Republicans won’t control the chamber with their 28-12 lead majority, but the outcome of the elections could very well impact his future.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, is challenging Gardiner, R-Orlando, for the 2015-2016 presidency. Latvala supporters joined with Gardiner backers yesterday to prevent Thrasher, a veteran lawmaker, from replacing Gardiner in that battle.

The machinations turned sour for many in the GOP caucus, especially on the heels of intense pressure from Haridopolos and his lieutenants who failed to contain a GOP uprising against a prison privatization bill.

“Members on both sides rose up in support of Andy because of outrage over how this was handled,” Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said, without adding who she’s supporting.

Many in the fractured GOP caucus hope the drama will be resolved before the session ends in two weeks. But the Senate palace intrigue will likely play out for some time with shrewd tacticians Thrasher and Latvala pulling strings.

And the disarray could bring Democrats into play. A bipartisan coalition of conservative Democrats and Republicans joined forces in 1986 to unseat Sen. Ken Jenne, a liberal Hollywood Democrat who was replaced by more conservative Democrat Jon Vogt of Cocoa Beach.

After scolding, second anti-abortion bill headed to governor

Thursday, May 5th, 2011 by Dara Kam

After being scolded by two Republicans, the Florida Senate sent to Gov. Rick Scott a second abortion bill this morning that would require women to have an ultrasound before they get an abortion.

Sen. Evelyn Lynn harshly rebuked her colleagues for wasting time with emotional issues and failing to do enough to create jobs and boost the economy.

“I didn’t come up here to come and tell you what you must do with your bodies,” Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, said. “I don’t want to have to continually talk about these issues on this floor when I have people pleading with me to help me please find money to keep my lights on…I will vote for every one of those bills. That’s not why I came up here. And I will vote no not only on this bill but every other bill we have on abortion. It is the wrong thing for us to be discussing and taking endless amounts of time on.”

Sen. Nancy Detert, a Venice Republican, said she resented having to vote on the issue.

“I personally resent writing legislation that acts like I’m too stupid to confer with my own doctor on what I should do. This is not what we were sent up here to do. I have no intention of telling you my faith, my personal problems, and I frankly don’t want to hear yours either,” Detert said.

The ultrasound bill (HB 1127) is one of four measures making it harder for women to get abortions lawmakers have passed during the legislative session making it more difficult for women to get abortions. Last year, Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a measure similar to the ultrasound bill the Senate approved by a 24-15 vote, with three other Republicans joining Lynn in opposition. Gov. Rick Scott has said he would have signed the measure into law.
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