PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida legislators during the fourth week of their annual legislative session are going to confront the sex scandals that have caused turmoil in the state Capitol.
Jack Latvala, a top Republican state senator, resigned earlier this month after an investigation concluded there was evidence of sexual misconduct. Another state senator resigned late last year after admitting an extramarital affair with a lobbyist. A top official appointed by Gov. Rick Scott resigned after a state senator accused him of inappropriately touching her.
The Senate has responded by putting in place new training requirements for all senators.
But a Senate committee will consider going one step further.
A Senate panel on Tuesday will consider a bill (SB 1628) that would prohibit legislators, public officials and lobbyists from sexual harassing anyone. It’s being sponsored by South Florida Sen. Lauren Book and the measure includes penalties for those who violate the proposed law.
The Senate is also expected to vote on whether to ban child Marriage in the Sunshine State.
In the last five years in Florida nearly 2,000 minors were allowed to get married, including one person who was 13 years old at the time.
Supporters say a ban on child marriages is needed because in many cases minors are forced into marriages to cover up rape and sexual abuse.
In most circumstances someone has to be 18 to get married. But children aged 16 and 17 can marry with the consent of both children’s parents. And if there’s a pregnancy involved, there is no minimum age for marriage as long as a judge approves the marriage license.
The bill (SB 140) sponsored by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto would be a complete ban on the marriages of all minors.
Legislators will also spend the coming week considering dozens of others bills dealing with gambling, a new state budget and whether to replace the statue of a Confederate general with famed educator Mary McLeod Bethune. Here’s a look at a few of them:
– A House committee on Tuesday is considering a gambling bill that includes a new proposed agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which operates seven casinos on tribe-owned lands in the state.
– House and Senate budget committees are expected to vote Wednesday on rival versions of a new spending plan for the 2018-19 budget year. The two proposed budgets are more than $87 billion, but there are key differences that will need to be worked out over the next month.
– The Florida Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill (SB 472) that would designate Bethune to succeed Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith.
Congress lets each state send two statues to the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Two years ago legislators voted to replace Smith but they did not decide who should replace him. Florida’s other statue is of John Gorrie, whose inventions led to modern-day air conditioning. Bethune founded Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in 1904. Bethune’s school eventually became the historically black Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach.
– A House committee on Tuesday will consider a measure to allow parents whose children have been bullied at public schools to obtain state vouchers to help pay tuition at a private school. This is the second stop for the legislation (HB 1) that is a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran.