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Breast Feeding Juror Bill Passes First Test

A proposal that would exempt women who are breast feeding from jury duty passed its first test before a panel of lawmakers Tuesday.

Currently, 12 other states allow mothers who are breast feeding to be exempted from jury duty. House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands wants Florida to be number 13.

A judge can now choose to excuse anyone he wants from jury duty, but there is no law mandating that women who are breast feeding should be excluded from the process. The only provision for mothers is one that allows for a parent who is not employed full time and has custody of a child under the age of six to be excused. That leaves a loophole for women who are working full time, but still breast feeding, Sands said.

“This was not covered, now it would be,” he told the House Civil Justice and Courts Policy Committee.

State law does stipulate that several other groups of people can be excused in various circumstances.

These include the governor, lieutenant governor, a clerk of court, a law enforcement officer, an expectant mother upon request, a person 70-years-old upon request, and a person responsible for the care of someone who is mentally ill. Also exempt is anyone awaiting trial before the same court.

The proposal (HB 79) passed with only one dissenting vote, from Rep. Marlene O'Toole, R-Lady Lake, who said she felt there was absolutely no need for the bill.

“I have five children and I never had any difficulty getting excused from the jury,” she said following the committee.

Other lawmakers too, said they didn't understand the purpose of the legislation, but chose to vote in favor of it to further the debate.

Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said the proposal certainly wasn't a bad bill, but said she felt there were far more serious issues that should be worked on.

“I just don't see what the need is,” she said.

A companion bill (SB 86) in the Senate has been filed by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, but it has not yet been assigned to a committee or analyzed by staff..

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