Sexual Predator Bills Head to House Floor for Full Votes
Following emotional testimony, a House panel on Tuesday approved a pair of bills backers say will better protect children from sexual predators and give them more time to report sexual crimes if they have already been abused.
By unanimous votes, the House Criminal and Civil Justice Policy Council approved two bills that now travel to the House floor for full votes.
The first, HB 119, prevents sexual predators from being with 300 feet of children wherever they congregate. The bill advanced after amendments were added to allow cities with stricter residency requirements to maintain those local ordinances.
“This sets up circles of protections for our kids, wherever they are,” said Rep. Rick Glorioso, R-Plant City.
Florida has gotten national attention over its sex offender laws. In Miami, where a 2,500 residency restriction is in place, a colony of homeless people settled under the Julia Tuttle Causeway, saying they couldn't find anyplace they could legally live. Miami officials resettled the inhabitants last month.
Earlier versions of HB 119 included a 1,000 foot statewide residency requirement, a provision that was stripped away following concern from Miami-Dade officials. The current bill allows local governments to have stricter requirements.
The panel also passed HB 525, which lifts the statute of limitations on certain sexual battery cases involving children.
“The law should not have to wait for the next victim,” said Michael Dolce, a Palm Beach attorney and victim advocate who said he was raped as a child and threatened into silence.
When he finally confronted the tragedy while in his late 20s, authorities could not charge the perpetrator, whom Dolce said still lives in the community.
“…These monsters don’t deserve your grace,” Dolce said.
The bill’s most contentious provision removes exemptions on civil litigation against employers who knowingly harbor or allow sexual abusers to continue. Civil claims must now be filed within four years of the incident, a limitation that bill supporters say does not give aggrieved children enough time to deal with the abuse and make decisions concerning liability.
“This bill sends two messages,” said Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, the House sponsor. “Stay out of our state and stay the hell away from our kids.”