SB 1420 fights its way through the criminal justice committee

Senate Bill 1420 passes the Criminal Justice committee Friday but not without a fight. The language of the bill was slightly confusing for committee members, which prolonged the voting.

SB 1420 proposed by Republican Sen. Aaron Bean of District 4, puts strict detailed restrictions on persons who can be employed as a childcare provider.

It specifically prohibits any current or prospective employee who is: a registered sex offender, persons who have committed murder or crimes against children, child pornographers, spouse abusers, kidnapping, rape, sexual assault, arson, physical assault, battery or any violent misdemeanors under federal law. These offenses are apart of Florida’s Level 1 and Level 2 employment screening statutes.

The language of the bill states that those who are arrested, not convicted, would be prohibited from serving in the capacity of a childcare provider.

The main debate was over the fairness of the bill to those who were arrested but didn’t receive a conviction.

“Does your bill say that if you were just arrested or convicted,” chairman Evers asked.

Bean clarifed by saying the bill said "convicted."

Sen. Bean quickly corrected himself after staff pointed out that the language in the bill states that arrests counted as well.

Evers questioned Bean if he personally thought it was right for those who were only arrested to be eligible for termination.

Bean explained that although that is the language, he was intentionally aiming for those who had been convicted.

Vice chairman Gibson was also confused with the language used in the bill and what offenses it covered and didn’t cover.

“I just want to make sure that even though shoplifting is illegal that someone doesn’t get to have a look on whether that’s a qualifying offense or not. That’s why I’m asking for clarification on the list … I believe there will be people jobless come July 1,” Gibson said.   

Gibson explained that she would be happy to support the bill because she believes it’s a necessary piece of legislation, however the language is confusing. She suggested that it is reworded and made more direct before it reaches its next committee if it passed.

It wasn’t until Sen. Jeff Clemens of District 27 clarified the language for the committee.

Clemens explained that those who are arrested would be temporarily dismissed until a verdict or conviction could be reached following their arrest.

If the charges are dropped, or you are found not guilty, the bill no longer applies to that person. These measures are only permitted for crimes outlined in Level 1 and Level 2 of the employment statutes under federal law.

Greg Pound, St. Petersburg native, works with an outreach group in St. Petersburg called Saving Our families. It focuses on maintaining strong family dynamics in households.

He supports the bill, but thinks there should be extra measures taken to ensure that Level 1 and Level 2 offenders aren’t permitted to work with children.

“I believe the bill is not complete … in a certain way the bill is good for people like Al Zimmerman, the child pornographer who was over DCF that was finally arrested. The bill would help with people like him …” Petersburg said.

Barney Bishop of the Florida Smart Alliance group waived in support before the committee made a final roll call. Yeas from all committee members gave the SB 1420 the green light to proceed.