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Texting Ban, Sharia Law Prohibition, Equal Rights for Women among Early Senate Bills

November 22, 2012 - 6:00pm

Five senators wasted little time in filing, or in most cases reintroducing, bills when the Legislature met last week for its organizational meeting.

Among the bills filed on Tuesday: motorists would be prohibited from texting while driving, parasailing operators would have to be insured, time would have to be set aside at all government meetings, and the state would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

All have failed in the past. In some cases, multiple times.

-- Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, has for the third time sponsored a bill to prohibit texting while driving, Senate Bill 52.

The bill crashed in 2012 as the House blocked the bill as some legislators noted law enforcement already has the ability to fine people for reckless driving.

-- Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has reintroduced his effort to require government bodies to provide a reasonable opportunity to address the governor boards at most state, city, county and special district meetings, SB 50.

With some concerns raised in the 2012 session by the Florida League of Cities that actions could be nullified by failure to properly afford the public a chance to speak, Negrons bill received unanimous support from three committees and the entire Senate, but failed to find a representative to bring up the proposal in the House.

-- Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has brought back a bill that seeks to prohibit foreign laws -- while not spelled out in SB 58, the focus of similar legislation in other states is Islamic sharia law -- from being used by state courts.

A similar bill by Hays last spring made it through two committees but failed to advance beyond the Budget Committee or reach the Senate floor.

Supporters have argued that under sharia law, women are deemed second-class citizens, which could shift how a court rules on child-custody or divorce cases.

Senate staff had expressed concern the law could violate the separation-of-powers doctrine in the U.S. Constitution, noting such a law could have state courts interfere with federal government on foreign policy.

-- Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, will again try to push the Equal Rights Amendment in Florida, SB 54

The bill, based upon the 1972 law that fell three states short of adoption at the federal level, didnt advance beyond the committee stage last year when brought forward by Sen. Nan Rich, a Democrat from Weston who is now running for governor.

Florida was one of the states in 1972 that didnt ratify the law before time expired.

-- Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, has brought back a requirement that parasail operators obtain insurance, undergo equipment inspections, set a minimum strength for the towline, and prohibit operations with set distances to power lines and the shoreline, as SB 64.

The bill isnamed the White-Miskell bill after two people who have died in separate parasailing accidents in Pompano Beach, one including a 15-year-old girl in 2007.

As of Wednesday, 26 bills had been filed. The majority are claims bills as the states "sovereign immunity" law requires most jury awards against a government body within Florida in excess of $200,000 to be approved by the Legislature.

Last year, legislators approved 11 claims bills worth about $40 million. Gov. Rick Scott signed all but one of the claims bills.

Committee assignments will be out this week as the first committee meetings are planned for the week of Dec. 3.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (772) 215-9889.

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