Legislative discussion in Tallahassee continues, and I have been encouraged by a lot of what our leadership has accomplished so far. Vigilance from you, the voter, is still very important at this stage as we are beginning to see which bills are running out of time, and those (which we may or may not like) that are still pressing forward through the committee process.
Quick update on the SB 404, the Parental Consent for Abortion Act that I have written about previously. The bill has just made it through its second committee of referral and only faces one more hurdle before being sent to the Senate floor for a vote. Thank you to all of you who traveled to Tallahassee to advocate and support this good legislation, and for those you back home who supported us through word-of-mouth and more importantly, prayer. I am very optimistic that we will get this passed, and parents’ rights will be restored.
Also, I am very happy to report that your Senator’s bill, SB 864 Surrendered Newborn Infants passed through its first committee of reference. This good bill expands Florida’s current safe haven law, allowing hospitals, fire, and EMS stations to utilize a “newborn safety device” as a means of accepting surrendered infants. Current law requires that an infant to be handed directly to emergency personnel or hospital staff, thus requiring the mother to be seen, possibly by someone who might recognize her. This might discourage women from legally surrendering their infant and encourage more illegal abandonments. This bill fixes that issue of anonymity. The device, called a “baby box”, is located on the outside wall of a building, with one outside facing door for someone to place the infant in, and an inside door for staff or personnel to accept the surrendered child. The bill requires a dual alarm system that activates once an infant is placed inside, and staff is required to periodically check the device and ensure that the alarm system is operable at all times. This bill is not mandating that these devices be used, but just allows for one more tool to be used to help someone in distress who feels that they have no other option. The message that we can send with a bill like this is that we do care about every life, and every little baby deserves a chance to live.
Another piece of legislation that your Senator filed is SB 682, Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage. This bill authorizes the creation of the Marriage Education Committee, within the Department of Children and Families, for the purpose of creating the Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage. Current State law requires, as a prerequisite to receiving a marriage license, acknowledgement by couples that they have read either the Florida Family Law Handbook or other marriage-related information. The 19 page handbook offers little positive introduction and instead, 16 of its pages focus on child-related issues after divorce, how the court divides assets and liabilities upon divorce, and the actual steps to take to end a marriage. The Committee will consist of six marriage education and family advocates appointed by the Governor (2), Speaker of the House (2), and Senate President (2). The Florida Guide to a Healthy Marriage will focus on elements not expanded upon in the Family Law Handbook, such as conflict management, communication skills, family expectations, financial responsibilities, and parenting responsibilities – items of benefit to any married couple.
I hope you were encouraged by this update, and excited about the good things happening in the Florida Senate. Thank you for letting me serve you.
Onward & Upward,
Senator Dennis Baxley