By Jessie R. Box
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Governor Rick Scott was focused on protecting the children of Florida when he signed bills into law during the week of June 23 to June 27.
Gov. Scott signed Senate Bill 1666, on Monday, June 23, which strengthened laws and increased resources to protect children from abuse and neglect.
The reform established a new Assistant Secretary for Child Welfare at Department of Children and Families, created a Critical Incident Rapid Response Team to quickly investigate child abuse deaths where the child was known to the child welfare system, strengthened provisions relating to safety plans for children who have been abused or neglected and codifies that the foremost goal of the department is to protect the best interest of children.
On Tuesday, June 24, Gov. Scott signed HB 225, which revises child restraint requirements to increase the safety of children passengers in motor vehicles. Current law requires every motor vehicle operator in Florida use a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device for children three years or younger. HB 225 extends current requirements to include children four and five years old.
Gov. Scott also signed Senate Bill 102, on Tuesday, June 24, which creates the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act relating to leaving the scene of an accident. This bill includes increasing the punishment for leaving the scene of a crash resulting in serious injury to a person, imposing a mandatory minimum term for imprisonment of four years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of a person, increasing the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment from two to four years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of a person while driving under the influence and imposing a minimum drivers license revocation period of at least three years.
On Wednesday, June 25, Gov. Scott signed House Bill 561, which requires the appointment of an attorney to represent dependent children who have special needs, unless a pro bono attorney represents the child.
The bill states that an attorney shall be appointed for a dependent child with disabilities who meets one or more of the following criteria:
Resides in a skilled nursing facility or is being considered for placement in a skilled nursing home
Is prescribed a psychotropic medication but declines assent to the medication
Has a diagnosis of a developmental disability as defined in law
Is being placed in a residential treatment center or being considered for placement in a residential treatment center
Is a victim of human trafficking.