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Guest opinion: Child Protection Act passes its first committee

February 9, 2012
By State Sen. LIZBETH BENACQUISTO , Lehigh Acres Citizen

I am proud to announce the successful passage of Senate Bill 1816, Protection of Vulnerable Persons, in the Criminal Justice committee last week. It gained unanimous support from the committee with a vote of 6 Yeas and 0 Nays. This bill is of utmost importance because it requires the reporting of all child abuse in Florida. It makes significant changes to our laws in Florida by expanding the responsibility of reporting these crimes from caregivers to all adults. This will strengthen accountability measures in the state including on our college and university campuses.

This bill will also provide re-location Assistance for Victims of Sexual assault also. Need for assistance must be certified by a certified domestic violence center or certified rape crisis center in Florida. States that currently offer re-location assistance for sexual assault include Alabama, California, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia.

I look forward to further discussion and debate on this important bill as I ask for favorable support from my colleagues in the Legislature. I will continue to let you know about how it fairs as the bill moves forward in the legislative process.

Bill to Expand Transparency Passes Committee

Also last week in the Senate, a bill I filed, SB 878 relating to Personnel Records, passed favorably through the Higher Education Committee. Currently under Florida Statute, the President of a Florida State College System has their performance evaluation exempted from the public records law. However, the evaluations of Florida's public university presidents are not exempted.

My bill looks to rectify the inconsistencies in the law. I feel this accountability measure is good public policy for the taxpayers, and good for the public employees it affects. My bill, in an effort to improve transparency and accountability, would remove the public records exemption of State College Presidents' evaluations in Florida Statutes.

Additionally, if taxpayers are investing in our students' futures we should be able to fairly and accurately evaluate the performance of our college presidents to ensure the quality of our educational system. The next step for my bill is to pass through the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.

Sen. Benacquisto represents District 27 which includes a large part of Lehigh Acres.



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