House votes to re-enact 'Three Strikes' law
By ALISA ULFERTS, Times Staff Writer
TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida House of Representatives on Tuesday gave the "Three Strikes" law a second chance.
Lawmakers re-enacted the 1999 bill requiring tougher prison sentences for criminals who commit a third violent crime. The Senate is expected to adopt the bill.
The law was struck down last month by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland. Ruling in the case of Rebecca Taylor of Sarasota County, the court said the law violated a constitutional requirement that bills address a single subject.
Lawmakers apparently violated that when they added a last-minute amendment to the bill in 1999, expanding the definition of the crime of "burglary of a conveyance" to include railroad cars.
They also required court clerks to notify immigration officials when immigrants were convicted of crimes, which the court also found objectionable.
This year, lawmakers split the measure up into five separate bills, which chief sponsor Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said makes it easier for members to understand and approve. That could have the added benefit of getting the Legislature around the single-subject problem.
Fasano said the new bill would be retroactive to 1999, and would guarantee that repeat offenders serve 100 percent of their time.
But some lawmakers have said the ruling only proves what they have felt all along: State courts are writing law instead of just interpreting it.
And lawmakers who opposed reinstating the law said it strips judges of their discretionary powers.
"It's a good intent. We need to lock up people who harm our seniors, but you know what, that's why we have judges," said Rep. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale.
As long as the Legislature is tying other officials' hands, Smith suggested representatives pass a law requiring state troopers to give every speeder a ticket, instead of letting them decide when a warning is appropriate.
"God forbid someone uses discretion in this state," Smith said.
But Fasano said it is the Legislature's job to write the laws that govern sentencing, not judges'.
"The courts do not pass laws," Fasano said. They take the laws the Legislature gives them.
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