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Disaster looting bill too broad, Bush says
The bill, with tougher sentences for those looting after disasters, stemmed from last year's four hurricanes.
Published June 3, 2005
TALLAHASSEE - A bill that would have increased penalties for burglaries committed while a state of emergency is in effect was vetoed Thursday by Gov. Jeb Bush, who said it was too broad.
The measure (HB 207) was aimed at looters who steal in the wake of hurricanes and passed both chambers of the 2005 Legislature unanimously.
In some cases, persons who committed burglaries after a hurricane could have received up to 30 years in prison. Burglary is typically punishable now by up to 15 years in prison, although longer terms are possible when a weapon is used.
"I am concerned that the scope of the bill is overly broad," Bush wrote in explaining his veto. "The enhanced penalties would have application beyond just looting in the days following a disaster."
The governor said the measure would increase penalties for theft any time there is a state of emergency anywhere in the state.
"The consequences of this wording are sweeping, considering that states of emergency can last for months following a disaster," Bush wrote. "To this day, for example - almost eight months after last summer's hurricanes ceased - the state of Florida continues under a limited state of emergency."
That would keep harsher potential penalties in effect long after any "looting" might have stopped, Bush said.
Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-West Palm Beach, one of the sponsors of the bipartisan bill, said he was disappointed that no one in the governor's office ever mentioned the problems with the proposal. He said he would have been open to changing it before it was passed.
But he also wondered how the state's law against price gouging doesn't have the same problems.
"We patterned our bill after that," Aronberg said. "The state has current laws dealing with price gouging that only apply in times of a declared emergency. How are they feasible when ours are not?"