Stiffer penalty for attacks on homeless is proposed

Published March 14, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, is trying to tackle the problem of recent brutal attacks on the homeless in Florida, with a proposed bill to make such attacks a hate crime, subject to stiffer penalties.

The proposal narrowly passed a Senate committee Tuesday, with three senators, including Republican Nancy Argenziano, questioning the fairness of singling out attacks against one group as worse than attacks on another.

"I'm against this bill for the people it excludes, not for the people it includes," said Sen. Michael Bennett, another Republican.

The bill calls for those convicted of aggravated assault or battery against a homeless person to get a minimum three-year prison sentence, a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 500 hours of community service.

Florida leads the nation in attacks on the homeless, according to national homeless advocates. The House is considering a companion bill, HB0011.


Crist, AARP back phone subsidy

Gov. Charlie Crist joined AARP members Tuesday in backing legislation that would automatically enroll low-income Floridians in a telephone subsidy program known as Lifeline Assistance. Consumer advocates say many eligible consumers don't know it exists. The subsidy would be up to $13.50 a month for a customer.

Heading off dropouts

Trying to curb Florida's dropout rates, a House committee is considering legislation that would send would-be dropouts through vocational training or job certification programs before they leave school. The measure would apply to students ages 16 and 17. Also, schools would have to identify at-risk students in grades 6 through 9 and put them in "success centers" for special tutoring and career counseling.

On today's agenda

A proposed overhaul of KidCare, the state's health insurance program for uninsured children under age 19, will be the topic of much debate this morning. The Senate's health policy committee meets to consider a bill by Sen. Mandy Dawson that aims to make the program more accessible and easy to navigate for the neediest Florida families. Democrats and Republicans have joined to push the changes.