House won't demand lonelier rides for teens

Published March 20, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Parents told Florida legislators they wanted a law to curb joyriding by carfuls of teenagers, similar to laws in 35 other states.

House Speaker Marco Rubio included it in his book of "100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future," which serves as a guide for much of the House's lawmaking this year.

But some of Rubio's fellow lawmakers had a different idea Monday. Book or no book, a House committee defeated the proposal on a 4-4 vote, as a Democrat sided with three opposition Republicans.

Under the category "Protecting Florida's Children" is Idea No. 65: "To reduce distractions for teen drivers, Florida will limit the number of passengers who can be transported by drivers age 18 and under."

"We need to give them time to learn to drive," said the sponsor, Rep. Kelly Skidmore, a Boca Raton Democrat. "Highways are much less forgiving than when you and I learned to drive."

Her bill HB 239 would have prevented drivers younger than 18 from transporting more than one person younger than 18. Siblings or children of the driver would not be counted and violators would have faced a $60 fine.

In the House Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City, urged a yes vote. "The more kids in the car, the more likely you are to have an accident," Glorioso said.

But freshman Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, voiced concern with how single mothers in his district would be affected, and Rep. Nick Thompson, R-Fort Myers, said parents should decide the issue, not the state.

Democratic Rep. Scott Randolph of Orlando reminded the skeptics that the idea was in the speaker's book, but it made no difference.

Rep. Greg Evers, R-Baker, and Rep. Susan Bucher, D-West Palm Beach, also voted against the bill.

A Democrat who Skidmore said favored the bill and would have provided the crucial fifth vote was absent.

Rep. Mike Scionti, D-Tampa, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, has been redeployed with the Army for the next two weeks.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.