Governor signs 11 bills designed to fight terrorism
TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Jeb Bush signed several bills Monday aimed at increasing the state's security in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, including the creation of antiterrorism task forces and a law that makes it easier to tap terrorists' phones.
"The bills that we will sign into law today . . . will enhance our ability to deal with the new threats of terror that exist in our state," Bush said.
Bush used a break during a meeting on responding to biological attacks to sign two bills (SB 24C and SB 26C) that create seven regional domestic security task forces and a Florida Department of Law Enforcement counterterrorism intelligence center and database.
"The better we train ourselves for these incidents, the better we will be able to respond, God forbid, if there ever was such an attack," Bush said. "I want to make it clear there is no evidence that this is a potential in our state, but I hope people would recognize that it's important to prepare for everything."
Bush later signed nine more security bills, creating laws that will seal records related to security and investigations, increase punishment for terrorists, create tighter regulation of crop dusters and create penalties for using biological poisons to contaminate food and water supplies.
A new wiretap law will allow police to maintain their surveillance of suspected terrorists throughout the state without having to go to a new judge for approval when suspects change jurisdiction.
"We have a delicate balance here . . . to protect the civil liberties of Americans as well as to deal with the fact that we're in a new realm now where people in our midst who hate our way of life have attacked us and attacked our basic freedoms," Bush said.
The bills were passed during the special legislative session that ended last week. The session was called to balance the state's budget, but lawmakers used the opportunity to respond to the Sept. 11 attacks. Many of the hijackers lived and trained in Florida.
"Clearly nothing has been more important in the past three months than the issue of domestic security," Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan said.
"The attention given to homeland security in the moments following the 9/11 tragedies right through the special sessions of the Florida Legislature . . . should give rise to a greater comfort level of the people who call Florida their home and those who visit our state by the millions," Brogan said.
Bush signed emergency orders in September and October that allowed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, or FDLE, to create the task forces and begin putting together the database and intelligence center. The laws support the governor's actions.
FDLE Commissioner Tim Moore said that 100 people have been assigned full time to the task forces and that 5,000 police officers, firefighters and health workers have received antiterrorism training, with thousands more to be trained in upcoming months.
"Every time we train one of those individuals, regardless of their assignment, that's prevention," Moore said. "That's strengthening our ability to prevent these kinds of attacks."
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From the Times state desk
From the state wire