TALLAHASSEE - A group of teens in Cocoa who stood on the side of a pond --- commenting and mocking while filming a disabled man as he drowned --- have sparked a “good Samaritan” proposal for the 2018 legislative session.
Sen. Debbie Mayfield said this week she's working with the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, chaired by Orlando Democrat Randolph Bracy, to craft a measure in reaction to the July 9 death of 31-year-old Jamel Dunn.
While prosecutors now are considering whether to file charges against the teens, Cocoa police initially said that state law doesn't allow them to hold the boys accountable for the death of Dunn, whose body was discovered several days after he drowned, because people aren't required to provide or seek aid for others who need help.
Mayfield, a Rockledge Republican, said she wants that to change.
“We don't want people running into burning buildings because they're afraid they're going to get a misdemeanor,” Mayfield said. “What this is about is if you see something that is causing another person grave harm, which means they need help, and you have a cell phone and you choose not to seek help, just by not calling 911, then there should be some penalty on that person.”
Mayfield is taking guidance from laws in other states, including Vermont and Minnesota, where people are required to provide reasonable assistance to others in need. Those requirements could be as simple as attempting to enlist help from law enforcement or medical personnel.
A violation of Vermont's good Samaritan law can result in up to a fine of up to $100. In Minnesota, violating the law can result in a petty misdemeanor that carries a $300 fine.
Florida already has a misdemeanor law on the books that requires people to report a death to the district medical examiner.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
About 15 percent of Florida's lawmakers are more than three weeks late with some state-required homework.
But they've got a grace period of more than a month before they're technically tardy enough to risk being fined for their over-due fees.
As of Thursday morning, 21 members of the House and Senate --- including Senate Minority Leader-designate Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and House Commerce Committee Chairman Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican --- had yet to submit annual financial disclosure forms, due July 3.
But, thanks to rules lawmakers impose upon themselves, those legislators --- 13 Democrats and eight Republicans --- have another five weeks to drum up excuses for missing the deadline.
Even though they're “required” to submit the financial disclosures in July, late fees don't kick in until Sept. 1, when $25-a-day fines can start racking up. Even then, the fines max out after two months, due to a $1,500 cap.
The financial records for many lawmakers show little variation from one year to the next, but they provide a glimpse into legislator's investments and debt, allowing the public to be on the look-out for potential conflicts of interest.
CHEESEHEADS LURE TECH COMPANY WITH BILLIONS AND BILLIONS IN TAX BREAKS
The revelation this week that Foxconn would build a $10 billion display-panel plant in Wisconsin made it clear why Florida was never really a player in the deal, hailed by President Donald Trump as a revival of American manufacturing.
In an announcement at the White House, Taiwan-based Foxconn --- the world's largest manufacturer of consumer electronics and a major supplier for Apple --- said the Wisconsin plant could ultimately employ 13,000 workers, who will make liquid crystal display panels that can be used in computers, televisions and other devices.
In exchange for the plant and jobs, Wisconsin has agreed to provide a whopping $3 billion in financial incentives.
“The company would have to meet certain job and investment targets up front to get the money, which would include up to $1.5 billion in state income tax credits for jobs created, up to $1.35 billion in credits for capital investment and up to $150 million in sales tax exemptions on construction materials,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday.
The Wisconsin deal could give Gov. Rick Scott some leverage heading into next year's legislative session.
Florida's governor recently waged a major battle with fellow Republicans in the Legislature over an $85 million business incentive fund, which would pay for infrastructure projects and job training and which is just a drop in the bucket of the fiscal goodies pledged by the Badger State.
Unsurprisingly, Wisconsin's $3 billion offer is controversial. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted the funding exceeds the amount the state annually spends on its university system and prisons. The incentives work out to $231,000 for each job at the Foxconn plant.
But Gov. Scott Walker --- a fiscal conservative like Scott --- argued the incentives, which will cost the state about $200 million a year, will result in a manufacturing facility that could ultimately generate a $700 million annual payroll.
VISIT FLORIDA RACING STILL BURNING RUBBER
Call it free advertising.
More than a month after Florida's tourism agency ended sponsorship, Visit Florida Racing continues to sport the state's brand on its car.
“As the cancellation letter clearly states, Visit Florida terminated the contract on June 2, and ceased all payments for deliverables as of July 3,” Visit Florida spokesman Stephen Lawson said in an email on Tuesday. “There are no other arrangements.”
California-based Racer magazine reported Monday that the racing team needs “stronger race performances --- to keep VFR, or to attract new sponsors.”
In June, the embattled Florida tourism agency gave the Troy Flis-owned, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team 30-days notice that it was ending its sponsorship.
At the time, Racer noted that talk around the track linked the cancellation of the sponsorship to Visit Florida's funding, which was in flux after GOP leaders in the state House balked at the agency's spending decisions.
“If adequate funding has been received by Visit Florida, it would be possible for the Visit Florida Racing team to continue carrying its familiar blue livery through the end of the season,” Racer reported in June.
The cancellation notice from the tourism agency came as Visit Florida reevaluated its contracts amid a clash between House leaders and Gov. Rick Scott.
Among the more prominent complaints about Visit Florida was a $1 million deal with Miami rapper Pitbull, along with sponsorships of Fulham Football Club in England and the Visit Florida racing team.
Lawmakers during the regular session moved to cut Visit Florida's budget by two-thirds. But the funding was bumped up to $76 million --- nearly matching the money allocated in the current year --- during a special session in June.
The agency's $2.875 million contract with the racing team was tied to the racing season that ends in October.