HELP US KEEP REPORTING. DONATE TO ORLANDO WEEKLY PRESS CLUB.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Gov. DeSantis signs bills on wrongful convictions in Florida

Posted By on Wed, Jun 10, 2020 at 10:11 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
  • Photo via News Service of Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed 25 bills into law, including approving $2.15 million for a Jacksonville man wrongfully imprisoned for almost 43 years and two measures tied to a series of controversial highway plans.

The highest-profile bill (SB 28) will compensate Clifford Williams, who was sent to prison for a 1976 murder, including serving a stint on Death Row, before being cleared last year.

“Mr. Williams has been steadfast in his belief that justice would prevail in the end,” Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “Today, the governor honored that long-held faith.”

Williams was convicted along with his nephew Hubert Nathan Myers. Both were released last year after the Conviction Integrity Review Division, created by 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Melissa Nelson, found their claims of innocence credible and identified another man who had confessed to the killing. That person died in 1994.

Under a Florida law passed in 2008, people who have been wrongfully imprisoned and who can prove their innocence are entitled to $50,000 for every year they were incarcerated, up to a maximum of $2 million. A court determined Myers was eligible for such compensation. The law, however, excludes people like Williams who had prior felony convictions.

That resulted in the move to pass the bill to compensate Williams during the legislative session that ended in March.

Meanwhile, two of the bills signed Tuesday by DeSantis are linked to the ongoing planning for three multi-use corridors, including new or extended toll roads, that would stretch from Collier County to the Georgia border. The projects, known as multi-use corridors of regional significance, or M-CORES, have been championed by Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

One of the bills (HB 969) sets aside up to $5 million a year for Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise to develop broadband infrastructure as part of the effort to spur new or expanded toll roads.

The measure also shifts broadband policy responsibilities from the Department of Management Services to the Department of Economic Opportunity and creates a Florida Office of Broadband to develop, market and promote the services.

The other roadway bill (SB 7018) directs the Department of Transportation to plan and build staging areas for emergency response along the turnpike system, with a priority in “counties with a population of 200,000 or less in which a multi-use corridor of regional significance is located,” according to a Senate analysis of the bill.

Supporters of the measure argued that larger counties already have airports and business centers that can be used to stage disaster relief.

The measure also requires the Public Service Commission to work with the transportation department and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to develop electric vehicle charging stations along state highways.

Galvano issued a statement Tuesday praising the bills.

“As Florida moves forward from the coronavirus, economic development opportunities like M-CORES, and the jobs created both during and after construction, will be critical to our recovery,” Galvano said. “I am hopeful all elected leaders, local, state and federal, will continue to focus on infrastructure planning as we move toward recovery. We cannot afford to take a step back from economic prosperity and technological advancement in rural communities.”

Critics of the bills during the legislative session focused mostly on opposition to the toll roads, which they warn will lead to Broward County-style sprawl for people who want to live in small communities and will devastate already-endangered wildlife.

DeSantis also signed a measure (HB 743) that revised a 2019 law that was meant to crack down on opioid abuse by requiring health care practitioners to discuss non-opioid alternatives with patients. The law also required practitioners to provide people with a state published pamphlet on opioids.

Doctors, including anesthesiologists, told the Florida Board of Medicine that the law was difficult to adhere to, especially during emergency situations. Also, doctors told the Board of Medicine that the health department pamphlet contained layout errors.

The Florida Medical Association also flagged concerns with the 2019 law and sent a letter to Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees seeking his interpretation.

The bill passed this year removes a requirement to address non-opioid alternatives when a drug is “dispensed or administered” and authorizes practitioners to discuss non-opioid alternatives with patients’ representatives. The bill also exempts hospice services and care provided in hospital critical-care units or emergency departments from the requirement to discuss non-opioid alternatives with patients.

Many of the bills signed Tuesday were “local” bills, which address issues within specific counties or municipalities, such as a measure (HB 423) to allow the town of Ocean Breeze in Martin County to hold public meetings outside its boundaries.

_
Please follow CDC guidelines and Orange County advisories to stay safe, and please support this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you news on how coronavirus is affecting Central Florida. Please consider making a one-time or monthly donation. Every little bit helps.

Tags: , , , ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.

Related Locations

More by Christine Sexton and Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

August 5, 2020

View more issues

Calendar

© 2020 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation