FPEDV ADVOCACY—2021 Legislative Session
During the annual 2021 Legislative Session, FPEDV engaged with state policymakers across the board to advance protections for victims of domestic violence across a number of fronts. Our efforts included dozens of calls with House and Senate leadership, committee chairs, bill sponsors and staff in both houses, as well as letters of support and white papers supporting legislative initiatives as they moved through the process. We also coordinated our advocacy efforts with the Department of Children & Families through weekly calls throughout the session. As a result, a number of bills passed this year to protect domestic violence survivors and their children.
A top priority for FPEDV, SB 68 (Senator Garcia) prevents the unlawful disclosure of certified domestic violence center locations, the personal identifying information of staff, volunteers and their immediate family members, and the names and locations of schools and day care facilities attended by the children of domestic violence center personnel. An associated bill, SB 70, establishes a first-degree misdemeanor for maliciously publishing, disseminating, or disclosing descriptive information or images that may identify the location of a certified domestic violence center. Violations are punishable by up to one year imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. A second or subsequent violation is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Domestic Violence centers in Florida have experienced a number of instances of malicious disclosure of domestic violence shelter locations on social media platforms and in online community groups that threaten the safety and well-being of survivors, their children and front-line staff. Until now, law enforcement has been unable act because none of these behaviors is against the law. If signed by the Governor, SB 68 is effective upon becoming law and SB 70 is effective July 1, 2021.
Additional bills enacted this year include:
- HB 141 (Representative Leek) creates a rebuttable presumption against parental responsibility and timesharing for parents convicted of or have had adjudication withheld for a sexual offense if at the time of the offense the parent was 18 years of age or older and the victim was under 18 years of age or the parent believed the victim to be under 18 years of age. Currently, there is no blanket provision in Florida law prohibiting a person who has committed a sexual crime from exercising time-sharing with his or her minor child. The presumption against time-sharing may be rebutted if the court makes a specific finding in writing that the parent poses no significant risk of harm to the child and that timesharing is in the best interest of the child. The bill also clarifies that if the presumption is rebutted, the court must consider all time-sharing factors set forth in statute. If signed by the Governor, the bill becomes effective July 1, 2021.
- HB 583 (Representative Joseph) makes it lawful for a person to intercept and record a communication received in violation of an active temporary or final injunction for repeat violence, sexual violence, dating violence, stalking, domestic violence, or any other court-imposed prohibition of conduct. The bill allows the recipient to provide the recording to law enforcement, an attorney, or a court for the limited purpose of proving a violation of an injunction or court order, and only if the subject of the injunction or court order has been served or is otherwise on notice that the conduct is prohibited. Subject to the Governor’s veto powers, the effective date of this bill is July 1, 2021.
- HB 921 (Representative Snyder) modernizes the crime of written threats to apply to online messaging and social media. The bill prohibits posting or transmitting a written threat to kill or do bodily harm to another person online or in any manner by which it may be viewed by another person. The bill expands the scope of current law to also criminalize publicly posting a threat online, even if it is not specifically sent to or received by the person who is the subject of the threat. In addition, the legislation prohibits cyberstalking directed at or pertaining to a specific person that causes that person substantial emotional distress and serves no legitimate purpose. The bill clarifies that social media posts and communications to third parties can serve as the basis for a cyberstalking conviction or injunction. The bill is effective October 1, 2021, if signed by the Governor.
- HB 1231 (Representative Melo) amends current law to recognize that domestic violence is a significant public health threat that has adverse physical, emotional, and financial impact on Florida families. The bill also adds nonresidential outreach services to the list of minimum services a certified domestic violence center must provide. It clarifies current law to require certified domestic violence centers to obtain public and private funding of at least 25 percent of the amount of funding the center receives from the Domestic Violence Trust Fund. In addition, the bill permits certified domestic violence centers to carry forward, from one fiscal year to the next, unexpended state funds in a cumulative amount not to exceed eight percent of their total contract with DCF. The bill requires DCF to certify and monitor Batterers’ Intervention Programs and allows BIPs to use a cognitive behavioral model or a psychoeducational model in its program content. If approved by the Governor, these provisions take effect July 1, 2021.