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Politics / Issues

House Ready To Discuss Sentencing Reform

Row of men in orange jumpsuits wait for ID
Kerry Sheridan
/
WUSF
The measure would allow judges to consider shorter sentences and lower fines for drug-trafficking defendants who meet certain criteria.

House Speaker Jose Oliva said Thursday the House is “very open” to a Senate proposal that would loosen sentencing laws for certain drug-trafficking offenses.

A similar House proposal sponsored by a bipartisan group of 27 lawmakers has not been heard by any committees. But Oliva said he is willing to consider a bill (SB 346) that the Senate is poised to pass.

The measure, sponsored by Senate budget chief Rob Bradley, would allow judges to consider shorter sentences and lower fines for drug-trafficking defendants who meet certain criteria, such as having no prior felony convictions and offering full cooperation with law enforcement.

The bill also would set a maximum incarceration time of 12 months for people who buy or possess less than one gram of certain controlled substances, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

After talking with senators, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Gov. Ron DeSantis' office, Bradley, a former prosecutor, this week made major changes to his bill.

The changes would shrink the number of defendants who are eligible to get shorter sentences. The Senate also added language to Bradley’s bill that would give prosecutors an opportunity to make sentencing recommendations in certain drug-trafficking cases, before judges decide to depart from mandatory-minimum guidelines.

Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said this week he has yet to negotiate with the House on the issue.

Oliva told reporters on Thursday that talks on the issue will likely start next week, as time runs out on the legislative session that ends March 13.

“Next week we are in week 7. All things really need to start to move next week or we are looking at delays,” Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said.