Funeral protests: Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law a bill that expands a current ban on protesting to all types of funerals.
The governor this week signed the “Funeral Buffer” bill (HB 15) that was approved by the Legislature last month.
The legislation was a response to military funeral protests by a Kansas-based church. The Westboro Baptist Church congregation claims God is punishing the United States for tolerating homosexuality. Protesters often carry signs saying “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”
The new law prohibits protesting or picketing within 500 feet of any funeral or burial. The law applies from one hour before to one hour after the ceremony. A violation is a first-degree misdemeanor.
Medmal: With doctors seeking greater legal protections, the Florida Senate approved a plan that includes tightening restrictions on expert witnesses in medical-malpractice cases. Senators voted 27-12 for the measure (SB 1792), which now goes to the House.
Groups such as the Florida Medical Association have made the bill a priority, squaring off in a lobbying fight with attorneys who represent injured patients. Perhaps the biggest change in the bill would require that expert witnesses in malpractice cases have the same specialties as the doctors who are defendants. Current law allows expert witnesses to have similar specialties.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys contend that such a change would shrink the pool of expert witnesses and make it harder for injured people to pursue malpractice cases.
The bill also allows any health care provider called as a witness to breach patient confidentiality and give attorneys information about a patient’s treatment.
Charter schools: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education has made a late change to a bill giving parents a voice in turning around failing schools. The bill was amended to remove the State Board of Education as a final arbiter in settling disputes when parents and local school boards disagree on a turnaround plan.
Under the new version, parents would still be able to propose a plan to improve the school. But the local school board would make the final decision. But the local board would have to explain its reasons for going against the parents’ plan at a public meeting.
Early birthday: House Rules Chairman Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, has been known in the past to tease — and, well, almost torment — Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood. They repeatedly went back and forth during the past two years when Schenck was chairman of a health-care committee.
But as Schwartz presented a bill on the House floor about guardianship proceedings, Schenck showed a little love. In honor of Schwartz’s 70th birthday Saturday, Schenck made a procedural move to allow the House to vote on the bill (HB 941) without waiting an additional day, as is usually the case. “That was a very nice birthday present,” Schwartz said, before the House voted 115-0 to approve the bill, drawing applause from members in both parties.
Schenck, however, wasn’t totally done teasing the Democrat. “Rep. Schwartz, you have totally killed my street cred,” he said a few moments later.
Post wire services.