Lawmakers seek to expand definition of hate crimes to those based on sex or gender identity

Hate crimes are on the rise, members of the Broward County Delegation learned Wednesday, but the law does not recognize a category that is becoming more common lately: crimes based on sex or gender identity.

And the members of the delegation say they want this fixed.

state attorney Harold Prior and Broward County Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott were among those who addressed lawmakers on Wednesday. The delegation begins to define the legislative priorities for the next session which begins on March 7.

Sen. Rosalind Osgood said she would work with Pryor to work on legislation that increases penalties for those who commit crimes based on sex and gender identity, adding to the state’s hate crimes law. At present, Florida Status 775.085 increased penalties for any felony or misdemeanor when it can be proven to have occurred based on race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homelessness status or advanced age of the victim.

Osgood said that was a loophole in the law.

“If someone attacks you because of your gender, the hate crimes law doesn’t allow it” to be enforced, Osgood said.

Pryor also discussed so-called “Glock switches” that can turn a common handgun into a semi-automatic pistol. It’s already illegal under federal law, but apparently people are still making them on 3D printers.

“I have to look at what we can do to be a little tougher on that,” Rep. Christine Hunschofsky of Parkland, which will also reintroduce its bills that allow psychologists from other states in a state-to-state pact to practice telepsychology or on a temporary basis in Florida, the effects of sea level rise, the legalization of fentanyl test strips and strengthening rape reporting laws.

The delegation members who appeared on Wednesday are all Democrats, and the delegation chair said this year promises new challenges. Voters elected a supermajority of Republicans, giving them the power to completely exclude Democrats from the debate.

“For us to do anything right now, we have to hold on and hold on because we have so few numbers in Tallahassee,” Rep. Patricia Hawkins-Williams, who leads the Broward delegation. “So all of us working together to get things done for Broward County and the state of Florida in general is going to be very, very important.”

Lawmakers also heard from residents on Wednesday, pleading for a way to remedy the situation in which many homes are being rented out on online platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO, destroying the quiet enjoyment of their homes. Human trafficking and next year’s election rules were also discussed.

Elections Chief Scott urged lawmakers to educate voters on how anyone voting by mail must specifically request an absentee ballot. By law, new registration requires providing new credentials, he told them. Starting next year, mail-in voters will be required to include either their Florida driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Osgood said it was going to be a tough sell.

“People have been told all their lives that this is information that’s kept private,” Osgood said.

Only 10 members of the delegation came for Wednesday’s meeting – not a quorum – so some of the items were postponed until the next meeting scheduled for next month.

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