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New Penalties for Bear Poaching and Bus Passing

June 22nd, 2020 by Jake Stofan

Governor Ron DeSantis signed 21 bills over the weekend and among them were two bills aimed at protecting vulnerable populations.

Drivers who pass stopped school buses and bear poachers will soon face tougher penalties.

Right now killing a bear out of season carries a lighter penalty than killing a turkey or deer out of season.

Rep. David Smith believes that just doesn’t make sense.

“It was more of a penalty to shoot a turkey one day out of season than to kill a bear that you couldn’t hunt at all,” said Smith.

Thanks to Smith’s bill, signed by the Governor Saturday, the crimes will carry the same weight starting July 1st.

Violators will face up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

They’ll also lose any fish and wildlife issued license for three years.

“The things that make Florida, Florida we have to protect because if we lose them we’re never going to get them back,” said Smith.

A second bill signed this weekend aims to protect another vulnerable group, Florida’s children.

According to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, almost 3,800 citations were issued for illegal passing a school bus in the 2018-19 fiscal year alone.

Currently passing a stopped school bus results in a $100 to $200 fine, depending on which side you pass.

Starting next year fines will be doubled.

“We’re just going to have to keep increasing the fines until we get compliance with the law,” said bill sponsor Rep. Emily Slosberg.

A second offense within five years will lead to a six month to two year long drivers license suspension.

“To send a loud and clear message that we are serious about school bus safety in our communities,” said Rep. Ardian Zike, who also sponsored the legislation.

And as the Governor combs through the 210 bills passed during the legislative session, the big question on lawmakers’ minds is what will become of the budget and whether they’ll be called back to the Capitol early to make revisions.

Despite state revenues losing almost $900 million in April, Governor Ron DeSantis has maintained the Legislature will not need to return before November, promising a heavy veto pen on the budget.

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