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'Heroes' bill starts moving in House

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(FreeImages.com/Karen Barefoot)

A proposal that would make it a third-degree felony for defacing a statue or memorial that represents a Continental or U.S. Army soldier, a NASA astronaut or a first responder got its first vote of support Wednesday in the House.

The Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted unanimously on a proposal (HB 529) called the "Soldiers' and Heroes' Monuments and Memorials Protection Act."

The bill is filed for the legislative session that starts March 7.

"My ask is that we memorialize in statute, in giving a little more deference to those that made that sacrifice than we do a public telephone,” sponsor Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna, said, noting that state law already makes it third-degree felony to damage a church, public telephone or sexually violent-predator facility.

The bill defines a hero as a military figure, unit or organization that served one of the 13 original colonies, the U.S. military or a territory that became part of the U.S., as well as a law enforcement officer, firefighter or NASA astronaut.

A measure (SB 418) similar to Drake's bill has been filed in the Senate by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota.

The Senate measure has yet to be heard by a committee.