Senate panel puts criminal justice bill on hold

Fleming Island senator: Many ideas in bill should be discussed prior to debate

File photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday postponed consideration of a criminal justice bill that would increase the threshold amount for felony theft charges amid ongoing concerns about a retail organized-crime provision.

Committee Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said many ideas in the bill (SPB 7072) should be discussed before it is taken up for debate.

"What we are looking to do is combine them with some other ideas percolating through other committees," Bradley said. "We are taking a pause to take a look at the whole picture and look at the ideas that make sense."

One of the points of contention is a provision that would set a dollar value for determining whether retail theft is a second- or third-degree felony.

The Florida Retail Federation, which represents hundreds of retail stores in the state, is seeking to strengthen punishment for organized retail crime.

The current proposal would increase the property-value threshold of a third-degree felony retail theft from $300 or more to $700 or more.

It would also require that multiple acts of retail theft that occur within a three-month period be aggregated to determine the value of the stolen property.

Jake Farmer, director of government affairs for the Retail Federation, said all members of his organization care about adding more teeth to organized retail-theft criminal laws.

"We also care about making sure we are not increasing the threshold to an unreasonable amount and we support SB 7072," Farmer said.