TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A House panel on Monday approved a proposal that would create a task force to investigate the root causes of violence in black and Hispanic communities in Florida.
Bill sponsor Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, said the 10-member task force would be similar to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which was created after the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland to improve school safety. But under Jones’ proposal (HB 201), the task force would be charged with investigating systemic failures and causes of “high crime rates and gun violence incidents in urban core neighborhoods and communities.”
Members of the task force would be appointed by the governor, the Senate president, the House speaker and minority-party leaders in the House and Senate. The appointment structure differs from the school-safety commission, which does not have appointees from House and Senate minority-party leaders.
Jones said the proposal is a priority of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. He said it is not meant to be a “gun control” task force, but rather a body that can “holistically” look at how to curb violence in black and Hispanic communities.
“We are experiencing a great deal of violence in our black communities, and we need help,” said Rep. James Bush, D-Miami. “I am tired of preaching at funerals with mothers of young men who have been shot down with AK-47s. … We just need a little help.”
If the Legislature approves the measure, the task force would be created within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and would need to convene by Sept. 1. The task force would be required to submit a report with its findings and recommendations to the governor and legislative leaders by Jan. 1.
After passing the Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Monday, the bill needs to clear two more panels before it can get a vote in the full House.
A similar proposal (SB 652), filed by Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami Beach, has been approved by one of its three assigned Senate committees.