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Bill to provide ‘Hope Cards’ to victims of domestic violence moves in the Senate

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Sen. Lauren Book

Sen. Lauren Book

A Senate panel on Thursday approved a measure that would create a “Hope Card” program that would make it easier for domestic violence and other victims to verify that they are recipients of a protective order.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice voted 10-0 to approve SB 84 by Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book of Davie.

“This simple but very important bill is designed to empower survivors of domestic violence, helping them to safely move on with their lives and providing a durable, laminated, wallet-sized card issued by the clerk of courts,” Book said.

The cards would eliminate a need for victims to carry a sheath of court documents to prove to law enforcement that they are protected by a court order.

Supported by the Family Law Section and modeled after similar programs in other states, the measure would require the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers to develop the program.

Court clerks would be required to mail the cards, free of charge, to petitioners within a business day after a final order has been issued.

According to a staff analysis, there were 80,159 petitions for various forms of protective orders filed in Florida’s court system in FY 2022-23. Clerks estimate that it would cost $40 to produce each card, which lists the type of order and personal identifying information of the petitioner and respondent.

Sponsors agreed to eliminate a provision that would require the cards to be posted by certified mail, reducing the original cost estimate by $5. Book added an amendment on Thursday that would give victims an option of receiving a digital version.

Supplying every eligible petitioner with a Hope Card would cost approximately $705,400, according to a staff analysis. The bill authorizes clerks to seek federal grants and private donations to offset the cost.

“This is about putting a tangible tool in the hands of survivors that provides them with a significant, straightforward and reliable means of communicating with law enforcement,” Book said.

SB 84 cleared Judiciary 10-0 early last month and faces one more committee stop, in Fiscal Policy.

A companion, HB 45 by Republican Rep. Traci Koster, a Tampa marital and family law attorney, and Democratic Rep. Mike Gottlieb, a Plantation attorney, cleared two committees unanimously. If faces one more hearing in Judiciary.

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