Florida Politics

Scotts signs 16 bills: $3.75 million to Barahona survivor, crackdown on public records abuses

Nubia Barahona did not survive but her twin brother Victor did.
Nubia Barahona did not survive but her twin brother Victor did. Miami Herald file photo

Gov. Rick Scott signed 16 bills into law Tuesday, agreeing to pay the surviving victim of one of the most horrific child abuse cases in state history $3.75 million in legal damages, another bill to end “gotcha” public records requests, and a bill that will give families with foster children 50 percent discounts on all state parks.

After three years of waiting, Victor Barahona, the surviving twin brother of Nubia Barahona, will receive money as part of a legal settlement with the Department of Children and Families, under SB 18, which has now become law.

The state admitted negligence in 2014 after 10-year-old Victor was found near death and covered with pesticides next to his sister’s decomposing body along I-95 in Palm Beach County in 2011. They were in the custody of their adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona, who have been charged with murder.

The governor also approved SB 80, a compromise proposal between public record advocates and lawmakers who wanted to crack down on a few serial records abusers who attempt to snag unsuspecting public officials into violating public records laws in an effort to coerce a financial settlement.

The measure adds a new requirement that the public provide the records custodian with written notice of the public record request five days before filing a lawsuit to force compliance. If the public agency does not provide contact information for the records custodian on its website and in the administrative building where public records are routinely requested, the five-day notice is not required.

The long list of bills signed late Tuesday also includes proposals that impose new regulations on timeshares (SB 818), new restrictions on human trafficking (SB 852), and new penalties for shark finning (SB 884). The governor also approved a new public records exemption for individuals with substance abuse impairment under the Florida Marchman Act (SB 886).

Another bill, HB 185, gives a 50 percent discount on campsite fees to foster families, and a free annual state park entrance pass to families who adopt children with special needs. Boat owners who purchase a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) will receive discounts on boat registration fees under HB 711, and small-scale food sellers will be considered cottage food operators if their annual sales don’t exceed $50,000 (HB 1233).

Finally, if voters approved the expanded $25,000 of homestead exemption on the 2018 ballot, the governor will have already signed the implementing bill, HB 7107.