Florida is a state of many “firsts.” Legislative accomplishment is no exception. Sen. Mike Fasano has been at the forefront of many of those firsts.
During the 2012 legislative session, Sen. Fasano sponsored a first-in-the-nation bill that laid out the criteria for facilities that advertise as serving patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia-related disorders. This followed an effort that received national attention to codify in law, for the first time, standards for the use of confidential informants. That bill, known as Rachel’s Law, has become a model for other states to use when addressing similar issues.
Three years after its passage in 2009, Rachel’s Law is receiving renewed national interest. In this month’s edition of The New Yorker (link below) reporter Sarah Stillman swung the spotlight on the slain Palm Harbor woman for which the bill is named. Stillman traveled to Florida this past spring and did in-depth interviews with scores of people who all had a part in bringing this law to reality, including its House sponsor Representative Peter Nehr of Tarpon Springs. This week The Huffington Post released a video by moderator Mike Sacks (link below) that followed up on Stillman’s article by interviewing, among others, Lance Block, the lead attorney who represents Rachel’s parents, Margie Weiss and Irv Hoffman.
While serving as a police department confidential informant, Rachel Hoffman was killed in a botched drug sting. The loss of their only child, rather than immobilizing her parents, gave them the energy they needed to mount a successful mission to protect confidential informants like their daughter. Mr. Hoffman and Mrs. Weiss did not want other parents to go through the nightmare they experienced when they learned the circumstances under which their child had died.
Boldness is a virtue in the legislative process. Tackling issues that may seem daunting to accomplish is something that Senator Fasano relishes. At the start of the deliberations to pass Rachel’s Law the law enforcement community was virtually united in its opposition to the bill. By the time the legislation made it to the governor’s desk, the state’s major law enforcement groups had come around. This was accomplished because of hard work, a willingness to hear the needs and concerns of all sides, and a courage to challenge the status quo.
Stillman wrote that Rachel Hoffman is but one of many young people throughout the country that have been used as confidential informants. Because of two parents who wanted to find something good in a personal tragedy, and the commitment of Senator Fasano and Representative Nehr to help their shared constituents, those young people in other states are finding their legacies through laws that have passed or are being developed in their name.
The media interest in Rachel’s Law will continue in the coming months. Be on the look-out for legislation in 2013 that will seek to make a good law even better. Anyone, from specialized nursing providers who want to make their industry better, to parents who want to right a wrong or bring something good out of something tragic, have the potential to accomplish a “first” in Florida. It just takes stepping out and making a contact with a legislator who is willing to listen.
Huffington Post’s “The Flawed Squad”: http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/5040f4bffe34444be0000070
The New Yorker’s “The Throwaways”:
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