Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Raschein's bills cover seat belts, conch sales, bid policy

Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, says obtaining sewer funding for the Florida Keys, reining in windstorm insurance rates and supporting agricultural tourism in the Homestead area are priorities for her first session in the Florida Legislature.

But the freshman representative also has sponsored and co-sponsored bills dealing with everything from public records and feral cats to gun rights and discrimination against gay and lesbians.

Among the 11 bills of which Raschein is the primary sponsor, four deal directly with insurance, agricultural tourism and wastewater.

A fifth would make the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority board popularly elected, as county voters said they wanted in a November straw poll.

The six others cover a diverse range of topics. One expresses Florida's objection to the potential listing of queen conch as a threatened or endangered species. Such a listing would make the importation and sale of conch illegal.

Raschein has crossed party lines to sponsor another bill along with Orlando-area Democrat Joe Saunders, who is openly gay. The bill would make it illegal under Florida law to discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity, just as it is illegal to discriminate for reasons such as race and religion.

Raschein said the bill would be good for business and good for her district, which includes the large gay population in Key West.

"[Saunders] is so thrilled by my bipartisan support of his bill," she said.

Another Raschein-sponsored bill would exempt financial disclosures by bidders on government projects from Florida's public records law until the firm was selected for the job.

A fourth bill she sponsored would require the use of child restraint devices in vehicles until children are 8 years old or 4 feet, 10 inches tall. Current law requires it until age 6.

A fifth Raschein bill would mandate the Department of Children and Families to continue providing financial support for the care of Angela Sozzani, a Central Florida teenager who in 2002 was severely and permanently debilitated in a swimming pool accident. At the time, Sozzani was 2 years old and in DCF supervised foster care.

Raschein's final bill would give cities and counties the right to make laws allowing animal shelters to spay and neuter feral cats, then release them back into the wild -- instead of euthanizing them.

The bill wouldn't technically conflict with the Keys wildlife refuges' plan to trap feral cats and take them to the nearest shelter, but it would work at cross purposes. Refuge officials say even a single cat -- the animals are not native to the Keys -- can take a significant toll on native species, including the endangered Key Largo woodrat and Lower Keys marsh rabbit.

Raschein said she's not ready to spend a lot of political capital on the bill, but she does believe it would reduce the feral cat population.

"I'm a dog person," she said. "But I recognize that we do have a feral cat problem in the Keys and maybe euthanasia isn't the best way."

Along with the bills she has sponsored, Raschein has thus far co-sponsored 12 pieces of legislation.

One likely to provoke strong reactions on both sides is a largely symbolic measure urging President Obama and Congress not to pass gun control legislation and stating that Florida would seek to overturn any such restrictions. "I am an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment. I'm also a lifetime member of the NRA," Raschein said.

"I believe in responsible gun ownership."

Raschein also co-sponsored a bipartisan bill that would do away with mandatory minimum prison sentences for those convicted of possessing unauthorized prescription drugs.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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