The Florida Senate will kick off the 2017 legislative session with a busy first week, scheduling three major bills on the Senate floor. On Wednesday, the Senate will take up Senate President Joe Negron’s higher-education initiative (SB 2), which would expand the Bright Futures merit-scholarship program and create higher performance standards for state universities and colleges. Similar House legislation (HB 3 and HB 5) has yet to be heard in a House committee. On Thursday, the Senate will take up a bill (SB 280), sponsored by Criminal Justice Chairman Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, that would require unanimous jury recommendations before defendants can be sentenced to death. The legislation is a response to the Florida Supreme Court invalidating a previous law that only required a 10-2 jury recommendation in death cases. A similar House bill (HB 527) is expected to be taken by the House in the first week of the 60-day session. On Thursday, the Senate will also take up a bill (SB 128) from Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, that would shift a burden of proof to prosecutors in “stand your ground” self-defense cases. The House has a similar bill (HB 245) pending in the Judiciary Committee.
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