TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) is leading a statewide initiative to implement new legislation addressing the growing trend of violence transit employees and other uniformed public servants face in Florida.
HART is collaborating with State Senator Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) and State Representative Michael Beltran (R-Tampa) who just filed the "Assaults on Specified Persons" for the 2020 session to propose safety changes to protect transit workers.
SB 1416 and HB 951 both seek to curb violent threats against uniformed public servants in the workplace.
Sen. Perry and Rep. Beltran are spearheading the legislation which would require all Florida transit agencies and the State itself to make specific changes to enhance public safety and further protect uniformed public servants, titled Assaults on Specified Persons SB 1416 and Assaults on Specified Persons HB 951.
"The Florida Public Transportation Association supports efforts to standardize the required training for transit employees and increase the penalties for an assault on an operator," said said Lisa M. Bacot, Executive Director of the Florida Public Transportation Association. "We believe that these efforts will not only keep our operator's safer, but, will increase the safety for all of our passengers, as well."
The legislation proposes four changes:
- May require the installation of protective barriers on public transit
- Require the posting of the maximum penalty for assaulting a transit worker
- Require mandatory training for drivers to defuse and de-escalate potentially violent situations
- Increase the current enhancement for assault against a uniformed public servant (transit workers, law enforcement and other first responders) from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.
"Over the past seven months, one HART bus driver in Tampa has been murdered and another violently attacked, while operating public transit buses," said Rep. Beltran.
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"Transit should be a safe and viable option for all communities. Any efforts we can take to make sure that drivers, passengers, and the community are safer is a win-win for everyone," said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.
"Protecting our transit workers is vital to keeping passengers safe. If a confrontation occurs while a bus is in motion, it poses a deadly threat to everyone on board and other drivers. Equally as important, I believe that no one should have to go to work and worry about being attacked," said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
The proposed legislation mirrors the Amalgamated Transit Union's (ATU) push for similar changes on the national level with HR 1139.