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Florida House advances bills to combat street racing and illegal nightclubs

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(The Center Square) — A Florida House committee advanced several measures this week that will stamp down on the unlawful sale of alcoholic beverages, increase penalties for street racing and remove barriers to firearm ownership.

House Bill 1123 is sponsored by state Rep. Doug Bankson, R-Apopka and Rep. Taylor Yarkosky, R-Clermont and would prohibit the unlawful sale of alcoholic beverages at commercial establishments as well as prohibit keeping or maintaining a place where alcoholic beverages are sold.

Bankson said while presenting the bill to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that the legislation is designed to combat the growing number of illegal clubs and lounges across the state.

“Throughout the state, communities deal with illicit after-hours clubs or hookah lounges that operate without liquor licenses or in violation of their license,” Bankson told committee members. “It’s not uncommon for these venues to attract dangerous drugs and violent crimes, including sex trafficking, human trafficking and organized gang operations.”

Bankson said that giving these establishments fines has been ineffective, because the businesses are lucrative, with some cashing in an estimated total of $50,000 per night. Bankson noted that a fine of $500 would be nothing more than a “slap on the wrist.”

Penalties would be increased from a misdemeanor to a felony for illegally selling alcohol and fines would be between $5,000 and $10,000 for a first offense. Subsequent offenses would increase charges and fines.

HB 449, also sponsored by Bankson and Rep. Kiyan Michael, R-Jacksonville Beach, would address the issues related to street racing, drag racing, stunt racing and street takeovers. The bill was presented by Michael, who said that this bill is needed because the racing is causing a public safety issue.

“From Jacksonville to Orlando, Tampa and Miami, the current penalties for race stunt driving does not provide any deterrent for many individuals,” Michael said.

Michael noted that the bill would apply uniform penalties instead of applying separate penalties for specified violations. It keeps standard violation as a first-degree misdemeanor, but increases the fine to between $2,500 and $4,000 and reduces the time period between offenses.

HB 17, sponsored by Rep. and Dr. Joel Rudman, R-Navarre, would clarify how long a citizen can be forced to wait before they receive a transfer of their legally purchased firearm. Rudman said that the bill does not remove background checks, nor the mandatory three-day waiting period.