The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) has partnered with Florida State Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) and Florida State Rep. Michael Beltran (R-Tampa), who just filed the Uniformed Public Servant Protection Act, to address what they describe as the growing trend of violence against transit employees and other uniformed public servants throughout the state.
SB 1416 and HB 951 both seek to curb violent threats against uniformed public servants in the workplace. Perry and 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.
"As chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, I felt compelled to address the recent acts of violence and threats of violence against uniformed public servants," said Perry. "By increasing the penalty for assault against transit workers and other public servants, as well comprehensive training and protective barriers on public transport, we are demonstrating our commitment to public safety throughout our state."
HART is implementing three of these changes and advocating for a fourth to protect transit employees. The legislation proposes four changes, which would 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; and 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 Beltran, who is also a key member of the Hillsborough County delegation. "I filed this legislation in an effort to help keep people safe through tougher penalties for threats of violence, protective barriers for drivers and increased training to help defuse potential threats."
The proposed legislation mirrors the Amalgamated Transit Union's (ATU) push for similar changes on the national level with HR 1139.