ATR Supports Senate Bill 642 (SB 642), the Florida First Step Act

April 17, 2019

To: Members of the Florida Senate

From: Americans for Tax Reform


Dear Senator,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and our supporters across Florida, I urge you to support and vote in favor of Senate Bill 642 (SB 642), the Florida First Step Act.

Criminal justice reform that is smart and tough on crime has been a resounding success. As a recent coalition letter from ATR and our allies on this issue summarizes:

“States that have adopted the reforms contained in SB 642 have seen nearly uniform results: they have reduced their prison populations and saved tens of millions of dollars. Most importantly, their crime rates continue to fall. This has been true for Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and more than 30 states that have passed similar reforms over the past 15 years.”

Most people in Florida prisons will be released one day, and giving them $50 and a bus ticket is not getting the job done. It is in the interest of taxpayers, government, society, and the former offenders themselves, that they become productive, contributing members of the community – rather than falling back into crime because they can’t reintegrate even when making their best effort.

This legislation would better equip former non-violent offenders leaving prison to rejoin society by incentivizing training and rehabilitation, while also reducing barriers to employment.

Senator Brandes’ strikethrough amendment improves the legislation by adding occupational licensing reforms, and changes to the practice of suspending one’s driver’s license as a penalty for owing court debt, among other provisions.

It is counterproductive if you want someone to pay a debt to make it more difficult for them to get to work and earn money. The punishment for court debt should not be losing your job because your transportation is restricted.

Occupational licensing reforms can help reduce recidivism, as getting a job might be the most important step towards successful reentry for those leaving the criminal justice system. It is important people training for a profession know if their felony will disqualify them before investing in training. Further, boards should only deny licenses for former nonviolent offenders when their offense is directly related to the profession in question.

We are joined in support of this legislation by a wide range of organizations, including: Right on Crime, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), James Madison Institute, Faith & Freedom Coalition, FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and American Conservative Union Foundation.

I thank you for your public service, and urge you to support the Florida First Step Act. If you have any questions or if ATR can be of assistance, don’t hesitate to contact me or ATR State Projects Director Doug Kellogg, at [email protected] or 202-785-0266.



Grover G. Norquist

President, Americans for Tax Reform