August 4, 2020
McWilliams’ Journey Through the Legislative Process
Below are the emails that were sent out by Jamie McWilliams to those individuals who requested updates as the McWilliams Family set out on their journey to make the difference in Justin’s memory via the legislative process.
September 8, 2004
As I have indicated in the past, we are moving forward to close the “loophole” that enabled Justin Allen to escape any type of accountability in the death of Justin McWilliams merely because he was killed on private property. State Representative Dennis A. Ross (R-Lakeland) will be assisting in our endeavor.
Representative Ross is in possession of each and every email and news article that I have sent out since April 2002. He has watched our ongoing fight for accountability and Justice For Justin.
Representative Ross has researched the Dismissal for Lack of Jurisdiction issued in the criminal aspect of Justin’s case. He indicates that it is his opinion the legislative intent of the statute needs to be clarified, as explained below: First, s. 316.006 is not designed to limit the authority of the State to prosecute violators of sections of Chapter 316 to either any Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or only traffic offenses occurring on streets or highways. This section is speaking to jurisdiction of the state, counties and municipalities in terms of their respective responsibilities to maintain traffic control devices and guide traffic. As far as s. 316.006’s reference to state jurisdiction is concerned, it is specific to the Department of Transportation (DOT) exclusively.
If there was no statute defining DOT’s areas of jurisdiction for road maintenance and traffic control devices, would the state lose all jurisdiction over state traffic control? For counties and municipalities the jurisdiction in this section is “in addition to jurisdictional authority presently exercised … under law” and in fact continues to read “…nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to limit or remove any such jurisdictional authority.” The defense lawyer made much of the fact that absent a written agreement with the governing body over traffic control jurisdiction there is no municipal or county jurisdiction. However, that overlooks the subject matter of the jurisdiction being conveyed.
Of course no county or municipality is going to assume jurisdiction, and hence liability and financial obligations to maintain roads and traffic control devices on private roadways UNLESS there is an agreement with the private party which provides for things like reimbursement actual cost of traffic control and enforcement, and liability insurance. (eg. 316.006(2)(b)1). But the absence of such an agreement in a county or municipality does not rob the State of Florida of its authority to prosecute persons committing state CRIMINAL traffic offenses. For instance, you can’t give false information in any of the accident reports required under Chapter 316 under 316.067. The state does not lose jurisdiction to prosecute that offense simply because the person giving the false information was not standing on a street or highway at the time they gave the false report.
Secondly, the judge relied on a District Court of Appeal (DCA) case which found that the state has jurisdiction to prosecute DUI because of the inclusion of the words “in this state” in the DUI statute (…If the person is driving … within this state) and found that the absence of those words meant the state only has jurisdiction on “streets or highways” for other violations of Chapter 316. The section currently reads ” The driver OF ANY VEHICLE INVOLVED IN A CRASH … must.” The duty is attached to ANY driver who is involved in a crash. To require the addition of language “the driver of any vehicle involved in a crash IN THIS STATE” seems unnecessary.
It is too late to appeal the outcome of that Hearing. However, it is our desire is to seek clarity to Chapter 316, State Uniform Traffic Rules, so that other families won’t be forced to endure this type of injustice, as we did.
Therefore, based on my conference call of September 8, 2004, State Representative Ross will be preparing a statement of Legislative Intent to Chapter 316 concerning jurisdiction.
Thank you for your ongoing continued support! Stay tuned!
January 17, 2005
Below is a link to the proposed Legislation to be sponsored by Representative Dennis A. Ross R-Lakeland, seeking to clarify Chapter 316 of the Florida Statutes. This proposed legislation has been approved by the Department of Highway Safety. I am now beginning my quest in search of Senate sponsorship for the companion Bill. This whole process has been an unending education, one that I am clearly amenable to, given the importance of getting this Bill adopted as Law in memory of My son, Justin McWilliams.
I expect a flurry of activity within the next several weeks. I will continue to update this page as the information becomes available.
Thank you all once again for your continued support of our endeavors
to get clarity to Chapter 316, State Uniform Traffic Rules, Florida Statutes.
February 3, 2005
The attached is the revised Bill that Representative Ross has forwarded to Bill Drafting. The intent change of the original language apparently left the door open to a myriad of unintended consequences. This revision specifically addresses the Leaving the Scene language. Next, I want to announce that Senator Carey Baker (R-Eustis) will be the Senate sponsor of our companion Bill! I have had meetings and phone conversations with various Senators and their legislative staff in an effort to gather support of the proposed Bill. Given the revised language, the support has been overwhelming! I will continue to schedule meetings prior to this year’s Legislative Session, which is scheduled to begin March 8, 2005, seeking support of this Bill. Once the Session begins, I plan to be in Tallahassee as often as I can or as I am needed.
I will continued to keep everyone updated!
February 9, 2005
The new Bill was submitted to the Florida House of Representatives today, we’re thrilled to announce that the bill has been named the “Justin McWilliams ‘Justice For Justin’ Act”. Click here to see the copy.
March 22, 2005
Mark, Ashley and Jamie attended the Florida House of Representatives Transportation Committee meeting held in the House Office Building in Tallahassee, Florida. The Committee voted unanimously in favor of HB 761! The Bill has now been forwarded to the Criminal Justice Committee. We await word of the date and time for this meeting and we plan on attending that, as well. We will continue to keep everyone updated! You can click here to see the status of the bill on the State of Florida website
March 30, 2005
Mark and Jamie traveled to Tallahassee to appear before the Florida House Criminal Justice Committee and speak on behalf of HB 761, The Justin McWilliams “Justice for Justin” Act. This bill was favorably passed (unanimously) through to the next committee of reference in the House of Representatives, The Judiciary Committee. They await word as to when that next committee date will be and expect to appear and speak before that committee, as well.
In addition, they are expecting a date for their appearance at the Senate Transportation Committee. That should be in the next week or two.
April 6, 2005
The McWilliams Family needs your assistance! The following email was sent to the McWilliams’ “Justin’s Angels” email list. If you wish to be on this list, e-mail me Hello everyone, Where to begin?! We are three (3) years without Justin. Still so hard to believe. It has been an extremely emotional week to start with, then of course, there always seems to be some added fuel to the fire!
As you know, we have been traveling to Tallahassee every week for the past month to speak before the various committees in the House of Representatives. Such an education. As of today, we have been passed through 3 of the 4 House committees as unanimously favorable. We expect the Bill to go to the House Floor for a vote in the very near future.
Now for the Senate. The Bill was assigned by President Lee to 3-committees: Transportation, Criminal Justice and Justice Appropriations. We have waited patiently (as I was advised to do by the Chief Legislative Assistant of the Transportation Committee) for this Bill to be heard in the first of those committees, Transportation. We were advised by Representative Ross this morning (via email from Senator Baker who is sponsoring our Senate Bill), that Chairman Jim Sebesta doesn’t feel that there is anything wrong with the private property laws (Senator Sebesta’s Occupation is listed as Real Estate/Broker/Land Developer) but feels that this case wasn’t prosecuted correctly~! Well, no kidding! It has taken me nearly three (3) years to get past our State Attorney’s gross incompetence in the handling of this case. Now, I have these law makers telling me what I already know!? That being said, IT IS STILL WRONG TO RUN SOMEONE OVER AND LEAVE THEM! I don’t care whether it is public or private property!
Again, keep in mind, we have appeared and I have spoken before 3-House committees and each committee supported this Bill 100%! This law needs to be changed. I am totally shocked by Senator Sebesta’s position on this Bill. He has children and grandchildren. How would he feel as a parent or grandparent in our position, and he was left to deal with a State Attorney’s Office who wreaked of incompetence? I am asking you to please take a few minutes and email Senator Sebesta, with a copy to the Senate President, Tom Lee and a copy to Governor Jeb Bush, advising them of your wishes on getting this Bill heard before the Transportation Committee during this Legislative Session:
[email protected] [email protected] [email protected] Or, if you are able to call as well, please call Senator Sebesta (David Winialski is the Chief Legislative Aide); President Lee I don’t think that I am being unreasonable. This Bill is not unreasonable. Had we encountered issues prior to the Senate, perhaps I would say that our Bill just needed more work. But, there is something more going on here. Much as we had asked for accountability and not necessarily persecution in Justin’s death, we would just like an opportunity to have our Bill heard. If you send an email, please copy me. Thank you again. Let me know of any questions, comments or concerns that you may have. Jamie (Mark & Ashley)…
April 15, 2005
We want to thank everyone who wrote to Senator Sebesta, Senator Lee and Governor Bush requesting that our Bill be placed on the Agenda for Senate Transportation. We are on the Senate Transportation Committee Agenda for Monday, April 18, 2005 beginning at 1PM in Tallahassee. We will also be attending our final committee of reference for the House, The State Infrastructure Counsel, on Tuesday, April 19th at 9:30AM. This is the final committee in the House before we go to the floor for a vote!!! We remain cautiously optimistic on our progress
April 19, 2005
I wanted to let you know that we have gone through all four (4) of the committees of reference in the House and passed each unanimously favorable! We are now off to the House Floor. There is a 2nd reading, then a 3rd reading that involves a roll call vote in the House. Hopefully this process will be well underway early next week!
We also attended the Senate Transportation Committee Meeting this week. I am so pleased to say that we passed through this committee unanimously favorable, as well!!! This included Senator Sebesta’s support of our Bill. We are now on the Senate Criminal Justice Agenda for Tuesday, April 26th at 11:45A.
Also, it is with great jubilation that I inform you that both Bills in the House and Senate have been amended. They now increase the penalty from a 2nd degree Felony in a hit and run with death on public or private property, to a 1st degree Felony. This amendment increases the possibility of prison time from up to 15 years (for the 2nd degree felony) to up to 30 years (for the 1st degree felony)! There is also a fine of $10,000.00.
Again, thank-you for your support and prayers. Let me know of any questions, comments or concerns that you may have. Jamie (Mark & Ashley)….
April 30, 2005
And “on the move” is the only way to describe this upcoming week! However, before we get to this week, let me tell you what we accomplished this past week.
Mark and I attended the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday, April 26th. Again, our Bill moved through this Committee unanimously favorable! On Friday, Representative Ross brought House Bill 761through the 2nd Reading in front of the members of the House, without question or debate! We are now onto the 3rd Reading, and final roll call vote, in Florida’s House of Representatives! This should occur very early this week, possibly even Monday (5/2).
Next, Senator Baker has requested that our Bill (Senate Bill 1466) be withdrawn from the final committee of reference, Senate Justice Appropriations and be sent to the Senate Floor for a 2nd Reading. This isn’t unusual given the fact that the Session comes to a close on Friday, May 6th and we are all under very stringent time constraints. From this point, the process gets rather complicated and difficult to explain, without total confusion. So on this note, I will say I am confident that everything is moving the way it should be moving and everyone is doing what they should be doing. And also, that I am going to Tallahassee this afternoon and will remain there until this Bill is Law to make sure that things continue on course this week!!!
This is quite an exciting time! The education of our State Government has been unbelievable! Again, we have learned that nothing is a given in the political arena. However, I spoke to Senator Baker early last week and he is very optimistic at this point.
Thank you all once again for keeping our family in your thoughts and prayers. I will be available by cell phone and email this week, so please call or email me if there are any questions, comments or concerns that you may have!
Jamie…(Mark and Ashley)
May 6, 2005
And where to begin? So much emotion this week. However, it is with great disappointment that I inform everyone that our Bill did not pass through as Law this year during the 2005 Legislative Session. Certainly, not because our Lawmakers didn’t completely support this Bill and support this family’s effort to rectify this horrible loophole, but because of a procedural issue involving the withdrawal of the Bill from the final committee of reference. Withdrawing a Bill from the final committee of reference is done frequently during this late point in the game. Much is done at the discretion of the Senate President. Procedurally, he can pretty much do what he chooses to do. This Bill (and in all honesty) many others were pushed aside in the Senate Rules Committee and President Lee chose at some point not to allow this Bill (and others) to ever make it to the Senate Floor, killing many Bills that would have, could have and should have passed.
What an emotional rollercoaster ride this past week has been. I spent all day Monday at the Capitol, watching the activity in the House from the Gallery. Early Monday evening, May 2, 2005, House Bill 761 passed through the Florida House of Representatives, unanimously! 112 yeas and 0 nays. How about that?! Our Justin McWilliams “Justice for Justin” Act, passed through the Florida House of Representatives without question or debate, unanimously! As I listened to the Speaker tell the members to vote, and then to lock the machines, announce the vote and then the numbers to appear in front of me, I became overwhelmed with emotion and just began to cry. I knew Justin was with me and smiling. While it wasn’t Law, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment as my mind faded back to my conversation with Representative Ross last Summer about what lied ahead; his concerns, the upcoming fights and battles, the work ahead of us and certainly the fear of the unknown. My eyes focused on the Board above the Speaker of the House. This was a great accomplishment for Justin, our family, friends and our community.
The talk from the Senate floor on Monday, was that Rules Chair, Senator Pruitt, had informed Senator Baker that the Bill was going to be pulled from the final committee of reference and placed on the Special Order Calendar for 2nd Reading, once they had received the information on Bill passage from the House. Monday night, the House sent our information on the passage of the Bill to the Senate (via computer messages). I left that night feeling euphoric. Tuesday, not much was said, and given that I was unfamiliar with Senate rules, knew that we were still early in the week and had until Friday to make this happen. And that is where things began to crash. Wednesday, nothing was still showing as the Bill being withdrawn. Representative Ross was in the Senate checking on things repeatedly. Nothing was being said. I started to make my rounds in the Capitol. First with the District Chief Legislative Aide to Senate President Lee, who was initially encouraging. Then to the Rules Committee’s office, where I was informed that if the Bill wasn’t on the Special Order Calendar as of this past Monday night, it wasn’t going to be heard. After that, I went straight to Senate President Lee’s office, where his right-hand, Ron Pierce gave me the dead-pan , rules are rules and procedurally nothing can be done, speech.
So, I stayed in Representative Ross’ office Wednesday afternoon, having what felt like an emotional meltdown. Then the Representative came back to his office after Session in the House. He then informed me that he wasn’t going to let this go that easily and he and his wonderful staff began to explore other vehicles to attach our Bill to in the way of an amendment. So into the night his staff worked with Bill drafting to attach our Bill to another in the form of an amendment. This morning Mr. Senate President and Mr. Rules Chair, advised that couldn’t be done. So I said good-bye to Tallahassee and made the journey back to Orlando and to Mark, who just had his 6th ankle surgery, and our daughter who is getting ready to graduate May 19th.
The process is complicated. Our people were doing everything and anything that could be done. We had done everything that needed to be done. You, did what you could to make sure we got here. What I hadn’t planned for were the people that weren’t involved and hadn’t been a part of our process. And I guess I expected the fact that this Bill had gone through 6 of the 7 committees of reference in both the House and Senate, unanimously favorable; picked up many bi-partisan co-sponsors along the way and much support and then passed through the House of Representatives, unanimously, to count for something up there. I guess that I expected that given our Bill had gotten this far and been positively received by so many, to count for something. The Governor and Senate President will stop this State and get involved in personal family matters; take up bills that are hot topics in the press and pass self-serving laws for themselves, but all of these other things just didn’t mean much because procedurally, someone dropped the “little blue withdrawal card” through the cracks. For years the Speaker of the House, the Senate President and the Governor have tried to get their members to get along. Continue talking between themselves; play nice, so to speak. And what do those in the upper echelon do? They let a “feel-good Bill” that has complete bi-partisan support, go by the wayside this year! Well, I will guarantee you, it won’t happen next year!
Yes, we are disappointed. No, it won’t stop us next year! I remain determined and committed. I will not fall apart over this, yet another “bump in the road”. God has another plan for this mom right now. The education that I have gotten from this process is priceless. The contacts that we have made, unbelievable. And most importantly, the support from our lawmakers to get this law changed, overwhelming to say the least. Our thanks go out to many. Representative Dennis Ross, who I have known since 1993, is our Hero. He believed, he remains committed and he is on board and ready for next year! Melissa Akeson, Representative Ross’ Legislative Aide is a wonderful young woman who has virtually become my lifeline to Tallahassee and the Legislative Session. Diane in the Representative’s office in Lakeland, worked closely with me until we got this to Tallahassee. Senator Baker for taking this on and his staff for their hard work.
For now, we will get Mark back to good health, once again. His surgery went very well today and he will be completely weight bearing and begin physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in his leg in approximately 3-months. Ashley graduates from high school on May 19th and will be working with kids over the summer at Tutor Time going on field trips as a chaperone and camp counselor, of sorts. I have ordered the CD’s of my appearances before the Committees and the CD of the Bill passing through the Florida House, which I will put up on the website. For now, I will re-focus on the educational aspect of our “Make the Right Choice” program in speaking with kids on the choices they make. We will also head down to Ft. Myers in the near future to meet with our new friend Daphne for the first time, who is a recipient of one of Justin’s corneas!
Thank you all for your unending prayers and support. Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns that you may have.
And of course, Happy Mother’s Day to all those called M-O-M!
September 19, 2005
I hope you all have had a safe and peaceful summer.
In preparation for the 2006 Legislative Session, Justin’s Bill has officially been filed with the House of Representatives. House Bill 155, The Justin McWilliams “Justice for Justin” Act is outlined as follows:
GENERAL BILL by Ross
Vehicle Crashes: Creates the “Justin McWilliams ‘Justice For Justin’ Act”; requires the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in injury of a person to immediately stop the vehicle and remain at the scene; provides that failure to stop the vehicle and remain at the scene by the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in the death of a person is a first-degree felony; revises felony classification in the Criminal Punishment Code offense severity ranking chart for specified violations.
Effective Date: October 1, 2006.
Additionally, Senator Baker has also indicated that our Bill for the Senate is currently in Bill Drafting and will be identical to the House Bill. I will advise everyone once the Bill has been filed in the Senate and has been assigned a Bill number.
At this point, we are light-years ahead of where we were this time last year! I have also been advised that the committees do meet prior to the Session and we hope that we can get a jump-start on that process before the Session begins in March. Meanwhile, I will begin to solicit cosponsorship of our Bill by members of the House. Both Representative Ross and Senator Baker are very committed to making this happen in 2006. We can never forecast the future, but I can tell you that we have a great team of players working with us to get this done. I am very excited and look forward to positive things happening with this Bill in 2006.
Lastly, I wanted to take a moment and update you something that has brought much happiness to our family. As you may recall, Justin was an organ donor. Unfortunately, due to the nature of his injuries, he was unable to donate his vital organs. However, we did donate his corneas as well as his bone, skin and tissue, to help others in need. Last month (August 13th), Mark and I (along with Teri Richardson our contact and friend who worked at the Eyebank) traveled to Naples to meet our new friend, Daphne Pfaff. Daphne was 67-years old when she received Justin’s cornea, which she refers to as her “Easter Miracle”. She has a degenerative condition that greatly affected her vision over the years. By the time she received her corneal transplant, she was no longer the independent and vibrant woman that she had been.
We had a wonderful day with Daphne, her husband David and daughter Lisa. Daphne is every bit as lovely as I knew she would be and spending the afternoon with she and her family was so cathartic. Daphne and her husband are quite the travelers! Over the summer they traveled to various places all over the world, to include Russia, as well as throughout the United States and Canada! I will send another email in the next week or so speaking more of our visit and also of the conversations that I have had with the other recipient’s family in Maryland. I am attaching a picture of our trip to Naples. Daphne is standing directly behind Mark (her daughter Lisa is in the glasses, and of course, that is me on the other side!). Meanwhile, should you have any questions, comments or concerns, please let me know.
November 7th, 2005
The Justice for Justin Bill has now been filed with the Senate! We are officially Senate Bill 276. Senate President Tom Lee assigned this Bill to 3-Committees of Reference (Transportation, Criminal Justice and Justice Appropriations). House Bill 155 has now been referred to 4-Committees of Reference (Transportation, Criminal Justice, Justice Appropriations and State Infrastructure Council). I will be en route to Tallahassee this afternoon as our Bill is on the House Transportation Agenda for Tuesday, November 8th at 1:15 PM.
As I said previously, our problem last year was time. We ran out of it. In preparation for the 2006 Legislative Session, the Bills are filed, the committees assigned and meetings are beginning. This, before the Session even begins in March! Additionally, I have sent out 119 letters to the members of the House and 39 letters to the members of the Senate asking for their continued support of our Bill. We are ready!
I also wanted to let everyone know that I have added a sublink, Organ and Tissue Donation, under Justin’s Story on the website. The link is up and running. On October 14, 2005, I spoke at the ANET (Associates and Nurses Endorsing Transplantation) Conference in Port Canaveral, Florida. An outline of my address is posted on the website. As I have indicated in the past, Justin was a proud organ donor. Justin’s donation of his corneas became a miracle to 2-others and their families. His donation of bone, skin and tissue became a gift to those burn victims, cancer victims and others in need. What a beautiful opportunity to keep his spirit ongoing.
Thank-you again for your prayers and support. I will send out periodic updates as we move through the various committees of reference. As with last year, I will address each committee. I will update the The Justin McWilliams Act link on the website after I address each committee. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to email me.
A report from the Tallahassee 11/8/2005:
I am extremely pleased to report that House Bill 155, The Justin McWilliams “Justice for Justin” Act, passed out of the House Transportation Committee, unanimously favorable (16-0). Next up, House Criminal Justice Committee. As of this date, we are still awaiting notice of the first committee of reference in the Florida Senate for Senate Bill 276 .
The members of the Florida House of Representatives are outraged over the number of hit and run accidents that are occurring within our State. They are completely supportive of this Bill and spent a great deal of time telling myself and Representative Ross as much. They are also 100% behind the increase in the felony classification code to a 1st Degree Felony for Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Death.
I will continue to keep the website updated! Feel free to email me if you have any questions, comments or concerns
Email from Jamie McWilliams dated February 10, 2006: Hello Everyone,
I have recently started getting emails and some phone calls asking for a current update on our Bills in the House and Senate. I purposely held off sending out anything to friends and family until I felt comfortable with where we were in the process. Alas, I can comfortably pass on to all of you that we are moving right along. This week has been a busy week. I have been in Tallahassee since Monday night, just getting home tonight. I addressed 2-Committees this week, one in the House and the other in the Senate. I also meandered through the Capitol thanking the many supporters that we have on this Bill. Again, the Hit and Run Accidents that continue to occur in this State have gotten the attention of our Legislators. They, along with the public are calling for stronger laws!
So, here is where we stand:
House Bill 155 has now passed as unanimously favorable through 3-of-4 of the Committees of Reference in the House of Representatives. We have one Committee of Reference (State Infrastructure Council) to go before this Bill goes to the House Floor.
Senate Bill 276 has now passed out of Senate Transportation as unanimously favorable and is onto Senate Criminal Justice. Senate Transportation was our first of three Committees of Reference in the Senate.
The Legislative Session convenes on March 7, 2006. Our sincere thanks to Representative Dennis Ross and Senator Carey Baker (and of course their staff) for filing these Bills timely and making sure they started moving through the process as soon as possible.
Also, while this week was busy, so was last week. While I was getting notice of the additional committee for this week, Mark (Justin’s father, for those that have only been added to our email list in the last year or so) was undergoing his 7 th ankle/leg surgery from his July 3, 2004 motor vehicle accident that nearly killed him. Dr. Nguyen took out most of the hardware that has been in his leg/ankle. In addition, given that the tendon in his ankle wasn’t functioning properly, he ultimately ended up breaking his heal, moving over and aligning his foot and ankle, and fusing it. He will have mobility in his foot, and the Doctor feels he will ultimately be able to walk better. He has actually been weight bearing (with the use of a walker-type cane for about 3-months, but because of the tendon, it could have caused additional damage to his ankle, altered his gait, caused knee issues, and the list goes on. So, he had surgery on Tuesday January 31 st, and like the trouper that he is, was off his pain medication by that Sunday, February 5 th.
Once again, thank you so much for your continued support. I will continue to update you as we get closer to a Floor vote. The many prayers we have gotten have only helped to strengthen us as we go through this process. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to email me or contact me at the numbers below.
Have a safe and peaceful weekend!
Jamie (Mark and Ashley)….
Click here for the Florida House of Representatives Link (HB 155)
Click here for the Florida Senate Link (SB 276)
Update from Tallahassee 12/7/2005…
On December 7, 2005, House Bill 155 was heard in front of the Criminal Justice Committee in Tallahassee. As in the past, I addressed this Committee asking that the members support HB 155, The Justin McWilliams “Justice for Justin” Act. Click here to view Jamie McWilliams‘ address to Florida’s House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee.
The members of the House and Senate continue to show their support of our Bill by way of correspondence, emails, phone calls and as additional co-sponsors and co-introducers of our Bill. We are grateful that the lawmakers have a familiarity with our family, our story and the importance of changing this law.
We hope to get to the first Committee of Reference in the Senate (Transportation) after the first of the year. The next stop in the House of Representatives… Justice Appropriations.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy Holiday Season! Please feel free to email me with any questions, comments or concerns that you may have!
Jamie (Mark and Ashley)
March 9th, 2006:
I am pleased to announce that Florida’s Legislative Session convened on March 7, 2006!
Since my last email (dated February 10, 2006), we have accomplished a great deal. Here is where we stand:
House Bill ( HB 155) – We are now through all 4-Committees of Reference in the House. We are ready to head to the House Floor, which should be in the very near future. We passed unanimously favorable through all 4-Committees of Reference.
Senate Bill ( SB 276) – This week, we passed unanimously favorable through the 2nd of 3-Committees of Reference in the Senate. Mark and I were in Tallahassee, where I addressed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. During this Committee, Police Lt. David Folsom of the Tallahassee Police Department (representing the Florida Police Chief’s Association) fully endorsed our Bill! The Public Defenders of Florida, however, support the “spirit of the Bill”, but not the increase in the penalty from a second degree felony to a first degree felony, with up to 30-years in prison (increased from up to 15-years in prison).
It would certainly appear that we have to make some type of change to the penalty phase of this charge of Leaving the Scene of the Accident with Death. The current threat of a 2nd Degree Felony, and up to 15-years in prison, doesn’t appear to have much of an impact to these types of accidents as indicated by the rapid rise of hit and runs in this State over the past year.
In any event, we have 1-Committee of Reference (Justice Appropriations) remaining before we head to the Senate Floor!
Once Again, the Legislators have been overwhelmingly supportive, as have the Press. We are very grateful for the support of our family and friends and for the support that we have garnered in the 4-years since losing Justin, from those that have followed our story and our quest for Justice for Justin. To everyone, we say thank-you from the bottom of our hearts.
I will continue posting these emails to Justin’s website. Things are starting to move rather quickly, so I will send emails at this point each time something significant occurs. Meanwhile, feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns that you may have.
Have a safe and peaceful weekend!
And these weeks are definitely moving fast and furious right now.
I am so pleased to announce that House Bill 155 ( HB 155 ), The Justin McWilliams “Justice for Justin” Act passed unanimously through Florida’s House of Representatives with a vote of 120 to 0!! Mark and I were in Tallahassee for the second reading of the Bill and the final vote Thursday (3/16/06) morning!
The next stop is the final committee of reference in the Senate, Justice Appropriations. We hope to be in that committee by late next week. With the Session underway, we are dealing with a 48-hour notice to be in our State Capitol. Once we get through the final committee in the Senate, then we are onto a Floor vote in that Chamber.
What…an education this has been! I could probably teach politics 101 without a problem! The press, once again, has been extremely good on reporting the status of the Bill. I am attaching a link to an article written by Chris Sherman with the Orlando Sentinel. This ran in Wednesday’s (3/15/2006) edition. I have already begun to receive supportive emails from complete strangers who came across our story from the recent news reports. Ashley called me while I was in Tallahassee, to tell me that I had a call on my machine at home from a mother whose daughter was murdered (while pregnant). Apparently, she wants to talk to me about lobbying and how to work to get the laws changed. I haven’t had an opportunity to speak to her just yet to find out the facts, but this too is an important message to deliver. As I have said time and again. I am not a lobbyist or a politician, but a mother trying to teach our children right from wrong. If you feel there is something wrong with our laws, and have the passion to work to make the change, you can also make the difference!
As always, we thank-you for your continued support. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns that you may have.
I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable St. Patrick’s Day and weekend!
Jamie (Mark and Ashley)
Activist closer to goal – Orlando Sentinel.
Alas, The Justin McWilliams “Justice for Justin” Act, House Bill 155, is on the calendar and scheduled for a Floor vote on Wednesday, March 15, 2006. The Bill should be heard sometime between 10AM and 2:15PM.
Mark and I will be en route to Tallahassee about noon on Tuesday, March 14, 2006. I will have my cell phone and laptop with me should you have any questions that I can answer for you.
We are very, very excited! Please join us as we move closer to making the difference in our son Justin McWilliams’ memory.
Justice for Justin…On the Move in Tallahassee
Email from Jamie McWilliams dated March 30th:
After a brief hiatus from our Legislative activities (which may have been a good thing since I have had bronchitis for about 2-weeks!), The Justin McWilliams “Justice for Justin” Act, SB 276, has been placed on the agenda for Senate Justice Appropriations for Tuesday, April 4, 2006 at 10:15AM.
Mark and I will be en route to Tallahassee about noon on Monday, April 3, 2006. I will have my cell phone and laptop with me should anyone need to get in contact with us!
I will send an email upon our return on Tuesday evening. I hope everyone has a safe and peaceful weekend!
Jamie (Mark and Ashley)
April 6, 2006-Justice for Justin Welcomes Nascar on board
On Tuesday, April 4, 2006, Mark and I appeared before the final committee of reference in the Senate, Justice Appropriations. Senator Rod Smith (D-Gainesville), who is a co-introducer of our Bill in the Senate and a Candidate for the 2006 Governor’s race in Florida, did an amendment to our Bill to provide an exception “within a closed-course motor sports facility” as defined in Florida Statute 549.09 (1), from the intent of the Bill. As a result of this amendment, NASCAR, through it’s representatives from Southern Strategic Group (Lobbyists Chris Dudley and Tim Moore), have gone on the record as fully supporting The Justin McWilliams “Justice for Justin” Act and will be working with us to get this Bill passed into law! Our Bill was passed out of the Justice Appropriations Committee unanimously favorable, with some very kind words from Chairman Victor Crist (R-Tampa), who is also a co-introducer of our Bill. We now head to the Senate Floor!
I will continue to keep everyone updated as we move into the final phases of this Legislative Session. We would again like to thank everyone for their ongoing support, especially this week, as we near the 4-year anniversary date of Justin’s death. We promise to make the difference in his memory!
Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns that you may have.
Jamie (Mark and Ashley)….
Justice for Justin..Next Stop…The Senate Floor
Update as of April 18, 2006
After last week’s Easter break, our lawmakers have returned to Tallahassee. It is now “go time” with 3-weeks remaining in the 2006 Legislative Session (which ends May 5, 2006)!
As we had hoped, our Senate Bill (SB 276) is scheduled for a Senate floor vote on Thursday, April 20, 2006. While we don’t anticipate any problems with passing this Bill out of the Senate Chamber, we will ultimately be back in the Florida House, for what we hope will be the Bill’s final passage.
As you may recall, my last email referenced the NASCAR amendment which gained an exception to the intent of our Bill. Because this amendment was only recently added and not heard by the Florida House, once the Bill (and the amendment) is passed through the Senate, it will then be returned to the House Floor for a final vote. This will in all likelihood be sometime next week, or possibly the final week of the Session.
Mark and I will be traveling to Tallahassee tomorrow afternoon. I will have my laptop and cell phone with me should you need to reach us. I will once again get an email out to everyone upon our return later this week!
JUSTICE FOR JUSTIN…ONE VOTE AWAY
Update from Tallahasseee April 20, 2006
It is with great pleasure that I announce that House Bill 155 (which was adopted by the Florida Senate during the 2nd Reading on April 19, 2006) was passed unanimously (37 to 0) out of the Senate Chamber on Thursday morning, April 20, 2006!
We will be back in the Florida House for final passage, within the next 2-weeks! As I indicated in my previous email, NASCAR’s Amendment to gain exception to the intent of Justin’s Bill, was only recently added. The House will now hear the Bill to include Nascar’s Amendment.
As you would expect, emotions are running high right now. It is almost as if we are in a surreal state of mind. We remain overwhelmed by the support of this Bill. It is very natural to us, to me, to fight this fight for Justin, and other unfortunate victims of hit and run accidents. However, the support and respect that our Lawmakers have shown this Bill, our family and Justin’s Story, is just more than I can put into words.
This law, which will be known as The Justin McWilliams Act, will make the difference! Thank-you again for your continued support of our family over these past 4-years. We remain blessed by so many wonderful people in our lives.
Have a safe and peaceful weekend! Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns that you may have.
Jamie (Mark and Ashley)….
Justice for Justin…Coming May 4, 2006!
Update as of April 27. 2006
Representative Ross has advised me that House Bill 155, The Justin McWilliams Act, will be heard in the Florida House on Thursday morning, May 4, 2006! I understand that the House Session will begin at 9AM. This is for final passage of our Bill before it goes to Governor Bush for his signature!
For some of you that are new to our Justin’s Angels email list, the genesis of our Bill requires the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in injury or death to immediately stop the vehicle and remain at the scene. This law also provides that failure to stop the vehicle and remain at the scene by the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in the death of a person is a first-degree felony (increased from a second-degree felony), punishable by up to 30-years in prison and $10,000. fine.
While this legislation was initially drafted in memory of Justin McWilliams, it also in memory of other families who have suffered the loss of a child or loved one as a result of a hit and run accident. The bottom line when you hit someone with your vehicle, you should stop. It is the right thing to do!
For those of you that have a few minutes to check out the Session, I am attaching the link for the House website http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/, click on Session Live or Broadcast Schedule (then click on House Session), which you should be able to watch on your computer. You can also confirm the House Session start time (by clicking House Calendar), as well.
We will be heading to Tallahassee Wednesday (May 3rd) afternoon. I will have my cell phone and laptop with me, should you need to get in contact with us. We plan on being in the Capitol bright and early Thursday (May 4, 2006) morning, sitting in the East Gallery of Florida’s House of Representatives! I will email everyone upon our return from Tallahassee next Thursday!
Have a great weekend~!
Jamie….(Mark and Ashley)
And We Did It! Justice For Justin
Update as of May 5. 2006
It is with great pride, honor and overwhelming emotion that I announce on Thursday morning, May 4, 2006, House Bill (HB) 155, the Justin McWilliams Act, passed through the Florida House unanimously favorable! Our Bill has now passed through both the House and Senate chambers and is on its way to Governor Bush’s office for his signature! We have asked for a Signing Ceremony with the Governor, and we will let you know more about that in the next week or so!
Next to losing Justin, this journey has been one of the most emotionally draining experiences in my life. However, it has also been most rewarding in that our efforts will keep other victims and their families from going through the pain that we have experienced within the criminal justice system.
When I think back to the first conversation I had with Representative Ross in June 2004 about drafting a Bill to change this law, I remember him saying “Jamie, this is a difficult process”, and I just stared at him blankly and said, “What do I have to do”. Let me just say that it was best that I didn’t know what was ahead of me. I simply did what came natural to me as a grieving mother trying to right a terrible wrong in our criminal justice system. The process? What an education!
Our thanks go out to so many people for believing that this law should be changed. State Representative Dennis Ross for walking me through the process and for being there for me, for our family, from day one. Senator Carey Baker who continued to believe that we could make a difference. Their staffs, for caring and for working with me closely to make sure that I understood what was happening. Big thanks go out to the 160 lawmakers that voted in favor of our Bill. The Law Enforcement officials who came up to Mark and I in the Capitol to show their support of our efforts. NASCAR for getting behind our fight and the NASCAR Lobbyists, Chris Dudley and Tim Moore for doing what they said they would do, work hard with us to make this law a reality. Our family, friends and complete strangers who have become members of my Justin’s Angels email list over the last 4-years, thank-you for supporting our efforts.
What lies ahead? Over the past 2-years, I have been compiling information from our local Medical Examiner’s office and law enforcement agencies in preparation for my Make the Right Choice educational program. I will be speaking with kids about the choices they make and the impact of those choices. I want to be available for other families who have lost children and to those that feel our laws in this State need to be revisited. I also intend to speak about the miracle of life through organ and tissue donation, I am looking into a Foundation in Justin’s memory and I will also continue writing.
On a final note, we would also like to congratulate West Orange High School Senior baseball player, Louis Fontana! Mark, Ashley and I attended the West Orange Baseball Banquet on Monday, May 1, 2006, to present the annual Justin McWilliams Award. This award is presented each year to the Senior baseball player who strives to do the best for the team, showing full team loyalty for the “Orange and Blue” at West Orange High School in Winter Garden, FL! Congratulations Louis!
I will let you know when I hear about a Signing Ceremony. Meanwhile, please feel free to email me with any questions, comments or concerns that you may have!
Have a wonderful weekend!
Jamie.. (Mark and Ashley)
Justice for Justin …Still in a holding pattern!
Update as of June 1, 2006
And still, we are waiting to hear from the Governor’s office on our signing ceremony. I have been told of the process, which is again…a process. We are dealing with politics here ladies and gentlemen. And no, patience is no longer a virtue of this Legislative Mom. I have been waiting for more then 4-years for some type of accountability in Justin’s death. Unable to obtain that through the criminal justice system, we are now going to get it through the legislative process. Justin deserves a signing ceremony and infact, I suspect we will get one. I have been told to “just be patient”.
Last week, Governor Bush approved the budget for the State of Florida. Now, hopefully, we will get to the “people bills”, as I call them. The Justin McWilliams Act has been approved through the House and Senate. Now, it has to be signed off on by the Officers of both of these chambers. At that point, it is then forwarded to the Governor. Once the Governor receives the Bill, he has fourteen (14) days to sign or veto the Bill. If it was going to be a problem in signing, I can assure you that we would have heard long before now.
I don’t want anyone to miscontrue my lack of patience for a lack of appreciation for the legislative process. I, more then most, know what goes into getting a law changed in the State of Florida. At some point throughout this process though, the mother in me comes forward and I just want this done in Justin’s memory. Any parent would understand where I am coming from.
We are almost there. We are grateful and happy but impatient!!
Feel free to email me should you have any questions, comments or concerns.
JUSTICE FOR JUSTIN..HERE COMES THE SIGNING CEREMONY!!
Update as of June 16, 2006
It is with great excitement that I announce that Governor Jeb Bush will hold a signing ceremony to sign the Justin McWilliams Act into law on Friday, June 23, 2006 at 11:30AM, in our State Capitol. The effective date of this Act is October 1, 2006.
For those that are new to our email list, the genesis of the Justin McWilliams Act requires the driver of a vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property, that results in injury or death, to immediately stop the vehicle and remain at the scene until emergency vehicles arrive. It further increases the penalty to a first degree felony for leaving the scene of an accident with death, up to 30-years in prison and a $10,000. fine.
As I said previously, we are overwhelmed with emotion at this point. This has been a long and arduous journey, yet one that we would make again without a second thought. The bottom line is that when you hit someone with your vehicle, you should stop. It is the right thing to do. If you do not stop, there should be consequences. This law will not only memorialize Justin McWilliams but will make the difference for the next victim (and their family) of a hit and run driver.
Unfortunately, the signing ceremony is closed to the public. However, you can be assured that we will have pictures, which I will quickly get posted to our website, upon our return! Mark, Ashley and I will be en route to Tallahassee on the afternoon of Thursday, June 22nd. As always, I will have my lap top available and you can reach me by email or on my cell.
Have a safe and peaceful weekend! To all the Dads…Happy Father’s Day!
Jamie (Mark and Ashley)…
While I said that I wouldn’t report until we returned from Tallahassee Friday night, this news is just so special, that I wanted to share it with those that have been so very supportive of our family.
Most of you may recall that Justin was a proud organ donor. As I reported last summer, we had the wonderful opportunity to meet one of the two recipients of Justin’s corneas. Daphne Pfaff was then 67-years old when she received what she terms her “Easter Miracle.” Since last summer, Daphne and I have remained in close contact. She has spoken throughout the community in Naples and the surrounding areas, about Justin, his story and how our loss became her “Easter Miracle.” She now sees life through Justin’s eyes, and what a wondrous world it is!
Early this week, the Governor’s office gave special permission for Daphne and her husband to be in attendance at the signing ceremony on Friday, June 23rd! We are elated to be able to share this special day with these very special people. Truly, an angel on our shoulder!
Again, I will send an email upon our return. Meanwhile, should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or on my cell!
Jamie ..(Mark and Ashley)
I wanted to wait until I got the official photo from the Governor’s Office before sending an email. I do have a couple of others that were taken, but this is the one that we have all been waiting for ~! In the picture, from left to right Representative Dennis Ross, Representative Larry Cretul, our Pastor Tim Gunter (and wife Debbie), Mark, myself, Daphne Pfaff (who received Justin’s cornea) and her husband David. Representative Cretul did an amendment to the original Bill last year in memory of a young mother that was killed by a hit and run driver who was never found. He was also a strong co-sponsor of our Bill in the House. My Ashley ended up with the stomach flu and traveling wouldn’t have been a good thing.
Friday, June 23, 2006. A day we will remember forever! When we arrived at the Capitol, we were quickly hustled from one conference room to the next. Secret Service, everywhere. Then into the Governor’s Office. What a surreal experience this was. Being in the Capitol, surrounded by the Governor and his staff, gave meaning to our fight. This is good legislation. We knew it, the 160 Legislators that gave their unanimous approval knew it and now the Governor of the State of Florida agreed. What a feeling!
The Governor was very kind, and posed for pictures without a second thought. I presented him with his Justice for Justin….Coming Spring 2006 t-shirt (which we also have a picture of), we did the ceremonial signing, thanked him for supporting this Act and returned back home.
So, we are now winding down. Decompressing, if you will. I have no “post-ceremonial” depression. This journey has been too difficult to be sad that it is over. The future is ahead of us. Outside of some really big news, I will confine my email updates to every 3-months, and post those and any additional updates on http://www.justiceforjustin.com/ under the “Information and Education” link.
During my down time after the Legislature ended the first week of May, I continued working on my power point educational program. It is just about finished. It needs some tweaking, but then we will be ready to roll it out! I have also utilized the opportunity to create a MySpace online website, in Justin’s memory. The kids live in this community. I can’t say that I agree with what goes on within this site, but that is why we have “internet police” and parents. My thought was that these kids meander through this website and if by chance they come across Justin’s MySpace site, perhaps it might make a difference. That is what it is about, reaching out and touching as many kids as possible and making them think that if they continue on this fearless path, they will be the next statistic. Our MySpace URL is http://www.myspace.com/justiceforjustin. You have to register with your email address and a password to get in.
Again, thanks go out to many. We are the most appreciative people in the world at this point. This was a major priority in our lives and now, in Justin’s memory, we will keep another family from dealing with this type of devastation.
There is contentment in my heart and excitement at the future. I know Justin is looking down with that big smile of his at the outcome of our journey. Have a safe and peaceful remaining summer. Should you have further questions, comments or concerns, feel free to contact me!
Jamie…(Mark and Ashley)
To donate through PayPal, click here
Your tax deductible donation is appreciated! Always take the opportunity to talk to the young people in your life about choices, consequences and accountability. We can make the difference!