Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill Thursday that creates new criminal offenses to combat terrorism and funds more agents to investigate terrorist acts.
The governor was in Orlando to attend the Orlando Counter Terrorism Conference, where 210 agents from the law enforcement agencies from across the southeast are sharing ideas to stop terrorism.
“This bill helps our local, state and federal law enforcement community work together to keep people safe,” Scott said. “We’ve all got to open our eyes and help. If you see something, say something.”
House Bill 457, which passed unanimously in both the Senate and House, creates five new criminal offenses for people who work with terrorist groups or commit acts of terrorism. It also provides the resources to hire 47 Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers to investigate acts of terrorism.
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said that local agencies are better prepared to fight terrorism because of their experience after the Pulse massacre. He added that he wants to encourage people to visit Central Florida, especially on this busy Memorial Day weekend.
“We’re glad to have two new attractions open at the parks and are prepared for the bigger crowds this holiday weekend,” Demings said. “We don’t want our citizens to live in fear. We have rapid response teams trained and ready to handle any type of emergency.”
The bill makes acts of terrorism a new first-degree felony offense under state law. Another new offense would make it a first-degree felony to use “military-type training” provided by a foreign terrorist organization to harm someone or disrupt critical infrastructures. It would also be a first-degree felony to provide resources to terrorist groups.
It would be a second-degree felony to join a foreign terrorist group.
The three-day Counter Terrorism Conference is hosted by the Florida Sheriffs Association, National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs’ Association and Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Attendees share information on what drives acts of violence, the signs of an attack and how to prevent them. Agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation are also at the conference.