One bullet dodged, but the cannon is still pointed at us as the entitlement attitude rears its ugly head.
For those of you who did not tune in to watch the Senate Judiciary meeting, you missed a nail biting, frustrating, head shaking, time-limiting vote that literally went down to the last minute to give us a 6-4 win in favor of Senator Stargel’s bill, SB 668. Alimony reform lives yet another day despite controversial and oftentimes emotional testimony from many women.
Diaz de la Portilla’s friendly amendment to the bill was accepted amid objections from the many members of NOW (National Organization of Women). I still am shaking my head over this one because his amendment further clarified that, if the spouse seeking alimony in a marriage of at least 20 years refrained from working during that time period and now faces dramatically reduced opportunities to advance his or her career, the judge may equalize the incomes of the obligee and obligor until the obligor’s retirement.
Once again I reiterate that the NOW folk must define whether the independence that they describe is one word “independence” or two words “in dependence.” Although Senator de la Portilla ultimately voted ‘no’ on our bill (I expected as much), at least he allowed for the time certain vote that enabled it to pass through his committee. That was a huge win for us.
Darren Soto‘s amendment that called for a blue ribbon commission to be formed in order to establish the need for alimony reform, was nothing more than an attempt to appease his democratic constituents and colleagues. Considering that Senator Soto was a co-sponsor of our bill a few years ago, when it was less established (and less vetted out than it is today), it appears that his efforts were an attempt to water down the bill rather than continue to fight a controversial though necessary reform. It is a shame that he appears to have weakened his position despite prior support and we can only hope that he will eventually feel comfortable engaging in the fight in the future. Luckily, calmer, more rational heads prevailed and this amendment was voted down by the majority of Senators on the committee.
But even with this ‘win’ in passing the Judiciary Committee we still have strong head winds in front of us. As of now, the House and Senate bills are very different. The House bill has removed all time-sharing language while the Senate bill is still hoping to include it. If you will recall, the time sharing language is the most controversial part and was included originally by Senator Lee. While Senator Lee has created SB 250, a stand-alone bill that just relates to equal time sharing, he would still prefer to incorporate it into our alimony reform bill. This is unacceptable to Ritch Workman, the House Rules Chairman and our original sponsor of our bill, because according to Ritch, “the House’s version is a purely alimony-related bill. It is not germane to any other family law issues such as time sharing,” Our organization stands behind Representative Workman on this issue.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the cannon that I mentioned in my first line has now been fully exposed. In order to achieve alimony reform, real alimony reform…we must keep on writing and calling to Senator Lee and Senator Stargel asking them to remove time sharing language from the Senate version of our alimony reform bill. Ultimately the bills need to match each other and the time sharing provision puts that at risk.
I can’t make it any clearer than that.
Please call and write to Senator Lee and Senator Stargel now asking them to remove the time sharing language from SB 668 in order to allow it to mirror the House version. Ask Senator Lee to allow his SB 250 bill to be the stand-alone bill that allows for time sharing. We need to convince Senator Lee that alimony reform is what is needed, and while equal time sharing is important, it should not be a part of alimony reform if it will stop reform from occurring.
Now, more than ever, we need your commitment to get involved with your time and financial help. We need to continue making the trek to Tallahassee for the next two committee meetings and to keep informing our legislators that there is a critical need for alimony reform, despite the entitlement attitude that seems to be prevalent in our society.