House Minority Leader Franklin Sands and Sen. Eleanor Sobel have both filed bills in the last week that would legally exempt potential female jurors from duty if they are breastfeeding a child up to 2 years of age.
Sands, D-Weston, said the issue had not honestly occurred to him until he received an email from a Broward County constituent who had been unable to avoid jury duty while breastfeeding and was then berated at court for bringing her child with her.
"It was like a light bulb went off," Sands said. "I think it's a no-brainer."
If adopted, the law would add Florida to a list of 12 states including California, Idaho, Illinois, Mississippi and Virginia that allow breastfeeding mothers to opt out. Puerto Rico likewise provides the option.
Sobel, D-Hollywood, said the law would make Florida's jury laws more "family friendly" and "help newborns with a healthier start."
Federal health officials have declared it a goal to increase the proportion of mothers who breastfeed, which has been found to improve infant health through the transmission of protective antibodies. Forty-three states including Florida have passed laws permitting women to breastfeed in public, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
House leaders have assigned the bill to two committees including the Criminal & Civil Justice Policy Council, where chairman William Snyder said he had not yet seen the bill but thought it sounded reasonable.
"Yes, of course; I can't imagine why not," said Snyder, R-Stuart. "My initial thought is, that sounds ultimately fair."
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