The introduction of Chloe’s Law was formally announced to the state legislature at a press conference in front of the Orange County Courthouse on Monday.
Since the death of UCF student Chloe Arenas in June due to a blunt impact trauma to the head and neck when she crashed into a retention pond near UCF, Republican State Representative Rene Plasencia and Democratic State Sen. Darren Soto have been working with members of UCF’s Student Government Association to push for a law that would require guardrails to be installed along bodies of water near Florida’s roadways.
“These are issues that impact our entire community regardless of party affiliation,” Plasencia said. “It is important that, in any tragedy, we try to figure out what we could have done to prevent it so that other citizens of our state don’t go through what the Arenas family and friends have gone through."
In addition to placing guardrails along bodies of water near roadways, the bill will also require the Florida Department of Transportation to examine roadways with adjacent bodies of water and come up with solutions to update current safety regulations.
Soto described the bill as both reactive and proactive.
“We are not up to par with the safety regulations that are currently in existence,” he said. “We’re seeing far too many stories about Floridians who are passing [and] drowning in these bodies of water, and so I believe the state of Florida needs to do better.”
The introduction of Chloe’s Law to the state legislature is the first step of the lawmaking process. Following introduction, the bill must be reviewed by legislative committees and placed on their agendas. Committee meetings will be taking place until the end of the year, and from there, Chloe’s Law will move forward to the formal legislative session beginning in January 2016.
Tyler Yeargain, legislative affairs coordinator for the UCF Student Government Association, has been actively involved with Chloe’s Law since Chloe’s death.
“With bills like this, sometimes it could take a couple of years to get things done. ... It was last month that the Senate unanimously passed its resolution in support of Chloe’s Law,” Yeargain said. “We are especially pleased with the fact that we’ve been able to make such good progress in such a short amount of time. We’re prepared to work on this [and] lobby on this for as long as it takes.”
Soto said getting a bill passed in the legislature can be a long and difficult process, but he remains optimistic that the Senate’s initial support will lend itself to reform.
Orlando Arenas, Chloe’s father, attended the press conference in support of the legislation that carries his daughter’s namesake.
“My Chloe is very important to me …[and] I’m still here for her,” Orlando said. “She is going to be able to help other people that need it.
"Seeing how things are happening, I just can’t believe it, [but] it’s very good. It’s very very good.”
Eric Gutierrez is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @atticus_adrift or email him at EricG@CentralFloridaFuture.com.