After about 30 minutes of emotional debate, the House voted 80-28 to add homeless people to the list of people protected under the hate crimes act. Under that law, if someone is attacked because they are a member of a protected class -- for their race, gender or disability -- the punishment is enhanced.
Debate seemed to be moving smoothly until Rep. Paige Kreegel, a Republican from Punta Gorda, asked sponsoring Rep. Ari Porth a series of pointed questions about the need for the bill, at one point derisively referring to the homeless as "bums."
Porth, D-Coral Springs, fended off the questions with about 20 Democrats standing silently behind him. During a series of emotional speeches that followed, Rep. J.C. Planas, R-Miami, referred to a 2006 video of a group of Broward teens brutally attacking three homeless people with baseball bats: "It is disgusting. It's something this state should be ashamed of."
Said Porth: "Nobody is more vulnerable. They have no place to retreat to. They don't have a home to retreat to and be safe in."