Florida Legislature

“Manufactured crisis” or special interest shakedown?

Apparently, Truth or Dara isn’t alone in viewing a potential special session with dread.

John Sowinski, the head of No Casinos, asked legislative leaders to ignore what he’s calling “a fictional crisis manufactured by gambling lobbyists who want you to re-convene the legislature so they can try to make one more run at a major expansion of gambling before the November elections, when Florida voters will likely approve Amendment 3.”

Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Jose Oliva, Republicans who will take over as the leaders of their chambers later this year, last week resuscitated persistently elusive gambling issues, as they explore a deal with the Seminole Tribe.

They — and House Speaker Richard Corcoran — say the urgency is required because of a potential $400 million hit to the state budget, should the tribe decide to stop making payments to the state.

But Sowinski’s not buying it.

Here’s the full text of the letter he wrote to the leaders today:

Dear Speaker Corcoran and President Negron:

I have recently read press reports that there is discussion of holding a special session on the issue of gambling in the hopes of coming up with a “deal.”  If ever there was an issue that the legislature has already spent too much time, energy, intellectual capacity and political capital, it is gambling.  And whenever this issue comes up in Tallahassee, negotiations between the chambers seem to be more focused on coming up with a “deal” that satisfies competing gambling interests than enacting solutions that are in the best interests of the people of Florida.

Some articles have indicated that the reason convening a special session is being considered is because there are concerns about a potential revenue loss if the Seminole Tribe does not keep making payments to the state for banked card games, now that the state has failed to meet a deadline to provide for strict enforcement related to “designated player games” at pari-mutuel facilities.  The urgency of this matter is curious, since no facts have changed since the end of session that would now make this such an enormous priority that it could merit a call for a special session of the Legislature.

Most observers see this as a fictional crisis manufactured by gambling lobbyists who want you to re-convene the legislature so they can try to make one more run at a major expansion of gambling before the November elections, when Florida voters will likely approve Amendment 3.

But of even greater concern is that many people suggest a political fundraising benefit to holding a special session, given the gambling industry’s sordid reputation for seeking gambling approvals by making huge contributions to campaigns and electioneering committees.  Their views on the matter were summed up by one pari-mutuel owner who recently told a reporter that if the Legislature didn’t pass a gambling bill to benefit his industry, “They’ll never see any of my money ever again,” the owner said. “Why bother?”  I know it is not reflective of your intent, but their attitude seems to be that they are owed something because of their political contributions.

You can tell the gambling interests and assure the people of Florida that public policy is not for sale in Tallahassee by resisting gambling lobbyist pressure for a special session.  Convening a special session that will be seen as a genuflection to the gambling industry would provide voters with a perfect illustration of why Amendment 3 is so badly needed.

The simplest way to ensure continued compact revenues would be for the state to take steps to comply with the consent agreement it entered into with the Seminole Tribe.  At the very least, use your oversight authority and budgetary discretion to ask the Division to present to you a plan for vigorous enforcement.  Ensure that they take whatever steps are available to them and have whatever resources are at their discretion and yours to do the job.  At the very most, fixing this problem would require a one page bill. But only in the world of gambling legislation and the myriad of lobbyists who influence it would such an easy fix come at a price of expanding gambling throughout the state.  Sadly, that is what any proposed “deal” has always included.

I’d also like to add two other points to the discussion.  First, it is not just my opinion, but proven history that revenue promises made by the pari-mutuel industry, and specifically their promises about slot machine revenue, simply can’t be trusted.  In 2004, Florida voters narrowly approved with 50.8% of the vote (before 60% was required for constitutional amendment passage) the amendment approving slot machines at seven existing facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.  Voters were promised that these machines would generate a half-billion dollars per year in revenue for education.  These revenues have never exceeded $188 million.  Then a few years ago these same pari-mutuels promised that if their tax rate was cut from 50% to 35%, revenue to the state would increase because of the capital improvements they would make, even convincing state revenue estimators.  Last year your revenue estimators put forth a report showing that they were wrong, and these cuts resulted in less revenue to the state.  Now they want their tax rate cut from 35% to 20%.  Banking on pari-mutuels to provide a reliable source of revenue to the state is, pardon the pun, a bad bet.

 

Finally, I would like to bring to your attention how Amendment 3 would likely impact any expansion of gambling that you might pursue at this time.  When we drafted the amendment, we considered the possibility that some gambling advocates might want to “beat the buzzer” with gambling expansion prior to passage of the amendment.  The last thing we wanted was to have our own amendment trigger an expansion of gambling.  So we wrote the amendment, not to govern “expansion” of gambling, but to set a constitutional standard for whether a form of casino gambling is authorized in the state.  Under Amendment 3, in order for a form of casino gambling to be authorized in the state, it must be approved by Florida voters through statewide voter initiative.

 

As it turns out, the only existing forms of gambling that would be impacted by Amendment 3 are those that exist through loopholes, including the vexing designated player games and internet cafés.  But if the legislature enacts new forms of casino gambling, such as gifting slot machine licenses to pari-mutuel operators outside of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties without voter approval through constitutional initiative, even before passage of the amendment, Amendment 3 was written to de-authorize any such expansion.  Therefore, any revenue you might seek to add by authorizing additional gambling now is speculative at best.  The analysis done of Amendment 3 by your revenue estimators sitting as the Financial Impact Estimating Conference is consistent with this assessment.

 

We appreciate your leadership, and the fact that the Legislature has, for the past seven years, resisted continued attempts to expand gambling.  We ask you to resist this last ditch effort by gambling interests to force a major expansion of gambling upon our state.

 

 

 

 

Federal judge shoots down goat farmer’s request to intervene in NRA lawsuit

geiten-1445270021WfYHe says he lives near “one of the worst gun pits” and “has had bullets fly over his head,” but that’s no reason Palatka goat farmer Mitchell Williams should be allowed to  join in a federal lawsuit filed by the National Rifle Association last month, according to U.S. District Judge Mark Walker.

Walker on Friday denied Williams’ at-times-hilarious motion to intervene in the challenge, filed by the NRA almost immediately after Gov. Rick Scott signed a sweeping school-safety law on March 9.

The NRA’s complaint focuses on a provision in the new law that raised from 18 to 21 the age to purchase long guns, including semi-automatic rifles like the one 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz last year bought legally in Florida and used to slaughter 17 people and injure 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. The NRA alleges  the new age requirement, already in place to purchase handguns, is unconstitutional.

Williams, the goat farmer, wants to ban the sale of bullets to  prevent future school shootings.

“The sale and purchase of ammunition is the weak leak to the trail of lunacy leading to many of these shootings,” Williams wrote in his eight-page motion.

The lack of bullets, shells, etc., “will mean that the gun is more or less dangerous than a steel pipe of the same weight and size, he wrote.

As good (or bad) as Williams’ logic might be, Walker didn’t buy it.

Williams doesn’t have any express right to intervene in the case, even though he asserted he has an “obvious interest in seeing that students are not murdered that might have bought one or more of (his) goats,” as the judge noted in his order denying the goat farmer’s motion.

“Having read Mr. Williams’s motion, it seems that his qualms are better suited for resolution by a legislature than by this Court,” Walker wrote.

Williams maintains that the new law does not go far enough and proposes a new restriction on  and proposes “alternative solutions,” such as restrictions on the sale and use of ammunition, Walker noted.

But, the judge wrote, “It is not this Court’s job to fashion new laws.”

“If Mr. Williams wants to share his ideas with the Florida Legislature, he is more than welcome to,” Walker concluded.

In a footnote, Walker even gave Williams a little assistance, should the Palatka man decide to take the judge’s advice, by providing a link to the “contact us” section of the Florida Legislature’s website.

 

UPDATE: Deutch, Moskowitz blast Putnam, DeSantis on guns

IMG_0075UPDATE: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s government office responded to the blog with a schedule from Feb. 20 showing a one-hour visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. And Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign spokeswoman, Amanda Bevis, had this to say:

“It’s no surprise the Democrats are selling a story full of untruths. If they did their research, they would know that Adam Putnam has in fact visited the school, has met with the students and mourned with them for their loss, and has met with law enforcement officials and the Governor to discuss what we as a state can do to prevent further tragedies like the massacre that took the lives of so many innocent Floridians. It’s the Democrats who are politicizing this tragedy – using falsehoods to further their own agenda of limiting our Second Amendment rights. The monster in Parkland, who was a red flag that should have never gotten his hands on a gun, cannot and should not be compared to law-abiding citizens who seek to defend themselves and their families.”

 

 

Congressman Ted Deutch and state Rep. Jared Moskowitz shredded U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Ag Commish Adam Putnam — Republicans in a heated race to succeed Gov. Rick Scott — over a new school-safety law and gun regulations in general.

The Florida Dems — who aren’t running for governor, as far as we know — spoke to reporters during a conference call Monday morning, with Moskowitz challenging both “empty suit” Putnam and DeSantis to a debate on the issue.

“I’ll meet in Taylor County, if that’s what they want,” Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat who graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 14 students and three staff were slaughtered on Feb. 14.

Scott recently signed into law a measure, aimed at the Parkland massacre, that raises the age from 18 to 21 and imposes a three-day waiting period for the purchase of long guns, such as the semi-automatic rifle used by 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz on Valentine’s Day. The new law also bans bump stocks, which can make semi-automatic weapons mimic fully automatic guns.

Moskowitz condemned Putnam, who has said he would not have signed the bill into law, for failing to visit the school, something Scott and the other members of the Florida Cabinet did, and for not meeting with students who traveled to the Capitol to lobby  for school safety measures and stricter gun regulations.

“He hid in his office on the ground floor while everybody else was trying to figure out how we work together to keep kids safe in schools,” Moskowitz said during the conference call.

DeSantis, too, “did not bring anything to the table,” according to Moskowitz.

“Would he have signed the bill? He should be challenged to answer that question,” he said.

The call was a taste of what’s sure to come as the race to replace Scott heats up, now that the Legislature’s packed up and gone home.

“It’s pretty clear that anyone who spends five minutes looking at the records of both my colleague, Congressman DeSantis, and Adam Putnam that they’ve chosen their A-rating from the NRA over their concern about public safety, the lives of kids, the city of Parkland and the state of Florida. And that makes them both unfit to serve as governor of the state,” Deutch said.

DeSantis’ lengthy pro-gun voting record  “has shown utter disregard for and rejection of the kind of common sense measures that can help save lives,” Deutch said.

 

Dad of slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas student: “I’m a father, and I’m on a mission”

Andrew Pollack’s 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, was among the 14 students shot dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.

Pollack, who watched from the gallery as the Florida House voted 67-50 to approve the school-safety measure sparked by the nation’s second-worst school shooting, that also left three faculty members dead, Wednesday evening.

He praised the House, Senate and Gov. Rick Scott, and called the measure an important first step to ensure the safety and security of school children.

“On a personal note, my precious daughter Meadow’s life was taken and there’s nothing I can do to change that. But make no mistake, I’m a father and I’m on mission. I’m on a mission to ensure that I’m the last dad to ever read a statement of this kind. If you want to help me, and keep my children safe, I want you to follow me cuz there’s strength in numbers, at remembermeadow.com.”

Here’s Pollack speaking to reporters immediately after the vote.

 

Grieving fathers to House: “Come together as the families have done”

IMG_2951(1)As some House Democrats argued against a school safety proposal they maintain contains a “poison pill” that would allow school personnel — including some teachers — to carry guns to school, the parents of two slain students pleaded with the Legislature to pass the bill.

Andy Pollack’s 18-year-old daughter Meadow died in the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Ryan Petty’s 14-year-old daughter Alaina was also among the 14 students and three faculty members killed in the nation’s second-worst school shooting at the Parkland school.

The grieving fathers spoke to reporters Wednesday as the House debated the school safety measure (SB 7026), and even as a handful of Democrats spoke against it.

“There’s so much good in this bill that it needs to pass,” Pollack said. Last night, the families of the 17 students and teachers sent a letter to House members, urging them to pass the bill.

“If anyone’s voting against it in their, they have a different agenda than what their community has, which is protecting our kids and making them safe,” Pollack, who was one of the parents who met with President Donald Trump at the White House, has  appeared on national television speaking out in favor of school safety. “Whoever’s voting no, doesn’t have the interests of the kids in the community as their best interest.”

Petty said that the families had different opinions and come from different backgrounds.

“We came together. We’re united behind this legislation. And our ask is that the Florida House come together as the families have done and pass this bill,” he said.

Pollack said he can’t understand why any lawmaker would oppose the bill, a $400 million package that includes money for early mental health screening and school hardening.

“Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, there’s everything that’s good in this bill that’s good for the community. Sure, there’s a couple of things … Nothing in life’s ever perfect. But a majority of this bill is going to help the communities,” he said.

Petty agreed, brushing off questions about the lack of an assault weapons ban sought by many of the Douglas High students who lobbied lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott on the bill.

“We’re not focused on the individual provisions of this. There’s enough good in the middle of this bill that everybody can agree on and that’s what we’d ask the Legislature to do. Focus on the things you agree on, not the things you disagree with,” said Petty, who, accompanied by Scott, made direct appeals to the House and Senate during floor sessions last week. As Andy said, this is about keeping our kids safe in their schools. It’s not about political agendas. Set them aside. Vote to pass this legislation and let’s protect our kids. We can lead in Florida,” he said.

 

MSD families: “The time to act is now”

AlyssaAlhadeffWith the Florida House poised to pass a sweeping bill addressing mental health, school safety and guns, the families of the 17 victims of the Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School massacre last night signed off on the legislation.

March 6, 2018
Florida State House Representative,

We are the families of the victims killed in the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. We strongly urge you to support the passage of SB 7026 ‐ Public Safety.

You must act to prevent mass murder from ever occurring again at any school. This issue cannot wait.

The moment to pass this bill is now.

We must be the last families to suffer the loss of a loved one due to a mass shooting at a school. We demand action by the entire Florida Legislature to keep our schools safe.

Vote “YES” on SB 7026 ‐ Public Safety

This Time Must Be Different!

Sincerely,

Lori Alhadeff, Max Schachter, Ryan Petty, Linda Beigel Schulman, Fred Guttenberg, Damian and Denise
Loughran, Manuel and Patricia Oliver, Mitch Dworet, Jennifer and Tony Montalto, Kong Feng Wang and
Peter Wang, Andrew Pollack, Tom and Gina Hoyer, Vincent and Anne Ramsay, Miguel Duque, Debbi
Hixon, April Schentrup, and Melissa Feis

The endorsement comes after House and Senate Democrats — who largely opposed the measure (SB 70260 — repeatedly argued that the proposal lacks what parents, students and teachers from Douglas High (and elsewhere) have demanded: a ban on assault weapons and the removal of a provision allowing specially trained school personnel, including teachers, to bring guns to schools.

The House could vote on the proposal as soon as today.

Gov. Rick Scott has maintained that he opposes arming classroom teachers as well as the three-day waiting period for the purchase of long guns, also included in the bill.

The Senate on Monday included a “compromise” that would exclude individuals who “exclusively” work in classrooms from participating in the re-branded “guardian program — originally called the “school marshal” program — named after Aaron Feis, the assistant coach who heroically used his body to shield students from a hail of bullets during the Feb. 14 horror.

Tuesday’s letter from the parents and wives also comes as NRA powerhouse Marion Hammer issued an “emergency alert” accusing House leadership of “frantically bullying” members to support the “anti-gun” proposal.

EMERGENCY ALERT: House Members Need to hear from you NOW


DATE:  March 6, 2018
TO:      USF & NRA Member and Friends
FROM: Marion P. Hammer
USF Executive Director
NRA Past President

Senate Republicans Joined Anti-gun Democrats to Pass Gun Control


Yesterday, the Florida Senate voted 20 to18 to pass a bill that punishes law-citizens for the actions of a mentally ill teenager who murdered 17 people after Florida officials repeatedly refused to get him the help he needed.

The bottom line is turncoat Republicans in the Florida Senate voted with Senate Democrats to punish law-abiding citizens in Florida. A full report with the roll call vote and a list of the traitors and how they betrayed you and the Second Amendment will be forthcoming.

YOU and every law-abiding gun owner is being blamed for the atrocious act of premeditated murder. Neither the 3-day waiting period on all rifles and shotguns, raising the age from 18 to 21 to purchase any firearm, or the bump stock ban in the bill will have any effect on crime or criminals yet Senate leaders, masquerading as conservatives, rammed through gun control as part of the bill.

The bill is NOW IN THE HOUSE where House leadership is frantically bullying Second Amendment supporters to get them to vote for the gun control package.

Please EMAIL members of the Florida House IMMEDIATELY and tell them to VOTE NO ON GUN CONTROL– VOTE NO ON SB-7026.

Urge them to provide armed security in schools and tighten mental health laws to keep guns out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others BUT LEAVE THE RIGHTS OF LAW-ABIDING GUN OWNERS ALONE.

DO IT NOW!!! THE BILL WILL BE ON THE HOUSE FLOOR TODAY

 

School safety measure in House’s hands

All eyes are now on the House, after a sweeping school safety measure squeaked out of the Senate on a 20-18 vote Monday evening.

But could a tweak that may have kept the bill from going down in the upper chamber result in its demise across the rotunda?

Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, sponsored an amendment that would exclude individuals who “exclusively” provide classroom instruction from participating in the school marshal program, rebranded by the Senate on Monday as the “Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program.” The controversial program would allow specially trained teachers or other school personnel to bring guns to class.

With the clock ticking down until the session ends Friday, there’s no guarantee that the House, slated to take up the bill (SB 7026) tomorrow, will pass it as is, Senate leaders acknowledged.

“It’s been a very dynamic process. There were even amendments on third reading, which is unusual for a bill of this stature,” Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, told reporters late Monday evening.

“There’s some general consensus, but I wouldn’t be surprised if both the House and the Senate had some additional input into the process. But I think on some of the fundamental areas, there’s agreement,” he said.

The Senate plan also includes a provision that requires both school districts and sheriffs to sign off on the plan, while the House’s version would only require the blessing of the school boards.

Gov. Rick Scott has opposed arming teachers, and it’s unclear whether he would support the revised bill.

Sen. Bill Galvano, who’s negotiated with Speaker-Designate Jose Oliva and Scott on the proposal, said that the measure passed by the Senate Monday night “was not a deal with the House,” but was generated from “the discussion” during Saturday’s floor debate.

Garcia was a no vote, Galvano pointed out.

(Translation: If Garcia had joined the opposition on Monday, the bill would have died on a 19-19 tie.)