Florida Senate

¡Queremos nuestras boletas!

A handful of Democratic state legislators are asking Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, to make sure that every county has bilingual ballots on hand during the upcoming election season.

The lawmakers, including Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando, warned Detzner that “failure to accommodate Florida’s large influx of Spanish-speaking American citizens” from Puerto Rico could violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

It’s unknown exactly how many Puerto Ricans sought refuge in Florida following Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the island in September and left tens of thousands of island dwellers without power even now — six months after the storm.

“Florida is home to over 20 million individuals and more than 4 million of them are of Hispanic or Latino origin,” Torres, who is of Puerto Rican descent, wrote to Detzner. “Additionally, with the influx of evacuees from Puerto Rico, there are an additional 300,000 American citizens who are eligible to vote in this upcoming election cycle.  Providing election information and ballots in Spanish-language are essential for some qualified electors to participate in the 2018 Florida elections process.”

Elections officials in more than a dozen counties said they aren’t going to provide ballots in Spanish, according to the release issued by the Senate Minority Office today. That may put them at odds with Gov. Rick Scott, who’s running for the U.S. Senate and has gone out of his way to court the Puerto Rican community, in Florida and on the island.

“Florida has a long history of failing to accommodate citizens whose native language may be other than English,” Torres said in the release. “With more than 4 million Hispanics now living in Florida, there is no excuse for not providing election services to citizens in the language with which they feel most confident.”

More from the Senate Minority Office press release today:

The letter, signed by Senators Torres, Annette Taddeo, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Linda Stewart, and Representatives Robert Asencio, John Cortes, Carlos Guillermo Smith, and Amy Mercado, follows efforts last week by several Hispanic and civil right organizations, including Demos and Latino Justice, calling for 13 of Florida’s 67 Supervisor of Election offices who are not currently supplying election materials and information in Spanish-language format to do so under requirements of the Federal Voting Rights Act. Their letter similarly asserts that under Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, bilingual ballots, election materials and poll worker assistance should be provided to America citizens whose primary language is Spanish.

The lawmakers are seeking reassurances that federal law will be obeyed.

“We are requesting that you respond to the allegations that some Supervisor of Elections offices may be in violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act by failing to provide required Spanish-language elections materials.  We further request you outline any plans your office has to ensure that no qualified electors are discouraged from exercising their Constitutional rights to participate in the 2018 election due to a failure of the local Supervisor of Elections to provide this information,” they wrote.

 

 

“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.

 

 

 

 

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.)

 

 

Gun-rights group blames Parkland massacre on Florida lawmakers

Democrats and gun control advocates are blaming Wednesday’s school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on lax state and federal gun laws.
But a Second Amendment group is pointing the finger at the Florida Legislature for refusing to approve a law that would allow concealed weapon license holders to bring their guns to schools.
In an open letter to Florida lawmakers sent Friday, Florida Carry demanded that the Republican-controlled Legislature hurriedly pass legislation the organization’s general counsel, Eric Friday, maintains would make schools safer.
Florida Carry is asking House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to:
    • Pass emergency legislation to eliminate gun-free zones for law-abiding concealed carry licensees;
    • Pass emergency legislation authorizing all teachers in public schools who possess a CWFL to carry their licensed, concealed firearm if they so choose, without repercussion;
    • Provide immediate funding of one million dollars in grants for county school boards and sheriffs to implement pilot programs of the Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response (FASTER) Program in the State of Florida.
The day after the school shooting that left 17 individuals — including 14 teens — dead,  the guns-at-school measure popped up on next week’s Senate Judiciary Committee’s agenda for its first hearing, more than midway through the session. The committee is headed by Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican who has pushed for NRA-backed bills.
Here’s the full text of the Florida Carry missive:
As the State of Florida mourns the loss of innocent lives on Wednesday in Broward County, I mourn too, but I am also angry. I am angry that the Florida Legislature has once again enabled an evil individual to take innocent lives because the Legislature refuses to acknowledge the fact that that evil people will not follow the laws it passes. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Legislature acts as if the laws it passes will stop criminals. Laws punish wrongdoing, they do not stop wrongdoers. Yet Florida continues to prohibit licensed law-abiding citizens from possessing the tools to protect themselves and their children from mass murder.
Despite the repeated failure of so called “gun-free zones”, the Florida Legislature has taken no steps over the past seven years to protect our children. While the responsibility for Wednesday’s events rests solely with the actions of the evil person who committed this act, it is the Legislature that has enabled such tragedies to occur. It is the Legislature’s inaction that has made such tragedies worse.
The Legislature has ignored the repeated requests of Florida Carry, other civil rights groups, and the law-abiding citizens of this state to give up the fallacy of “gun-free zones”. This body has left our children and their teachers defenseless. It has kowtowed to anti-freedom groups and has blocked or refused to hear common-sense legislation to protect our children and the professionals to whom we entrust our children’s care on a daily basis.
It is a well-established fact from numerous such events that bad people with guns will only stop their carnage when confronted by an armed response. Every second until that response occurs allows the murderer to kill and maim more innocents.
From 1987 until now, every time the Legislature has acted to restore the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect those for whom they love and care, those citizens have responsibly exercised the trust placed in them. Every time, those citizens have proven the claims of the anti-gun forces to be lies. Every time, the claims of dire consequences for returning rights to the people have proven false.
This case was not a failure of law-abiding citizens to act responsibly. This was another failure of law enforcement to investigate and stop a deranged individual. People did SEE something, and people did SAY something, but law-enforcement failed to fully investigate and prosecute the shooter for prior crimes. Just as in Sutherland Springs, law-enforcement’s failure is being blamed on law-abiding citizens and their legal firearms. Law-abiding citizens cannot rely on law enforcement to protect them and must be given the means to protect themselves.
The time for half-measures and incrementalism is over. It is past time to give ‘we the people’, our teachers, and the parents volunteering in schools the ability to defend themselves and stop these tragedies.
The time to act is now. For years, many in the Legislature have touted their NRA ratings. They have claimed to be on the side of the law-abiding citizens with licenses who, for over three decades, have proven themselves more law-abiding than even the police officers who heroically responded Wednesday. Why then, should these same citizens be left defenseless while they await law enforcement’s response?
In every state that has allowed law-abiding citizens to carry in schools, the citizens have proven equal to the challenge. None of these states have suffered what Florida suffered Wednesday. Those state have eliminated a favorite target of the deranged individuals who commit such evil.
Florida Carry hereby calls on the Legislature to immediately:
  1. Pass emergency legislation to eliminate gun-free zones for law-abiding concealed carry licensees;
  2. Pass emergency legislation authorizing all teachers in public schools who possess a CWFL to carry their licensed, concealed firearm if they so choose, without repercussion;
  3. Provide immediate funding of one million dollars in grants for county school boards and sheriffs to implement pilot programs of the Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response (FASTER) Program in the State of Florida. http://fastersaveslives.org
Though the Legislature’s inaction enabled Wednesday’s events, errors of judgment can be corrected if good people are willing to admit they were wrong. It is time for those who support the Second Amendment, who recognize that armed citizens are an asset, and who truly want to protect our children, to recognize and admit that evil will not obey laws. Evil will not respect gun-free zones. Evil will not be stopped by anything other than armed response. The longer that response, the more innocent lives lost.
I am reminded today of the teachers at Sandy Hook who died trying to shield the children they loved from evil. An unarmed person is just another victim. An armed person is a force who can stop the carnage. It is within the Legislature’s power to make sure that if it happens again, the response will be faster and fewer innocent lives will be lost.
As a father of two public school children I cannot wait any longer. I want my children to be safe when they are not with me. I will not rest until the Florida Legislature takes action to protect my children and their friends. If it will not be done by those already in the Legislature, it will be done by those who replace them.
Sincerely,
Eric J. Friday
General Counsel, Florida Carry, Inc.
Father