Rick Scott: Sunshine State final three

Gov. Scott tweeted his NCAA basketball brackets on Thursday, leaning heavily upon home-state teams, with a final four comprised of Miami, Florida State University, University of Florida and Duke. Apparently unafraid of incurring the wrath of ‘Noles, Scott has UF over FSU in the championship game.

Durham, N.C.-based Duke is a second seed. Miami and UF are both six seeds in their regional brackets, while FSU in a ninth seed.

No Key Lime pies appear to have been wagered.

 — By Jim Turner.

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.


Braynon: Bruh! Scott doesn’t know who I am

Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon was fired up about gun reform after a visit from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson this morning.

IMG_2754Braynon, a Miami Gardens Democrat, told reporters he and other Democrats have pushed for gun restrictions for decades. Republican leaders like Gov. Rick Scott are now talking about certain limits — such as raising the age to 21 to be able to purchase long guns — in the wake of last week’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people, including 14 teenagers, dead.

Braynon spoke with Scott yesterday, “and I have to be honest, I don’t know that he heard me,” he told reporters Thursday morning.

“I’ll be even more honest. I’m not even sure if he knows who I am and the role I play in the Legislature,” he said. “I said my caucus did a press release that said exactly what bills we care about. He said, well can you get that to our office? Bruh, if you in the governor’s office don’t have the caucus position of the Senate minority, which 15 to 16 members and is playing a very big role in this, then I don’t know what your office is doing.”

Scott’s office did have the press release, Braynon said.

“But the thing is, he didn’t know who I was so it didn’t matter, probably,” he said.

Braynon said he “was looking for a rise” from the governor, suggesting that people don’t need the “a well-regulated militia” authorized in the Second Amendment because they have the National Guard.

Last I checked, I don’t think Georgia was invading Florida, and if they are, I feel safe, because you’re in charge of the National Guard and you really like guns and the GOP likes that, so I think we’re going to be protected,” Braynon said he told Scott.

What response did he get?

“This. He touched his chin. Hmmm,” Braynon said. “I think he just checked a box, so when he comes out with his proposal, which is already done, he can say I met with legislative leaders on both sides of the aisles and took their input. Man, I don’t think he’s listening to us.”

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.
Eric J. Friday
General Counsel, Florida Carry, Inc.

Smith: What are the House’s priorities, post-Parkland?

Floridians once again are mourning, following a mass shooting at a high school in Broward County on Valentine’s Day.

The massacre resulted in 17 deaths, so far, and is the second worst school shooting in U.S. history, behind the shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children aged 7 or under and 6 adults were slain.

The killings at the Parkland high school Wednesday prompted state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat from Orlando, to question the priorities of the Republican-dominated House.

“These people today, ask them if they deserve a hearing,” Smith said Wednesday of those impacted at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, noting the rainbow ribbon on his lapel that honors the 50 people killed at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016.

“While we sit here and hear stories at length about one person in San Francisco who was murdered — a tragedy — something that didn’t have anything to do with a sanctuary city, yet that’s the driving reason behind House Bill 9,” said Smith.

Smith has unsuccessfully pushed a measure (HB 219) that would prohibit the sale, transfer or possession of assault weapons or large-capacity ammunition magazines.

The measure has failed to get a hearing this session.

“I have had many conversations about my legislation and what is really frustrating is the priorities in this chamber,” Smith said. “My bill went straight to the Criminal Justice Subcommittee and it has not been given a hearing two years in a row. But do you want to know what the chair of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee does think is a priority: declaring porn as a public health crisis. These are the priorities of this chamber.”

A measure (HB 157) by Subcommittee Chairman Ross Spano, a Republican from Dover, seeks to have pornography declared a public health risk. The proposal has already reached the House floor.

“We’ve got an opioid crisis, but yet the budget underfunds programs that will help with that crisis,” Smith said. “We have a public health crisis related to gun violence. We’re still 50th in the nation in funding for mental health care. These are super, super important issues that are life or death issues for Floridians. Why aren’t they a priority>”

Scrambling for gambling

As talks between key lawmakers and the Seminoles heat up, the anti-gambling group behind a constitutional amendment going on this fall’s ballot is taking to the air waves to scold the Legislature for trying to beat voters to the punch.

Voters In Charge, the political committee that pushed the “Voter Control of Gambling Amendment,” is running a 30-second TV ad and a 60-second radio ad — in additional to digital and social media advertising — starting today, according to a release issued by the group this morning.

If approved, voters statewide would have to approve any expansion of gambling, something now largely controlled by the Legislature. A recent poll showed 76 percent support for the measure, which will appear as Amendment 3 on the November ballot and was largely bankrolled by a Disney company and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Anticipating passage of the proposal, legislators are scurrying to craft a new 20-year agreement with the Seminoles, prompting the attack from Voters in Charge.

“They’re trying desperately to expand gambling now, before voters have their say,” a female voiceover on the TV ad scolds.

Sen. Bill Galvano and House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva met with Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen, and the tribe’s lobbyist Will McKinley, yesterday. Galvano told Truth or Dara he expects the Seminoles to give the legislative leaders a draft compact this week.

“The reaction by gambling lobbyists and Tallahassee politicians shows exactly why we need Amendment 3,” Sowinski said in the release announcing the ads.


National Dems put bullseye on Sunshine State


For some of us, it feels as though the once-every-decade redistricting process in Florida only recently wrapped up.

But the drawing of new House, Senate and congressional maps will start all over again in just three years.

After getting their you-know-whats handed to them during the 2011 redistricting process, national Democrats are targeting a dozen states — including Florida — where the victors in November will be in office when the crafting of the new maps begins in 2021.

Of course, Florida — where the governor’s mansion and the state Legislature have been controlled by Republicans for more than two decades — is in the cross hairs this year.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee has made the Sunshine State one of 12 targets in the 2018 elections, putting a bullseye on the governor’s race and the state Senate.

Among the likely races the NDRC will focus on is Senate District 40, where freshman Annette Taddeo, who defeated GOP fave Jose Felix Diaz in an upset this summer, could face off against former Sen. Frank Artiles. Artiles, a Miami Republican, was forced to resign during last year’s legislative session after a profanity-laced and racially charged outburst at the Governor’s Club.

Read the press release here.