Gov. Rick Scott will not attend a CNN-hosted town hall discussion with students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, their family members and the surrounding community.
The reason? Scott’s staff said the governor will be busy in Tallahassee addressing the issue of student safety.
“With only three weeks left of our annual legislative session, Governor Rick Scott will be in Tallahassee meeting with state leaders to work on ways to keep Florida students safe, including school safety improvements and keeping guns away from individuals struggling with mental illness,” McKinley Lewis, Scott’s Deputy Communications Director, said in a statement provided to Florida Politics.
CNN announced the town hall in the wake of the tragic Parkland massacre to help “facilitate a discussion” between elected officials and those affected by the incident.
The event, “Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action,” will be moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper, who took to Twitter over the weekend to personally alert officials, like Scott, who were invited to the discussion.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 17, 2018
U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, along with Democratic Florida U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, have accepted the invitation. President Donald Trump will not attend the town hall. It’s scheduled to air live on Wednesday at 9 p.m.
Scott’s planned absence from the event has drawn criticism, including from Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.
— Andrew Gillum (@AndrewGillum) February 19, 2018
In declining the request, Scott seemed to point to a sense of urgency in the state’s lawmaking process. Later on Monday, he followed through by announcing a series of planned workshops for law enforcement leaders, school administrators, teachers, mental health experts, and state agency heads to discuss school safety improvements and keeping guns away from individuals struggling with mental illness.
Those workshops will take place throughout Tuesday. Scott will hold a roundtable to discuss findings at the end of the day.
Scott, who said he’s spent the past week in the area surrounding Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said, “A tragedy like what occurred in Broward County must never happen again and swift action is needed now. I am bringing local and state leaders together to find solutions on how to prevent violence in our schools and keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill individuals. This is an urgent matter that we must address quickly.”
The meetings are closed to the public, but will be live-streamed on the Florida Channel. Viewers will be able to provide public input via a website.
Workshops will take place from 10 a.m. to noon and 2-4 p.m at the Florida Department of Education to focus on “school safety improvements and updating school security protocols and emergency plans.”
At the Florida Department of Children and Families, workshops will take place from 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. to focus on “ways to expand mental health services for Floridians, especially students, and improve coordination between state, local and private behavioral health partners.”
Potential safety improvements and an emphasis on keeping guns away from the mentally ill will be the focal points of workshops held from 10 a.m. to noon and 2-4 p.m. at the Florida Sheriffs Association.
Scott’s roundtable is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Capitol.