Guest Author – Page 2 – Florida Politics

Guest Author

Emma Collum: Taking action means just that!

Florida Politics recently ran a column calling me out for raising campaign dollars in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas massacre and did so without the benefit of several key facts, nor asking my input.

Allow me to offer both now.

First, in the immediate wake, we used our team of supporters to raise funds for the families and victims. We turned our network of campaign supporters into a team of people who wanted to help the families and survivors of this horrific event. We attended and, in some cases, organized the rallies, listening sessions, vigils, and community leader roundtables, each of which changed all of us forever.


We heard loudly and clearly that we must have change. We must have action. And taking action means (follow the logic here) actually taking action.

Contrast our response — help our campaign win so we can be part of the solution — to that of County Commissioner (and my opponent) Chip LaMarca who, during two votes on the matter, miraculously had “technology problems” and was unable to cast a vote on two resolutions related to the Stoneman Douglas massacre.

Let me repeat that.

When it came time to vote his convictions — either in support of or in opposition to — resolutions related to gun safety, mental health funding, and rebuilding Stoneman Douglas High, LaMarca — who had been present for the entire Commission meeting via phone — suddenly went through a tunnel, entered a bad cell zone, dropped his phone in the toilet, or Lord knows what. Twice he was listed as present but did not vote. It must also be noted that immediately following the second vote, he somehow re-entered the modern world, exited that tunnel and, once again, miraculously found himself back in cellphone range. Technology problems solved!

Let’s be a little frank here; Chip LaMarca didn’t have technology problems, he had strength of spine problems.

I won’t make that mistake.

I stand by our effort to take real action. I stand firmly with the families. I stand firmly against the NRA and will continue to demand real common-sense gun-safety reform. I will continue to ask those who agree with me to help our campaign and donate to our efforts to oppose cowards like Chip LaMarca who would rather hide behind faulty cell service than vote his conscience — whatever that may be.


Emma Collum is a small-business attorney, President and Founder of Women’s March Florida, and a Democratic candidate for House District 93.

Rest in peace Walt Dartland, a modern Marvel-style comic book hero come to life

We’ve lost a really great and humble hero in the passing of Walter Dartland, who died at his Tallahassee home on March 1 after a valiant battle against lymphoma. He was surely Florida’s best-ever advocate for consumers and taxpayers — a mild-mannered gentle giant who was a living legend for most of his life because of his many victories for consumers.

Walt accomplished more to make Florida a better place than many government agencies and career elected officials combined. Heroically, he was a champion for consumers and underdogs throughout his storied career, often persevering and prevailing against all odds. In the 1980s, he was the official Consumer Advocate for Miami-Dade County government, and he took on the powerful almost single-handedly on behalf of Florida families, often making waves of reform and national news. Very competitive TV stations’ news departments often fought over which would have him on the air for live interviews first, or most often. He was a naturally gifted communicator — always eloquently assailing the arrogance and abuse of any powerful interests whose products or services hurt or undermined the public interest.

As an attorney and advocate, he was one of those quietly elite ones who help to define the profession and practice of law as its very best. Typical of his impact and legacy, Walt was the singular guiding force because Florida’s now decades-old landmark ‘Lemon Law’ that helped consumers whose new cars proved to be duds to have legal fuel to accelerate in a faster lane to justice. He spent so much of his career in public service that he never really retired. Whether leading groups as a dedicated volunteer to protect Lake Jackson or helping create a center for non-profits to gather, he was tireless in taking on so many challenges so effortlessly, though even one of his quests would exhaust a far younger person.

During many decades inTallahassee, his gifts to all included creating a statewide consumer advocacy group in the late 1990s, that he led almost singlehandedly for more than 15 years, for no compensation. One of his noblest battles several years ago was on behalf of a neighborhood of poor black residents in Port. St. Joe, whose homes were actively deteriorating because of major flaws in the homesites and construction. Strictly pro bono, Walt took on this long-shot cause and ultimately led a protest to the front door and headquarters of the major corporation responsible — ultimately winning a settlement for the homeowners to be compensated and the problems corrected.

While he was not Don Quixote — because his battles were for real and his victories many — Walt’s somewhat Quixotic decision at age 80 to run for U.S. Congress in 2016, as a lifetime Democrat in a district largely Republican district, confounded many friends and family. But to Walt, it was typical of his willingness to take on any long-odds effort — because no one should automatically win such an important and powerful job without a vigorous challenge. He actually had data and math to show a possible path to victory — and though the calculations would later prove to be wrong, his effort was so right.

As much as Walt loved his battles on behalf of good issues and the public, he was a devoted family man who would do anything for those he loved, including his children, grandchildren and dear friends. Though he seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of energy, it was his beloved wife and life partner, Diana, who was the real power pack source for most of his lifetime happiness and tenacity — and who inspired him as he inspired others.

If we could conceive a modern Marvel-style comic book hero to come to life and protect all of us in the things that matter most, Walt Dartland would be perfectly cast because it was the role he lived every day throughout his very distinguished life. We will likely never find another champion for consumers like him.

Ron Sachs is CEO of Sachs Media Group.

Mayid Yamin: Local ordinances targeting pet stores in Florida do more harm than good

In 2002, I left my home in Venezuela to pursue my dream of owning a business and providing a better life for my family. This country offered opportunity to an extent I had never seen before, and my business partner and I pulled out all the stops to achieve our goal.

We never expected the heavy hand of government to shatter our dreams – not here in America.

We became franchise owners of a Petland store in Pembroke Pines, my proudest accomplishment – but it would soon be ripped away.

One horrible day in 2015, I received an email saying the city was considering a new local ordinance that would prevent the sale of dogs in stores – presumably because some pet stores and their suppliers didn’t meet proper standards of care for their animals. I knew my store met the highest standards, but city officials didn’t want to listen.

I had to endure hurtful falsehoods by city leaders that damaged me personally and emotionally. At one point, we were told that dog store owners were making too much money, and that contributed to this incomprehensible forced shutdown.

When the ordinance passed, the city’s crusade against pet stores had succeeded.

I would expect this kind of treatment from the corrupt socialist government of my native country, but not in the land of the free, where the American Dream lives in so many hearts. In this country, people work hard for their success, and government is supposed to help them – or at least stand out of the way.

To suffer such obstruction from our local government was truly shocking. And today, I am still dealing with the financial and legal struggles caused by this ordinance.

When I lost my Petland franchise, the 30 dedicated workers I employed also lost their livelihood. It was always my priority to take the success of my business and give back to my community. None of this seemed to matter to local city officials, who seemed determined to shut down my store and others like it – no matter what.

The most frustrating part of all this is that the ordinance was so completely unnecessary. Petland prohibits franchise owners from purchasing puppies from breeders who have had violations within the past two years and encourages owners to visit breeders to make sure their operations meet our expectations.

At the same time, Florida law requires that pet store owners purchase pets from USDA-licensed breeders who are inspected and certified by the state, and stores must have a veterinarian conduct weekly exams for health standards.

By forcing stores like mine to close their doors, these municipal ordinances only encourage the growth of puppy mills and other unregulated vendors, hurting local business owners and workers, as well as the pet lovers they serve.

I followed each and every rule and regulation to the letter, yet I was still forced to close a successful, locally owned business that was committed to the well-being of our animals.

In the America I chose as my home, the government should not be allowed to shut down a legitimate business that was operating entirely within requirements of the law.

There is a bill in the Florida Legislature, HB 7087, that would stop local governments from acting so destructively by pre-empting their ability to outlaw certain things – including pets.

I encourage all freedom-loving citizens to urge their legislators to support this bill, to prevent what happened to me from happening to anyone else in the future.


Mayid Yamin is a former pet shop franchisee in Pembroke Pines.

R. Scott Shalley: Allowing pharmacists to administer vital flu shots saves lives

There is widespread flu activity from this season’s flu outbreak all across the continental U.S. – something that has not happened in the U.S. Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s 13 years of tracking the spread of influenza.

This year’s flu is also particularly contagious and can be spread more easily just by breathing rather than by coughs and sneezes.

For context, a mild flu season tends to kill about 12,000 Americans while a severe flu season kills about 56,000. This is already considered a severe flu season. Currently, an average of 100 people dies each week from the flu.

In many of these cases, lack of access to the inoculation or an inability to see their primary care doctor in time lead to the person suffering from flu-like symptoms and in some cases, a late trip to the hospital was too late to save them.

This year’s flu is one of the most potent and deadly in years, but being able to get treatment in time can save lives, as long as patients have timely access to the vaccinations. Which many don’t.

Now imagine the ability to get this same crucial inoculation from your local pharmacy, with no need to schedule an appointment. This would serve as an easy way for an individual to get tested, treated and not have to worry about suffering from the flu.

For patients, being inoculated at a pharmacy would be cheap and most importantly, convenient which is why pharmacies and pharmacists are ideal partners for a pandemic immunization response.

Unfortunately, as logical as this scenario sounds, the Florida legislature has decided that it’s better to limit access to vital health care. SB 524 was proposed to allow pharmacists to administer flu tests and then treat and prescribe Tamiflu to the consumer.

A “yes” vote would ensure lives are saved.

Instead, we are left in the same situation, where patients who may not have a primary care doctor, or may not have health insurance, or whose local doctor may not carry these treatments, are left to the possibility of not getting access in time to save their lives or the lives of their children.

Getting medication within the first 48 hours of the first sign of symptoms is crucial, so every hour counts.

Even though patients know their local pharmacists are qualified to administer flu tests, this expanded prescribing would come with training and continuing education courses for the pharmacists. Pharmacists seeking to test for and treat the influenza virus must obtain certification through a program approved by the Board of Pharmacy and they must test for and treat the influenza virus within the framework of an established written protocol under a supervising physician.

This bill would provide many safeguards to ensure that every pharmacist is qualified, knowledgeable and capable of administering the flu test correctly. Not to mention, you can currently buy a flu test online and administer it yourself, yet somehow pharmacists aren’t qualified?

Opponents of this bill argue that allowing pharmacists to administer flu tests will hurt their business or that it somehow complicates the relationship between the doctor and patient if they receive treatment outside of their primary doctor. Are these minor concerns really worth putting thousands of Floridians’ lives at risk?

The Florida Retail Federation and our thousands of pharmacies throughout Florida stand ready to help fill this role of providing patients with immediate access to Tamiflu if they need it to our more than 19 million residents.

It is our hope that the legislature recognizes the error of their ways, realize the potentially thousands of lives they could be saving by passing this bill and vote yes when it comes back up for a vote.

This is not a time to be influenced by any outside groups but rather recognize the importance of voting yes and protecting Florida families.


R. Scott Shalley is President and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. He can be reached at

Stephanie Smith: Florida Senate should vote to fix auto insurance laws

Floridians are blessed with a low cost of living.

When comparing the cost of housing, utilities, transportation, health, or the overall cost of living, Florida is lower than the U.S. average.

Why, then, is Florida ranked among the five most expensive states for car insurance?

The answer is, in part, because of a broken statutory system that does not require the purchase of third-party bodily injury coverage (BI) but does require the purchase of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage laden with high costs and pervasive fraud.

Florida is the only state that does not require drivers to purchase BI coverage when they buy auto insurance to satisfy financial responsibility requirements.

The point of financial responsibility is to guarantee that all drivers on the public roadways have a minimum amount of security to pay damages that they cause to others.  Florida has set that minimum financial responsibility at $10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident for bodily injury.  The statutes permit the sale of auto insurance policies that do not satisfy this requirement, which results in a staggering number of drivers on the road without adequate insurance as compared to other states.

In 2015, Florida ranked first in percentage of uninsured motorists at 27 percent, more than double our neighbor Georgia, which is near the average at 12 percent.

PIP is a vestige of the 1970s insurance reform movement that has failed to accomplish what the academics who dreamed it up believed it would do. The goal of PIP was to eliminate lawsuits over minor injuries and lower overall auto insurance rates.

The reality is PIP continues to be a cottage industry devoted to extracting money from insurers, even when there is no merit to the claims.

After an initial wave of PIP laws in the 1970s, no state has enacted a no-fault system like PIP again, and several states have wisely abandoned PIP due to the cost and the fraud inherent in the system. Lawmakers in those states came to understand that an auto insurance system is healthier when it relies on common law tort principles rather than the derogation of common law rights in favor of a no-fault scheme.

Uber supports a public policy that lowers the number of uninsured and underinsured motorists on the road.

Through statute and through our business practices, we guarantee that the over 100,000 drivers partnering with Uber in Florida are insured while using our app. Those hard-working drivers deserve to see their personal auto insurance costs go down and to see more of their fellow Floridians properly insured.

The Florida House has already passed HB 19 by Rep. Erin Grall. This bill repeals PIP and requires the purchase of BI coverage at a limit commensurate with average amounts across the country.

If enacted, this bill would make our public roadways safer and would lower premiums for the average Floridian statewide by more than 8 percent for mandatory coverage.

We applaud Rep. Grall and the Florida House for their good work, and we urge the Florida Senate to act on this issue.


Stephanie Smith is Uber Florida’s Senior Public Policy Manager.

Brandon Arnold: Florida wins by modernizing NAFTA

Trade officials from the Trump administration recently wrapped up the sixth of seven scheduled rounds of discussions with counterparts from Mexico and Canada to revise and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

President Donald Trump stated that if the process doesn’t go to his liking, he’ll pull the plug on the deal altogether. That would be a huge mistake. While modernization policies would improve NAFTA, the trade agreement has been a huge success in Florida and across the country, creating millions of jobs and boosting the economy for all Americans.

NAFTA was controversial back in 1993 when it was signed by President Bill Clinton and approved by bipartisan majorities in Congress, including Floridian Republican Sen. Connie Mack and Democratic Sen. Bob Graham.

While Trump has called NAFTA “the worst trade deal in the history of the world,” withdrawing would have enormous consequences. There hasn’t been enormous support on either side of the aisle for full withdrawal from NAFTA, but even the suggestion from the president is concerning.

According to new research from the Business Roundtable, terminating NAFTA would come at an extraordinary cost for the country. The total short to medium term job losses would be between 1.8 and 3.6 million. More than 200,000 jobs could be at risk in Florida alone.

The damage to economic output would be staggering — GDP would fall by an estimated $119 to 231 billion per year. Florida’s state economic output would drop by at least $6.3 billion — partly because ending NAFTA would reduce Florida’s exports by $980 million.

Rather than scrapping NAFTA, U.S. officials should continue to work with our trading partners to update and modernize the deal. Indeed, there is plenty of room for improvement. The original pact was crafted in the early 90s, before the advent of the digital economy and the formation of large tech companies like Google and Amazon.

Trump’s trade negotiators can score significant wins for American businesses — especially those in the tech sector — by establishing rules that permit the free flow of data across international borders. Further, a new NAFTA should prohibit any data localization requirements that have the potential to impose unnecessary capital costs on our domestic companies.

Additionally, U.S. negotiators should use this process to pressure Mexico to liberalize its state-owned enterprises. For instance, our neighbors to the south should rein in various subsidies to these entities that give them an unfair advantage relative to private companies.

Our officials should also encourage Canada and Mexico to let more low-priced imports enter duty-free. For example, in the United States, goods that cost less than $800 are not subject to import taxes. In Canada, it’s just $20 (Canadian).

Aligning this threshold with U.S. policy could be a tremendous boon for many U.S.-based businesses, as it would allow our companies to export low-dollar goods to neighboring countries without paying duties or completing bureaucratic paperwork. This would mean faster shipping times, more efficient logistical processes, and lower costs for businesses and consumers. These are but a few of the improvements that could be made to NAFTA — assuming our negotiators are earnestly trying to update, not eviscerate the deal.

On the campaign trail, Trump often threatened a drastic departure from our long-standing commitment to free trade. Now that he’s been in office for over a year, thankfully, we’ve yet to see the president implement many major protectionist measures.

A continued commitment to international commerce has helped the economy grow — especially when paired with deregulatory policies and Trump’s pro-growth tax reform plan.

As Florida’s economy expands, creates jobs, and pushes wages upward, residents and businesses should keep a close eye on how the Trump administration handles trade policy. There are certainly gains to be made by modernizing existing deals, opening up new foreign markets, and leveling the playing field for American businesses.

But extreme actions like withdrawing from NAFTA could be calamitous and undo many of the economic gains our nation has made recently.


Brandon Arnold is the Executive Vice President of the National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit citizen group whose members work every day for lower taxes and smaller government at all levels.

Amy Mercer: It is not illegal to threaten a school shooting in Florida

Just days ago, 17 people, mostly teenagers, were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. There were warning signs, and one of them was an online posting under the shooter’s name that dictated “I’m going to be a professional school shooter” on a YouTube video.

These types of threats can be a critical indicator that intervention is necessary in an individual’s life to prevent violence to others. However, under current law, these kinds of threats are not illegal. Individuals can literally post online the time and location of a planned mass shooting, and individuals cannot be prosecuted.

In 2014, a Sarasota teen posted on Twitter “Can’t wait to shoot up my school,” and “It’s time. School getting shot up on Tuesday,” with a photo of a gun being placed in his backpack. In 2016, an appellate court found there was not enough to prosecute him under the current law.

Shockingly, it is not illegal to threaten mass shootings like at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Florida. Senate Bill 310 would change that.

SB 310 will allow law enforcement to act on a broader range of threats, including those made on social media. The bill makes it a third-degree felony to create and send certain written threats, including electronic communications, to kill or do great bodily injury.

There is a misconception that a law like this is already on the books and that law enforcement can assess, and take action, on threats made online. Although online threats have the potential to be an extreme danger to our communities, law enforcement officers’ hands are tied when they try to act on non-specific threats made through digital platforms. The warning signs aren’t missed, they just don’t have the tools we need to act on them.

In the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, it is critical that we pass this legislation. Gov. Rick Scott has made it a priority to enhance criminal penalties for threats to schools including those made through social media in Friday’s release of his priorities to combat school shootings. We need to move with urgency, just two weeks remain in our regular legislative session.

Law enforcement officers need the tools to protect our schools and our communities in today’s digital age. This bill allows law enforcement to do their job and act on the warning signs.

This bill is supported by a bipartisan group of legislators looking to give law enforcement more authority to keep us safe.

Now is the time to act.


Amy Mercer is the executive director of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. The Florida Police Chiefs Association is the third largest state police chiefs association in the United States. It is composed of more than 900 of the state’s top law enforcement executives. FPCA serves municipal police departments, airport police, college and university police, private business and security firms, as well as federal, state and county law enforcement agencies. The FPCA has members representing every region of the state.

Brian Mast: I appreciate assault weapons. And I support a ban

The most important and unregrettable time of my life was the 12 years I spent in the Army. I became a bomb technician because I wanted to save lives.

I nearly gave my own life for that — I lost both my legs and a finger when a roadside bomb detonated beneath me — and have known more heroes than I can count who died defending others.

When I was with others on the battlefield and we saw a chance to save a life, we didn’t have a meeting about it; we acted immediately. I never worried about becoming a casualty myself.

Now, as a Republican congressman from Florida, I don’t fear becoming a political casualty, either. If we act now by changing laws surrounding firearms and mental illness, we too can save lives.

Most nights in Afghanistan, I wielded an M4 carbine and a 0.40-caliber pistol. The total barrel length of my M4 was approximately 14 inches with Trijicon ACOG sights, as well as an infrared laser. I usually carried 10 magazines stacked with 20 rounds of 5.56-millimeter ammunition each.

My rifle was very similar to the AR-15-style semi-automatic weapon used to kill students, teachers and a coach I knew at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where I once lived.

I have fired tens of thousands of rounds through that rifle, many in combat. We used it because it was the most lethal — the best for killing our enemies.

And I know that my community, our schools and public gathering places are not made safer by any person having access to the best killing tool the Army could put in my hands. I cannot support the primary weapon I used to defend our people being used to kill children I swore to defend.

The truth is, most gun owners are responsible sportsmen and collectors who enjoy shooting recreationally, like me, or want to protect their home in the way they see fit. I am a longtime member of the National Rifle Association. My grandfather bought me my first NRA membership when I was young, and I have the same pride he and many Americans feel at being responsible gun owners, becoming excellent marksmen and joining in the camaraderie of hunting.

We are Americans and we like to be the best; we should never lose this trait. The AR-15 is an excellent platform for recreational shooters to learn to be outstanding marksmen. Unfortunately, it is also an excellent platform for those who wish to kill the innocent.

I conceal and carry a 9-millimeter pistol most days because I know the threats, and I don’t want to die because I am unprepared to return fire.

I also know that I am made less safe by the threat of tactical rifles. I am confident I can eliminate an active shooter who is attacking with a pistol because the attacker would have to be close to me. But the defense my concealed 9-millimeter affords me is largely gone if the attacker is firing from beyond 40 yards, as he could easily do with the AR-15.

No firearm is evil. Guns are tools that fulfill the intent of their users, good or bad. But we’ve seen that the rifle of choice for many mass shooters is the AR-15.

The Second Amendment is unimpeachable. It guarantees the right of citizens to defend themselves. I accept, however, that it does not guarantee that every civilian can bear any and all arms.

For example, the purchase of fully automatic firearms is largely banned already, and I cannot purchase an AT-4 rocket, grenades, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle or an Abrams tank. I know that no single action can prevent a truly determined person from committing mass murder, and I am aware of other ways to commit mass murder, such as bombings and mass vehicular slaughter. Not being able to control everything, however, should not prevent us from doing something.

Therefore, I support the following:

Defining what constitutes an assault or tactical firearm and not allowing them for future purchase — just as we already prohibit the purchase of fully automatic firearms. The exact definition of assault weapon will need to be determined. But we should all be able to agree that the civilian version of the very deadly weapon that the Army issued to me should certainly qualify. I would not support any version of a ban that results in confiscating existing legally owned firearms.

Ensuring that every firearm purchaser has a background check. We also need to improve the background check system.

Banning the sale of accessories and add-ons that circumvent the ban on automatic firearms and increasing the ages at which individuals can purchase various categories of firearms.

Ensuring that those who have been detained for mental illness, or have been ordered by courts to receive treatment for mental illness, cannot purchase firearms.

Ensuring that someone who is being looked at as a possible terrorist, through a system of due process, cannot purchase a firearm and that any person threatening to shoot or blow up a school, in word or on social media, is placed on an FBI watch list for a long time.

Providing behavior detection training to anyone seeking a Federal Firearms License.

Making substantial resources available to schools, at their discretion, for security measures, including the opportunity to purchase enhanced security screening, install classroom panic buttons wired directly to law enforcement and hire additional school resource officers.

Holding the FBI and state agencies accountable for their failures to identify a threat like Nikolas Cruz, as well as ensuring that schools enforce basic security protocols to prevent access by unauthorized personnel.

And finally, conducting further research into the nexus of gun violence, violence in mass media and mental illness.

The president, House of Representatives, Senate, every state legislature, sheriffs, police officers, school boards, students and parents must unite with one mission: that no one will ever be murdered in school again.


Brian Mast represents Florida’s 18th Congressional District.

Perry Thurston Jr.: No joke: The ‘Punchline State’ makes history for something good

Thurston, Perry, SD 33
Perry Thurston Jr.

Florida just made history as the first state to have an African-American represent it in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statutory Hall Collection.

By approving HB 139 and its SB 472, the Florida Legislature chose to replace a statue of a Confederate Army general Edmund Kirby Smith with one of Mary McLeod Bethune, an iconic figure in American history whose influence was felt far beyond the borders of the Sunshine State.

The decision to place a statue of Bethune in the Capitol is significant. There are currently no statutes depicting black Americans in the National Statutory Hall Collection, and Bethune will only be the 10th statue to depict a woman in a collection that still has more statutes commemorating Confederate officers (12) than women.

The selection also demonstrates how state leaders came together to avoid what could have been a debilitating controversy of race. Instead of simply removing the Smith statute from the U.S. Capitol, lawmakers agreed to relocate the statue to Tallahassee and “make it available for public display,” thus avoiding false claims of “rewriting history.”

The truth is Bethune embodies the best of Florida and the fact that an overwhelming majority of state lawmakers thought her accomplishments were worthy enough for this high honor bodes well for a state that is too often maligned for its eccentricities.

For a moment, forget the “hanging chads,” the weird crimes involving sex, scams or machetes, and the other antics that have made Florida a favorite punchline for comedians and late-night television hosts.

Now our state can boast of a political achievement that brought men and women from different races, cultures, and family histories to forge an agreement that now separates Florida from the rest of the country.

Of course, it helps to have an iconic historical figure that can foster pride and unity. Florida is blessed to have such a person in Bethune.

As a child, Mary McLeod wanted to be a missionary but turned her attention toward education when the Presbyterian Church rejected her application to serve in Africa. Her dream of opening her own school brought the young teacher and her husband, Albertus Bethune to Daytona Beach, where she established a school for black girls.

The school would grow and become Bethune Cookman University, one of three private historically black colleges and universities in Florida that is recognized nationally as a prominent historic black university.

On the national stage, Bethune became the most prominent black woman of her time. In 1935, she founded the National Council of Negro Women, a forum for black women to secure human rights and social justice. She was also appointed to several national commissions by three U.S. presidents and became an adviser of Franklin Roosevelt.

Replacing Smith, a St. Augustine native who became a general in the Confederate Army, with a statue of a black woman did not come easily, particularly for a state where the history and traditions of the old American South are still held dear.

Florida was indeed fortunate to have had a process established by a 2016 law to replace the Smith statue with one selected by a state panel that reviewed the names of several prominent Floridians before finally selecting Mary McLeod Bethune for the statuary hall collection.

Bethune’s likeness soon will join that of Dr. John Corrie, a Florida physician who is considered the father of refrigeration and air conditioning.

Her presence in the Hall Collection will speak volumes of Florida’s values and serve as a model for other states to follow.


Perry E. Thurston Jr. is a Democrat who represents Senate District 33 District. Thurston sponsored the Senate bill to place the statue of Mary McLeod Bethune in the National Statuary Hall Collection.

Bob White: Our rights to life and liberty are secured by our right to keep and bear arms

Like many of you, I have been praying for those that were murdered or injured in Parkland, as well as for their families and the community. Our hearts are broken for them.

The grief and sorrow being experienced by this community is no doubt crushing to their souls and we should continue to lift them up in prayer as they live in the aftermath of this tragedy.

We should continue our prayers for the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School family and for the Parkland community, but we must do so as we now come to grips with how this happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again!

What happened in Parkland has not changed my position on government-mandated “gun free zones” one iota. If anything, it has made my resolve to protect our citizens even greater. I have walked the walk in the gun rights debate in Tallahassee, advocating for open carry, campus carry and the elimination of government-mandated gun-free killing zones.

Anyone interested can review my platform position on this issue at

The sad truth is that what happened in Parkland could have and should have been prevented.

As reported in the USA Network newspapers, “Long before authorities accused Nikolas Cruz of killing 17 people at his former high school in less than five minutes, state social workers, mental health counselors, school administrators, police and the FBI received warnings about his declining mental state and penchant for violence.”

The FBI has admitted that it received these warnings weeks in advance of this tragedy, failed to recognize the threat and did not forward the information to the Miami field office for investigation.

This systemic failure on the part of the FBI and multiple other government agencies led directly to the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School..

As I write this article workshops organized by Gov. Rick Scott are taking place at the Florida Department of Education (DOE), the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Florida Sheriffs Association “to discuss ways to keep Florida students safe, including school safety improvements and keeping guns away from individuals struggling with mental illness.”

These workshops are a good idea.

I have no doubt that there are physical improvements that can be made that will make our schools safer. Regarding mental illness, to be brutally frank, a serious discussion regarding how we handle and fund treatment for mental illness in Florida is long overdue and not just as it relates to keeping firearms out of the hands of those that are “struggling with mental illness.”

What a travesty that it took this tragic loss of life to begin this discussion.

However, make no mistake. It is not a cliché, but rather a cold hard fact that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature, for the protection of our students, faculty and staff, must now come to an agreement and proscribe by statute, the specific conditions under which the concealed carry of firearms will be allowed in our public schools, by faculty and administrative staff that choose to do so. We should also consider allowing retired law enforcement officers willing to volunteer their services to act as plainclothes school resource officers available to back up uniformed school resource officers at every public-school campus.

It is maddening that these are not new ideas.

Various versions of school security legislation have been introduced in recent years in the Florida Legislature that would have provided for local school districts to adopt these kinds of security measures, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale. We cannot wait any longer.

We need school security measures in place at every school that includes active shooter response plans and additional training and education for members of faculty and staff with concealed carry permits that volunteer to carry on campus.

In our communities at large, those of us that are comfortable doing so, must adopt the mindset that we are our own first responders.

I have the utmost respect for the men and women that serve our communities as law enforcement officers. But they cannot be everywhere at once. It’s been said that you can always count on the police to be there in minutes when seconds count.

That’s not a knock on law enforcement. It’s just reality, as so tragically proven at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.

Never again Florida. Never again!


Bob White serves as the chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida and is a Republican candidate for Governor.

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