Joe Henderson – Page 7 – Florida Politics

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

Joe Henderson: Ronda Storms is back; don’t underestimate her

The last time I saw Ronda Storms was more than five years ago. I was interviewing her about her campaign for Property Appraiser in Hillsborough County.

She won the Republican primary but thumped by nine points in the general election by Bob Henriquez.

We met at Starbucks in Valrico, about 15 miles east of downtown Tampa. I wrote that day, “Hillsborough County has had its share of flamboyant politicians, but few have been in the class of Ronda Storms.”

I remember her saying that day that if she lost, she would likely return to private life and stay there. She seemed to be doing a pretty good job of that.

But then, and Storms announced she is baaaaaaack!

She announced on her Facebook page she is running for HD 59, the seat Ross Spano currently holds.

Spano is running for Attorney General.

Storms gained her deserved reputation for flamboyancy during her two terms on the Hillsborough County Commission.

She authored an ordinance (since overturned) to prohibit the commission from participating or even acknowledging Gay Pride events. She even punctuated that by decreeing the ordinance would be written with lower case “g” and “p.”

She successfully fought to stop county funding for Planned Parenthood. As a state Senator, she pushed for intelligent design to be taught in public schools.

She is unabashed about her faith, her values, and what she wants to accomplish. She can be loud, abrasive, insulting, but mostly she is unafraid of consequences – political or otherwise.

The district she hopes to represent covers much of eastern and southern Hillsborough County and has a lot of rock-ribbed conservatives who basically think the way she does. Her name recognition with those folks alone is enough to make her formidable.

In making her announcement on Facebook, Storms referred to people who “stopped me on my way about my business, stopped me in stores, contacted my family, called us on the phone, all encouraging me to run for public office.”

I can absolutely believe that.

Here is what I’m not so sure about, though.

While Storms was a headline waiting to happen in the Commission, she last held a county office 12 years ago and the image she had then may not be the same one she has on this campaign trail. The part of the county she represented then is a lot different today.

The population has grown substantially, along with modern suburban problems of traffic congestion and overcrowding. Many of the newcomers won’t know who she is.

And while no one will call this part of the state liberal, a Republican is not an automatic winner – especially if the Democratic blue wave backlash against President Trump reaches this far inland.

In 2012, for instance, Spano defeated Democrat Gail Gottlieb by less than 1,100 votes out of more than 67,000 cast.

Storms will spice things up, though – count on that – with her populist ideas and the unpredictable things that can fly from her mouth.

She will do the work. She will be prepared. She will say that she is standing up for the little guy, and she may convince the little guy that she is right. The lady does tend to dominate a room.

She will have to first win the primary in August, and if that happens you can wager Democrats would see this as a great chance to pick off a reliably Republican seat. It could become one of the more entertaining races in the state.

Then again, if Ronda Storms is involved, it’s never dull.

Ronda Storms announces HD 59 bid

Republican Ronda Storms, whose controversial career has included two terms each in the Florida Senate and Hillsborough County Commission, has decided to attempt a political comeback.

Storms announced Friday on her Facebook page that she will run for HD 59, a seat currently held by Ross Spano, who is running for the Republican nomination for Attorney General.

“After much prayerful consideration, my family and I have decided to step forward and make the personal sacrifice necessary to run for public office, this time for State House, District 59, Republican,” she said.

She dropped out of public life after losing a race for Hillsborough Property Appraiser 52-43 percent against Bob Henriquez in 2012.

In her Facebook announcement, she said those who “stopped me on my way about my business, stopped me in stores, contacted my family, called us on the phone, all encouraging me to run for public office.”

Storms frequently made headlines during her eight years on the County Commission. She advocated sterilization for men or women convicted of child abuse and led a movement to cut off county funding for Planned Parenthood.

Her most controversial moment came when she took the forefront of a commission decision to abstain from any involvement with Gay Pride parades or celebrations. She even stipulated the ordinance would be labeled “little g, little p.”

When Commissioner Kevin Beckner years later led a charge to overturn that decision, he declared the ordinance would be written “capital G, capital P.”

So far, Republican Joe Wicker is the only other candidate to file.

The Brandon businessman and veteran filed for the seat a day after Spano announced his Attorney General bid, and was able to seal an endorsement from Spano in the first few days of his campaign.

HD 59 covers most of Brandon, as well as Valrico, Dover, Seffner, Riverview, Palm River and Clair-Mel City. The district has more registered Democrats than Republicans, though Spano had no problem holding on to the seat after the one-point victory that put him into office in 2012.

Joe Henderson: A little gun sanity finally comes to Florida

There are two reasons to feel at least a little bit good about what the Florida Legislature just did in the name of gun sanity.

First, families of the 17 victims in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland supported the compromise bill calling for age and other restrictions on gun sales in Florida.

And second, the National Rifle Association hates the bill. Despite efforts by no less than NRA Grand Dame Marion Hammer to scuttle it, the measure passed.

That’s good enough for me, even though I hate the idea of allowing so-called volunteer armed marshals in schools. But districts can follow the lead of Hillsborough County, eighth-largest in the country, and opt out.

In perhaps the strangest twist of all, Gov. Rick Scott is being coy about whether he will veto the measure because he, too, opposes the marshal plan. I’m thinking his A-plus rating from NRA might be in trouble as we cue music from Hamilton – the world turned upside down.

And to think it only took a high school slaughter on Valentine’s Day to get lawmakers to finally say hey, maybe we ought to do something to pump the brakes on NRA platform that seems to want a Glock in every hand and an AR-15 within easy reach.

By that standard, the House, in passing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act by a 67-50 margin after eight hours of contentious debate, practically threw a pie in the NRA’s face.

No one got everything they sought, which I suppose is the definition of compromise.

Gun opponents didn’t get the outright ban on assault weapon sales that they wanted or reductions in magazine sizes, but there is more money for mental health treatment, beefed up school security and the minimum age to buy such a gun was raised to 21 from its current 18 – assuming Scott signs the bill.

That might have kept the murder weapon out of the hands of confessed Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz, who is 19 and legally bought the gun used in the massacre. But it wouldn’t have stopped Pulse nightclub murderer Omar Mateen, who was 29 when he went on a rampage that left 49 people dead.

Baby steps, I guess.

The sale of bump stocks will be illegal under this bill. The bill also imposes a 3-day waiting period for someone to buy a gun. In an absurd gambit, the NRA called this punishment on “law-abiding citizens for the actions of a mentally deranged criminal.”

Note to NRA: Until he marched into Douglas High School and started shooting his legally purchased weapon, Cruz was a law-abiding citizen .

Like I said, there are some things to like about this bill and more than a little not to like. That’s why some, including the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, are calling on Scott to veto the measure, and then bring lawmakers back in special session and craft something meatier.

There is some merit to that idea and imagine what kind of juice it would give to Scott’s presumed run for the U.S. Senate. Scott could frame himself as willing to stand up to the NRA and besides, what are you gun lovers gonna do? Vote for Bill Nelson?

But I go back to where this column started with the debate on gun sanity.

Families of the Parkland victims support this bill.

The NRA hates it.

To me, that says lawmakers finally did the right thing.

Joe Henderson: Hillsborough school board made right call on guns

The Hillsborough County School Board deserves a tip of the hat for its wise and unanimous decision to oppose arming select employees under the guise of security.

The vote was a pre-emptive stand against the movement in the Florida House to allow willing schools to authorize select individuals to carry firearms.

As the Tampa Bay Times reported, board member Cindy Stuart, who introduced the motion, said it best: “It is wrong, arming anyone other than law enforcement on our campus.”

Absolutely correct.

Former Florida Education Commissioner and University of South Florida President Betty Castor told WFLA-TV in Tampa, “It is shocking that you have a tragedy and there are obviously some things that can be done. But to suddenly say, ‘we want to transform our teaching and our administrative staffs at schools and arm them to take care of snipers or unsettled students or anybody else that might come in with a firearm.’ It just makes no sense at all.”

The debate about to best secure public schools has the hottest issue in the state since the Valentine’s Day slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

When educators and law enforcement officials throughout the state lampooned a proposal in the Legislature to allow schools to designate certain teachers to be armed, lawmakers backed off a bit.

However, the House is still debating the notion of allowing designated noninstructional personnel to be armed as part of a general beefed up security plan. It’s the ol’ “good guy with a gun” theory.

At least the Legislature, for now, appears willing to leave it up to local school districts and law enforcement whether they want to let employees carry guns. Hillsborough, the nation’s eighth-largest school district, has already decided.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister has agreed with the board’s decision.

What part of this condemnation escapes lawmakers?

What happened in Parkland made it clear that schools need better security but putting weapons in the hands of employees — even if they have been trained — could make a bad situation worse.

I do not doubt that many of those who support the idea of arming employees believe it’s the right thing to do. I’m not questioning their motives or sincerity, since Parkland was a blow to Florida’s psyche the likes of which we have never seen.

But sincere or not, the idea to be shouted down.

Reports out of Parkland showed a scene of chaos and carnage. Introducing more weapons for people other than professional law enforcement is inviting catastrophe.

The Legislature plans to spend millions on things that could make schools more secure. It is an unfortunate reality that all schools should have professional, armed security people on site at all times.

It’s the world we live in.

It stops there though.

Introducing more guns onto school campuses is asking for trouble, no matter the motive.

As we saw at Parkland, even trained law enforcement officers failed to intervene and possibly save lives. If they couldn’t do the job, what makes anyone believe an armed administrator would?

It’s crazy talk, and Hillsborough was right to take the stand it did.

Joe Henderson: Florida public education takes another hit

If you look closely, there actually are a couple of decent things in the just-passed Florida public education bill that is headed to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature – basically scraps offered to schools as balm for their tattered remains.

But let’s call HB 7055 for what it is.

It’s a victory lap for lawmakers who decided long ago that Florida public education is falling way short and needs to be blown up and rebuilt, charter by charter.

We aren’t there yet, but that seems to be the goal of many Republicans, most notably House Speaker Richard Corcoran. They will take pleasure from the fact they just uncorked another haymaker on the teachers union. Democrats couldn’t do anything about it besides vote no and send out tweets like this one from state Rep. Loranne Ausley of Tallahassee.

I do wish the Speaker would admit he despises the union and that rendering it useless would be a major part of his legacy that he will look back upon with pride, but I guess the passage of this legislation makes it clear enough.

Under the bill that the governor is expected to sign, a union can be decertified if it fails to sign up 50 percent of those eligible to join. No other public-sector union in the state faces this requirement, and this legislation is the thinnest veil yet to make life as difficult as possible for teachers and those who represent them.

Instead of concentrating on policy other functions, union reps will have to spend more time recruiting members.

A statement on the Florida Education Association website called on Scott to veto the bill and read: “This was never about what is best for our students, never about what is best for teachers, never about the value of our public schools to the families that they serve. It is only about a corrupt and arrogant legislature. It will do even more damage to our students’ learning environments than last year’s HB 7069.”

That led to this quote in the Miami Herald from the Senate floor by Republican state Sen. Tom Lee, who, from recent events, appears to have stopped caring what anyone in his party thinks of him.

“We do a lousy job of representing working class people and we should be ashamed of ourselves,” Lee said. “We have to accept this poison pill and slap the teachers of Florida in the face.”

Oh, the good stuff.

It’s in there, somewhere, in the sweeping bill.

The requirement passed last year that districts share their property tax funding for infrastructure with charters has been eliminated. For cash-strapped districts like Hillsborough struggling to keep up the demand of an ever-growing student body, that’s good news.

It also waived standardized testing and other requirements for Marjory Stoneman Douglas students after the horror they endured.

That was good.

The ballyhooed Hope Scholarship funded in this bill allows bullied students from public school to receive money to attend a private school. The actual wording is a little vague on how to prove bullying actually took place. But, OK, the spirit behind that push is reasonable and I doubt it will have any significant impact on public school budgets.

Besides, the real bullies are the ones in the Legislature who decided they know more about to run a school system than the professionals and teachers who actually do so.

Instead of partnering with schools, lawmakers have become dictators determined to push through dramatic change at all cost – often to the benefit of their charter school buddies.

They got what they wanted, again, and soon enough we’ll find out just what that cost to Florida public education will be.

Joe Henderson: Joe Negron just forgot who is in charge

Senate President Joe Negron was either confused Saturday or had a temporary case of amnesia, but whatever the problem one thing was immediately clear.

Negron simply forgot who really controls that chamber of the Florida Legislature.

Guess what? It ain’t him.

And it’s sure not the Republican Party.

Nope. After the vote to quickly reverse a measure that would have installed modest limits on the purchase of AR-15 assault-style rifles, we were reminded again that the National Rifle Association is in charge of any public policy concerning firearms.

On that issue, Negron is basically the titular head of the NRA-controlled Senate.

You can bet your last nickel he quickly figured that out after he declared an amendment to establish a two-year moratorium on the sale of those weapons had passed on a voice vote.

Tweets went out announcing the news. Those who favor gun control were overjoyed. Those who embrace the no-limits version of the Second Amendment were stunned.

But wait!

Was Negron actually going to risk the wrath of the NRA by believing his lying ears? Of course not. There is a reasonable explanation though.

Perhaps he mistook the increasing volume of voices demanding sensible changes to the gun laws in this state for the drone of those who parrot the NRA mantra of more guns, more guns, more guns and more guns.

Ah, the crisis was averted when Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley jumped in with a motion to say hey, let’s rethink that vote, OK? A bit later, the ban was defeated.

Whew! That was close!

This would actually be funny if the stakes weren’t so high. Floridians will never look at guns the same after the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The GOP response has basically been to argue schools would be safer if teachers had guns in the classroom as the first line of defense.

In the face of such poisoned logic, opponents have no hope of winning the argument for sensible limits on gun ownership.

If 17 murder victims at a state high school doesn’t convince Republicans that maybe they need to look at this issue from another angle, nothing will. The only hope opponents have for changing the rules is to change the lawmakers.

The only way to do that is at the ballot box. Democrat Gwen Graham, who is running for governor, was quick to pounce with a tweet promising if she wins to veto any bill that puts more guns in schools.

For Democrats, the ballot box has proven to be an elusive challenge. Except for a brief period in 2010 when then-Gov. Charlie Crist left the GOP to become an independent, Republicans have controlled both houses and the governor’s mansion since 1999.

With no political balance in Tallahassee, Republicans have boldly moved to approve many NRA-backed provisions to expand gun availability and the rights of users.

The NRA has adamantly opposed most attempts to restrict sales and availability, even a recent proposal by Gov. Rick Scott to raise the minimum age to buy an assault-style weapon to 21 from its current 18.

NRA Grand Dame Marion Hammer has called that an attack on the Second Amendment.

So really, the surprise Saturday was that Negron apparently forgot to check with her before declaring that amendment on assault weapons had passed.

Anyway, all is back in order now in Tallahassee and the NRA-controlled Senate of the Gunshine State.

The threatened breach of sanity has been averted.

Joe Henderson: Tom Lee is right to rip Legislature leadership

Tom Lee is right.

OK, it was more than a bit of hyperbole Friday when Lee, a Republican state Senator from Thonotosassa, said leadership in both chambers is running the Legislature “like a third world country” but he was right on point when his frustration with how bills are presented and passed became headline news.

“I’ve never seen this place get so transactional, where people are getting locked down on votes, and we’re just getting going here,” Lee told reporters after a terse on-floor exchange with Senate President Joe Negron – who was not amused.

In this case, Lee was trying to soften a blatant attempt by the House to bust the state public school teachers union.

The attack on public education by the Legislature has been going on for a while now, and rather than roll over while more money is re-directed to charter schools, the union had the audacity to fight back. Obviously, top Tallahassee lawmakers consider that a high crime from those uppity teachers.

That’s how we got HB 7055,  a bullying tactic on teachers union disguised as a sweeping public-sector bill. It includes a requirement that applies only to teachers unions. If their dues-paying membership falls below half of those eligible, it could force them to be re-certified. You can almost hear House leaders laughing as the bill was being put together.

During Senate debate, Lee called the amendment “mean spirited” and offered an amendment that would have lowered that bar to 40 percent.

When Negron told him to hurry things along, Lee responded from the floor, “I didn’t come to Tallahassee to be intimidated.”

The amendment didn’t pass, but the real story was that a well-known Republican senator – more than a bit of a maverick, sure – had publicly bucked the leadership of his party in a way that hasn’t been seen in a while.

I’ve known Tom Lee for a long time and two things come quickly to mind: He doesn’t always play the go-along-to-get-along game, and when he gets riled he doesn’t hold back.

Remember, this is his second stint in the Senate; he was president there from 2004-06. He knows how the sausage gets made, which means he also knows political independence for lawmakers is the most endangered species in the state these days.

With Republicans controlling both chambers plus the governor’s mansion, laws now are filtered through the narrow ideology of House and Senate leadership.

Junior members who ran for office promising the home folks to make a difference quickly learn that if the party boss tells you how to vote on certain issues, you’d better play along.

Failure to do so can mean the legislator’s proposals will die in committee, if they get that far. The merit of bills matters far less than being willing to fall in line with the agenda of the Senate President or House Speaker.

A free-thinker like Tom Lee can find this exasperating.

He told reporters after Friday’s eruption that members from rural districts find themselves in a “headlock” on gun legislation working through the Legislature “because they’re being instructed to vote for it.”

Florida has 20 million people and the Legislature is supposed to represent them all, but that’s a joke. Even obvious bills of revenge like the one against the teachers union have almost no chance of being stopped if a leader wants it badly enough.

“I’ve just had enough … I’ve struggled to get things out of this institution … and it’s petty and I am fed up,” he told reporters Friday. “I didn’t come up here to get bullied; I didn’t come up here to ‘follow directions.’ I came to represent my constituents.”

That’s the problem.

Constituent needs always take a back seat because lawmakers in Tallahassee are expected to follow directions set by a small core of party leaders, something Lee has never been good at doing.

Too bad, because the Legislature needs more of that.

Joe Henderson: Maybe Senate should have asked Adam Putnam first

Say this for Adam Putnam: he knows how to get attention.

He put out a terse news release Wednesday, ripping a state Senate proposal to use $10 million from the concealed weapons license fee to reimburse trauma centers for costs related to the Parkland murders.

It was kind of a “get off my lawn” moment for the normally affable Agriculture Commissioner, who also is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

“I oppose taxing law-abiding concealed weapon licensees for atrocities carried out by criminals. If anyone should be taxed for those heinous acts, it should be criminals,” the release read.

“The monster who murdered 17 people in Parkland wasn’t even eligible to have a concealed weapon license.”

Putnam’s objection about taxpayers is a bit of a reach, starting with the fact that law-abiding citizens he referred to aren’t being taxed. They voluntarily paid a fee for the right to carry a concealed weapon.

And while we all agree what happened in Parkland qualifies as an atrocity, it’s not like the reimbursement would be going to some wild-eyed anti-gun lobby. It would be going to help cover costs of treating victims of the aforementioned atrocity.

It is true, though, that the confessed shooter in Parkland isn’t old enough to have the license. In Florida, the minimum age is 21 for the permit. He was old enough to legally purchase the AR-15 assault-style rifle used in the attack, but I digress.

The point is, the horror unleashed that day – 17 dead, 14 wounded – pushed local hospitals to the limit. That’s what led Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon of Miami Gardens to propose the reimbursement fund, which would be administered by Attorney General’s office.

Senate President Joe Negron supported the idea, and SB 1876 was born. It passed an appropriations committee vote 17-3.

On the surface, using a portion of that gun fee in this way seemed reasonable. First-time Florida applicants pay $97 for the permit, which includes $55 for fingerprinting. Renewals cost $45.

It is good for seven years.

However, Jennifer Meale, communications director for the agriculture department, said in an email, “The primary purpose of the licensing fees is to mange and operate the concealed weapon license program. All application and renewal fees are dedicated to the licensing trust fund.”

Translation: That money already has a purpose.

In fairness, the right thing to do for those pushing for this bill would have been to check with Putnam before going public.

This sounds like the Agriculture Commissioner is telling the Senate to keep its mitts out of his money pot without talking to him first, no matter how well-meaning the proposal might be.

He has a point.

Joe Henderson: Arming teachers is bad, bad, bad idea

Some good ideas about gun control came out of the Legislature this week. Arming teachers isn’t one of them, though.

The proposal in the House Appropriations Committee to spend $400 million and put resource officers in every school, beef up mental health treatment, and reinforce buildings to make them safer – all good.

As always when guns are involved though, lawmakers go a step too far.

In this case, Republicans pushed through by a party-line vote the school marshal program championed by Rep. Jose Oliva that would authorize designated teachers to have and, if necessary, use firearms.

Yes, it still has to reach the governor’s desk and even then would still be up to individual school districts to decide if they want to implement the plan.

Even so, it’s bad.

Bad. Bad. Bad.

That’s not just me saying this.

Students, parents and teachers who lived through the horror of the Parkland massacre pleaded, cried and did their best to convince the committee that the proposal was whacked and would only make a horrible situation worse.

Gov. Rick Scott says it’s a bad idea.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio opposes this.

No matter.

The Republican Rifle Association – oops, I mean Republican representatives in the Legislature – will always err on the side of more guns.

The irony, of course, is that the NRA Grand Dame herself, Marion Hammer, lobbied to defeat the bill because it also includes a measure that would push the minimum age to buy a gun to 21.

She called it an attack on the Second Amendment.

No, Marion … what happened in Parkland is an attack.

Shooting 17 people to death with a high-powered weapon is an attack on the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

A few mild restrictions on who can own a gun like that is not an attack. With that in mind, it’s not like Hammer’s legislative lapdogs voted to ban the sale of assault-style weapons or anything.

The committee vote to introduce more guns into public schools it shows the basic belief of those who voted in favor that only a good guy with a gun … blah, blah and furthermore, blah.

Let’s look a little closer at that, shall we?

In a situation like last week, an armed teacher would have been expected to be controlled and cool amid chaos – scrambling, screaming, terrified students, the echo of gunfire from the killer and fallen bodies.

Would the marshal be expected to head into the hallways and track the shooter, or just stay in the classroom and protect students there? And what if police do arrive on the scene and see a teacher moving through the corridors with a weapon?

Even if they don’t just shoot the teacher first, there would be more wasted time trying to prove that this is the good guy.

How they could vote for this idiotic proposal after hearing from those who experienced the Parkland horror beg them not to take that step is sad – but not surprising.

It does set up a potential test for Rick Scott.

If this idea of arming teachers works its way through the process and becomes law, Scott could still veto it – and boy, wouldn’t that bring an interesting twist to his assumed-candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

That’s getting ahead of things though.

Like I said up top, some good ideas came out of Tuesday’s discussion in the appropriations committee, and much of what was proposed makes sense and should become law.

But arming teachers?

Horrible idea. But when it comes to the expansion of guns into everyday life, that never seems to matter.

Joe Henderson: Texting while driving bill may be dead …. again

Today’s question: Name a place where the right to privacy apparently matters more than your right not to get splattered on the road because another motorist couldn’t resist texting while driving.

Why, we know the answer to that. It’s the Florida Legislature!

For the latest example we look to the Senate, where a bill that would make texting while driving a primary offense and might save lives is stuck in committee and likely will stay there.

Why?

Republican Sen. Rob Bradley seems to be opposed to the idea.

Big deal? OMG yeah!

Bradley leads the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Miami Herald reported he is not allowing the bill to be heard. That prompted state Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Democrat from Boca Raton, to tell the Herald the bill “is on the verge of death.”

She is a co-sponsor of HB 33, along with Rep. Jackie Toledo of Tampa.

Verge of death, huh?

Interesting use of words there, since preventing death by distracted driving is the motivation behind making texting while behind the wheel a primary offense. Currently, police can only charge someone with texting while driving if they are first pulled over for another violation.

The bill was sailing merrily through committees in the House and Senate before it got stuck in Bradley’s legislative quicksand pit.

Bradley cited privacy concerns in bottling up the proposed bill, saying it could allow police to search a suspect’s cell phone or even increase racial profiling.

These are not insignificant issues.

You lose the right to privacy, though, when cartwheeling across four lanes of an interstate because you were sending a text and lost control of your car. That argument never penetrates the force field that continues to make Florida one of only five states that has not made texting while driving a primary offense.

Fun with numbers: The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel cited a state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles report that Florida was second-worst in the nation for distracted driving. In 2016 there were about 50,000 distracted-related crashes in Florida and 233 deaths.

Why does that never seem to balance out prohibiting someone’s “right” to fiddle with their phone when they ought to be paying attention to the road?

Republicans have been killing bills like this in the Legislature for years, all in the name of personal liberty.

What about the personal right of others not to wind up in a full-body cast, or a coffin, because someone was sending a Facebook meme while they were driving?

Florida has grown too large to allow this kind of stuff to go on. Between snowbirds who don’t know the roads and the ever-increasing population – now more than 20 million – taking to the highways is already risky enough.

Given that, Bradley’s esoteric argument that clamping down on texting while driving could be an invasion of privacy doesn’t make much sense.

We see people all the time weaving down the roads, eyes and fingers on their phone, mesmerized by a text or a cat picture.

Without coming out and saying it directly, those who keep this bill from becoming law are saying that text or picture trumps your right not to become a statistic.

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