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The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.
Richard Corcoran

Richard Corcoran health care success a mixed bag

Before becoming House speaker, Richard Corcoran promised in 2015 that he was going to tackle the “Gucci-loafing, shoe-wearing special interest powers” that lobby in Tallahassee and protect the status quo.

But a look back at Corcoran’s track record as speaker during the past two sessions shows that the Land O’ Lakes Republican, who is known for his political acumen and ability to steer legislation through the process, didn’t always come out on top with his health-care agenda.

Corcoran passed one of three health-care priorities this session, a bill (HB 37) that would allow patients and physicians to enter into “direct primary care” agreements. Two other priorities — HB 23, which would have allowed patients to stay overnight at ambulatory surgical centers and established “recovery care” centers, and HB 27, which would have eliminated Florida’s  “certificate of need” regulatory program for hospitals — failed to get through the Senate.

“With his tenure of service in the House and the great reputation Mr. Corcoran has, one would think that any issue that he’s been supportive of would certainly pass during the legislative session,” said David Shapiro, a physician, board member of the Florida Society of Ambulatory Surgical Centers and a proponent of the ambulatory surgical-center bill.

“So I’m an outside observer of the legislative process, but as disappointed I am it didn’t pass, there’s also an element of surprise,” he said.

For political insider Mike Fasano, the Pasco County tax collector who served in the House and Senate, it’s a whole lot less surprising.

“It’s very difficult to achieve what you really want to achieve in two or four years,” said Fasano, who met Corcoran in the 1980s when the speaker was starting the Young Republicans of Pasco County.

And if a lawmaker has future political aspirations, Fasano said, it becomes even more challenging.

Corcoran, who will leave the House this fall after eight years, is widely rumored to be running for governor, though he has not announced his candidacy.

“If you have a speaker or president of the Senate say, ‘This is it. When I’m done, I’m going back home,’ and they have no desire to be anything else, then you’re sitting in a position that you don’t care what the special interests do or don’t do to you,” Fasano said. “But those are the same people funding your campaign for higher office, and that’s why it’s even tougher. You can’t go to the extremes you want to. I am not saying it’s good. I’m only saying it’s reality.”

Corcoran had health-care success during this year’s Session, which ended Sunday. The Legislature passed the “direct primary care” bill after four years of considering the proposal.

Under direct primary-care agreements, doctors charge patients monthly fees in advance of providing services, with patients then able to access services at no extra charge. HB 37 does not spell out how much can be charged or what services need to be included in the agreements.

An early proponent of the “direct primary care” legislation was the National Federation of Independent Business Florida, which saw it as an option for its small business members and as an alternative to Obamacare policies on the market.

NFIB Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said the bill was targeted for defeat in 2015 and 2016 because of bickering between the House and Senate over health-care policy.

“In every instance in the past with direct primary care, we can point to other circumstances that led to it not getting to the finish line,” Herrle said. “None of those circumstances were a lack of interest or effort on his part. It is a bicameral Legislature. It’s the system.”

In another fiery speech from 2015, then-budget chairman Corcoran talked about “transforming” the state group health-insurance plan for state workers. And he called members who opposed the efforts at the time “protectors of the status quo.”

Corcoran promised at the time that “if it is the last dying breath I have as a legislator, we will crack the status quo. And this is will be one of the ways we do it.”

The Legislature passed a state group health-insurance rewrite bill in 2017, two years after the speech.

But, insiders say, Corcoran shouldn’t be judged on what bills he passed. For Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy at The James Madison Institute, Corcoran was successful in “keeping bad stuff from happening.”

“Just as important as advancing good free-market health care is making sure that policy doesn’t go in the opposite direction. Opposing Medicaid expansion and disastrous effects is just as much keeping with free market principles,” Nuzzo said.

Karen Woodall, executive director of the left-leaning Florida Center for Economic and Fiscal Policy, agreed with Nuzzo that Corcoran will also be remembered for leading the opposition to a Medicaid expansion in 2015.

The Senate that year had included federal Medicaid expansion money in the budget, but the House refused to go along. The discord led to a budget impasse and forced lawmakers into a special legislative session, and ultimately the state didn’t expand Medicaid as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“His footprint has been to deny 800,000 low-income uninsured Floridians access to health insurance. Leaving billions of Florida taxpayer dollars in D.C. and costing Florida tens of thousands of high-paying jobs in health care,” Woodall said when asked about Corcoran.

Looking back at the 10 big issues of the 2018 Legislative Session

The Florida House and Senate ended the 2018 Legislative Session Sunday by passing a budget and a tax-cut package for the upcoming year. The Session became dominated in February by the aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. That led to a massive debate about how to improve school safety and whether to revamp the state’s gun laws.

Here is a recap of 10 big issues from the 2018 Session:


Lawmakers passed an $88.7 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, though they were forced to extend the Session by two days to finish the spending plan. The budget includes increased funding for education, with per-student spending in the kindergarten through 12th-grade system going up $101.50. The Senate also pushed through increased funding for nursing homes, while the House blocked a Senate attempt to change the way some Medicaid money is distributed to hospitals.

Health care

After years of legal battles in the hospital industry, lawmakers approved a plan to revamp the approval of new trauma centers. They also approved a long-discussed proposal that could lead to the use of “direct primary care” agreements, which involve patients and doctors contracting directly for primary care, reducing the role of insurers. The House, however, was unable to convince the Senate to go along with eliminating the controversial “certificate of need” regulatory process for hospitals.

Higher education

Throughout his term as Senate president, Stuart Republican Joe Negron has made a top priority of revamping the higher-education system. Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday signed a wide-ranging bill that includes permanently expanding Bright Future scholarships. The bill also calls for expanding some need-based aid programs and would require the state university system to use a four-year graduation rate as part of its performance-funding formula, instead of the current six-year measure.

Hurricane Irma 

Lawmakers came into the Session still grappling with the effects of Hurricane Irma, which slammed into the state in September and caused billions of dollars in damage. The House and Senate took steps such as ratifying rules for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have backup generators and fuel supplies to help keep the facilities cool. Scott’s administration issued the rules after residents of a sweltering Broward County nursing home died after Irma knocked out the building’s air-conditioning system.


The two highest-profile insurance issues of the Session involved proposals to eliminate the no-fault auto insurance system and revamp a controversial practice known as “assignment of benefits.” In the end, however, both issues died. The House approved repealing no-fault, which includes a requirement that motorists carry personal-injury protection, or PIP, coverage. But the proposal couldn’t get through Senate committees. Similarly, the Senate did not approve changes sought by insurers in assignment of benefits.

K-12 education

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other school-choice supporters got a victory Sunday when Scott signed a controversial bill that will expand voucher-like scholarship programs. The bill includes creating the “hope scholarships” program, which will help pay for children who have been bullied in public schools to transfer to private schools. The bill also includes a heavily debated change that targets teachers’ unions whose membership falls below 50 percent of the employees they represent.

Opioid epidemic

In one of the final issues decided during the Session, lawmakers late Friday approved a bill to stem the opioid epidemic that has caused a surge in overdoses across the state. A key part of the bill calls for placing limits on prescriptions for opioids. In most cases, the bill would place three- or seven-day limits on prescriptions, though it includes exemptions for people who are terminally ill, need palliative care or suffer from major trauma. The idea behind the limits is to prevent patients from getting addicted to painkillers.

Parkland aftermath

The Feb. 14 shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland forced lawmakers to quickly deal with school-safety issues and spurred a contentious debate about gun laws. Scott on Friday signed a $400 million package that includes improving mental-health services and allowing trained employees to bring guns to schools. The package also raises the minimum age to 21 and imposes a three-day waiting period for people buying rifles and other long guns. The National Rifle Association quickly filed a federal lawsuit challenging the age restriction.

Tax cuts

Getting ready to hit the campaign trail, lawmakers Sunday approved a bill that includes about $170 million in tax breaks. The measure includes holding a three-day tax “holiday” in early August to allow back-to-school shoppers to buy clothes and school supplies without paying sales taxes. A similar seven-day “holiday” will be held in early June for residents to buy hurricane supplies. The bill also includes tax breaks for farmers and ranchers who suffered damage in Hurricane Irma and would trim a lease tax paid by many businesses.

Texting while driving

With support from Corcoran, it appeared lawmakers this year could approve a long-discussed idea to toughen Florida’s ban on texting while driving. But the proposal did not make it through the Senate, at least in part because of concerns about racial profiling of minority drivers. Currently, texting while driving is a “secondary” offense, meaning motorists can only be cited if they are pulled over for other reasons. The proposal would have made it a primary offense, with police able to pull over motorists for texting behind the wheel.

Democrats file in Denise Grimsley, Katie Edwards-Walpole districts

Democratic candidates have opened campaign accounts to try to succeed Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, and Rep. Katie EdwardsWalpole, a Plantation Democrat, in November.

Lake Wales Democrat Catherine Price opened an account last week to run in Senate District 26, which includes DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee and parts of Charlotte, Lee and Polk counties, according to the state Division of Elections website.

Grimsley is running this year for state agriculture commissioner.

The only other candidate in the race is Rep. Ben Albritton, a Wauchula Republican who had raised $142,600 as of Feb. 28, a finance report shows.

Meanwhile, with Edwards-Walpole’s recent announcement that she will not run for another term in Broward County’s House District 98, Plantation Democrat Louis Reinstein became the first candidate to open an account to try to win the seat.

Legislature approves break for students with excess hours

Students who take too many classes while earning baccalaureate degrees could avoid a financial penalty if they graduate within four years, under a bill headed to Gov. Rick Scott.

The Senate on Friday voted 37-0 for the measure (HB 565), sponsored by Rep. Amber Mariano, a Hudson Republican.

The House earlier voted 115-0 for the bill. Since 2012, university students who take more than 132 credit hours of classes for a major that typically only needs 120 credit hours pay an excess-hour surcharge, which doubles the tuition rate. It means the normal per-hour rate of about $200 rises to $400 for those extra credit hours.

The bill would give first-time-in-college students up to 12 extra hours, penalty free, if they graduate within four years of enrollment. They would pay the penalty but would be reimbursed through a refund.

Analysts project it could help nearly 1,500 students avoid the surcharge annually, although it would result in a loss of $2.4 million for the universities. Mariano and Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican who sponsored the Senate version (SB 844), acknowledged it is a modest step in seeking financial relief for students who take too many classes, but they said they would try to expand its scope next year if Scott signs the bill into law.

Lawmakers ready for Sunday vote on budget

Florida lawmakers are poised to end their annual Session on Sunday by passing an $88.7 billion state budget that increases funding for school safety, mental health, environmental land-buying and college scholarships.

Both the House and Senate discussed the budget bill (HB 5001) on Friday, which was the last scheduled day of the 2018 Session. But legislative leaders extended the Session through Sunday, after running out of time to complete work on the budget before the 60-day Session ended. Sunday’s vote on the final budget, which takes effect July 1, will largely be a formality.

Lawmakers came into the Session expecting to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, an opioid epidemic ravaging the state, the Senate’s higher-education package and a House initiative on public schools.

But those plans changed on Feb. 14, when 14 students and three staff members died in a mass shooting at a Broward County high school.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had “a real impact” on the budget process.

“We responded aggressively,” Bradley said. “If we don’t protect our kids, what are we here for? That’s job one.”

The kindergarten-through-high-school system will be the primary beneficiary of a $400 million school-safety initiative that includes $69 million for mental health programs and a $162 million “safe schools” program to hire more law enforcement officers to provide security at schools.

The package (SB 7026), signed by Gov. Rick Scott on Friday, also includes a $99 million grant program for schools to improve the physical security of campuses.

The $21.1 billion public school budget provides an average $101.50 increase in per-student funding across the state, a 1.39 percent increase over the current amount. But a handful of large school districts, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Duval and Pinellas counties, will see less than a 1 percent increase in per-student funding.

House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Manny Diaz, a Hialeah Republican, said the school budget avoids a potential $376 million increase in local property taxes. It does that by rolling back the tax rate to account for increased values on homes and businesses. The budget, however, includes $107 million in local property taxes reflecting new construction.

Several House Democrats said Florida needs to do more for its public schools. And they questioned $150 million in maintenance and renovation funding for charter schools, compared to $50 million for traditional public schools.

“We’re always at the bottom,” Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, said about Florida’s ranking among states in per-student funding.

Republicans defended the increase in charter school funding as part of an agreement included in a separate education bill (HB 7055) that will let school districts keep their local property taxes for maintenance and construction rather than share it with charter schools.

House Democrats also criticized a reduction in a $300 million affordable housing fund. House Tourism and Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Clay Ingram, a Pensacola Republican, said $185 million was shifted out of the fund for other spending priorities, leaving $109 million for affordable housing.

There were fewer questions about more than $100 million spent on the Florida Forever program, which allows the state to purchase environmentally critical land.

Bradley, who was a major proponent of the initiative, said it represents the largest financial commitment to the program since the state budget was undermined by the last recession.

“I think the Florida Forever funding puts us back on the right track,” said Rep. Ben Diamond, a St. Petersburg Democrat.

In health care, Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, cited a $130 million increase in Medicaid funding for nursing home rates in the new budget. She said it also includes a $30 increase in the monthly allowance given to nursing home residents, providing them $135 for personal care items, like hair styling.

The budget includes 69 new investigators for the Department of Children and Families for child protective teams, which Flores said was a priority for the governor.

It also includes funding for staffing to reopen a veterans’ nursing home in Orlando and for a new veterans’ home in St. Lucie County.

Bradley also cited the permanent expansion of the Bright Futures scholarship program that will provide more financial aid to more than 90,000 students attending state universities and colleges. A $121 million increase in the program is included in a higher-education bill (SB 4) that is awaiting action by Scott.

Bradley urged bipartisan support for the spending plan.

“I ask that you not only vote yes but do so proudly because I think that this is a budget that has everyone in the chamber’s fingerprints on it,” he said.

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz said her caucus was not taking a position on the budget, with most Democrats saying Friday they remained undecided.

“I’m really vacillating. I’m not sure how I’m going to vote on this budget,” Cruz, a Tampa Democrat, said.

Cruz said she is happy about many of the initiatives but would like to see higher funding for health care, mental health and affordable housing.

“Sometimes I worry about whether those who are financially disadvantaged count enough in this state,” she said.

Lawmakers sign off on generator requirements

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be required to have generators and 72 hours of fuel after the Legislature agreed to ratify a pair of proposed rules sought by Gov. Rick Scott.

Despite concerns about a potential $243 million impact over the next five years, House members Friday voted 108-1 to pass a bill (SB 7028) that will require assisted living facilities to have generators.

The House and Senate had earlier approved a similar rule for nursing homes. Scott issued a statement thanking legislative leaders Friday for ratifying the rules.

“This means Florida’s elderly and vulnerable residents will be safer during natural disasters, and I will never stop fighting to keep them safe,” the governor said in a statement.

The new rules replace a pair of emergency rules that the governor issued in September following the deaths of residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Broward County. Hurricane Irma knocked out the nursing home’s air-conditioning system, which led to sweltering conditions.

The emergency rules sparked legal challenges from some industry groups concerned about the potential costs of generators and the quick timeframes sought by the Scott administration. The state appealed the decision and continued to enforce the emergency rules.

The permanent rules ratified this week came after negotiations between the Scott administration and long-term care facilities. But House leaders had remained concerned about the costs for assisted living facilities, which range dramatically in size.

Friday’s House vote on the assisted-living facility rule was a surprise turnaround and came after aggressive lobbying from the Scott administration, including Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior.

The issue of nursing homes and assisted living facilities having backup power on site was a top priority of Scott during this year’s Legislative Session.

But the House never introduced a bill to ratify the ALF generator rule.

House leaders, however, agreed Friday to take it up and pass it. Rep. James Grant, a Tampa Republican, was the lone no vote. The Senate voted unanimously Monday to approve the bill, which means the measure is now ready to go to Scott for his signature.

Gail Matillo, president of the Florida Senior Living Association, said her members are glad to have permanent rules in place.

”We’ll work closely with our members to make sure they can comply in the best way possible,” she said.

Florida Health Care Association lobbyist Bob Asztalos also said the rules lay out what is expected of long-term care providers going into the hurricane season.

“We appreciate that the governor worked with us developing (the rules) and are pleased that now there is certainty in how we take care of our residents for disaster purposes,” he said.

Rick Scott signs school safety bill into law

Flanked by the parents of Broward County teenagers slain in the nation’s second-worst school shooting, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a sweeping package addressing mental health, school safety and guns.

Immediately, the National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the new law, which raises the age from 18 to 21 and imposes a three-day waiting period for the purchase of rifles and other long guns. The age and waiting-period requirements already apply to buying handguns, but the NRA contends that the new restrictions on rifles are unconstitutional.

Scott’s signature came after weeks of intensely emotional advocacy by students, educators and families of the 17 people shot dead by 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The parents accompanying Scott on Friday praised the governor and lawmakers for the unprecedented speed in passing the legislation, just three weeks after the Feb. 14 massacre.

“To everyone that’s watching out there, I wish I could tell you that I’m happy. But how could we be happy? He buried his sister, and I buried my daughter. To me, this is a start for us,” Andrew Pollack, accompanied by his son Hunter, told reporters after Scott signed the school-safety package (SB 7026).

Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, was among the 14 students killed, said he and other parents plan “on moving forward and hitting every other state to make sure they follow the lead of Florida.”

Speaking on behalf of the 17 families, Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter, Gina, was killed, called the new law the “beginning of the journey” to prevent “future acts of horrific school violence.”

“We have paid a terrible price for this progress. We call on more states, to follow Florida’s lead, and create meaningful legislation to make all schools safer. This time must be different,” he said.

Scott said the measure addressed all of the issues highlighted by the tragedy.

“Will this bill make a huge investment and dramatically improve school safety, in the hopes of never seeing another tragedy like this again? Will this bill provide more funding to treat the mentally ill? Will this bill give far more tools to keep guns away from people who should not have them? The answer to all three is yes. That is why I am signing the legislation today,” Scott, said, as media from across the nation, crammed into the governor’s office, looked on.

The $400 million package kindled political and ideological divisions for lawmakers already on edge after the heart-wrenching testimony from the shooting survivors and parents of the 14 slain students and three faculty members. The gun-related provisions in the legislation — or those left out — overshadowed other elements of the bill.

Democrats were split on what many considered a “poison pill” that allows specially trained teachers and other school personnel, deputized by sheriffs, to bring guns to school. School boards and sheriffs would have to agree to implement the program for it to go into effect. Teachers who work “exclusively” in the classroom would be excluded from the program, but those who have additional duties, such as drama coaches, would be eligible.

For some, the legislation marked an important first step toward stricter gun regulations and a vital response to the Parkland community’s demand for action.

But for others, the “school guardian” program was a deal-breaker.

Calling the program “scary,” black legislators objected that it would endanger minority children who are more likely to be punished at school. And the state teachers’ union asked Scott for a veto, saying the proposal allowing more than 200,000 school personnel to qualify to bring guns on campus would “do more harm than good.”

“We had to make a choice. Compromise is messy, especially when both chambers are controlled by Republicans,” Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat who graduated from the Parkland high school and who was present for the bill signing, told The News Service of Florida.

In addition to the new restrictions on purchasing rifles and other long guns, the new law also bans the sale or possession of “bump stocks,” which allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic fully automatic weapons. And it gives law enforcement officials the ability to seek court orders to seize weapons from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.

“So, in the totality of things, the guardian program is optional. I am hoping a lot of counties don’t opt in, and I am hoping a lot of teachers also don’t opt in. At the end of the day, we’ll be left with a really good gun-control, gun-reform bill in the state of Florida,” Moskowitz said.

But many frustrated Democrats also rejected the proposal because it failed to include a ban on assault–style weapons, such as the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle Cruz used to mow down students and teachers at the school he once attended.

On the other side of the aisle, the new regulations on purchasing firearms — the first gun restrictions approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature in nearly two decades — divided the GOP caucus. The NRA’s Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer, a former national president of the gun-rights group, branded those who voted for the proposal as “turncoat Republicans” who “caved to bullying and coercion.”

“(Scott) put his hand on a bible and took an oath to support, protect and defend the Constitution,” Hammer said in a telephone interview Friday. “So Gov. Scott obviously has a hard time keeping his word.”

The federal challenge accuses the state of  “violating the constitutional rights of young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 years,” Hammer said.

After the legislation was proposed, Scott repeatedly objected to the three-day waiting period and allowing teachers to be armed.

But the governor said Friday he and others had to compromise, acknowledging that the gun regulations went too far for some and not far enough for others. He said

“I know the debate on all these issues will continue, and that’s healthy in our democracy. People are passionate in their beliefs and they should be. But, we should not insult or disparage each other. We should work together to make our schools safe for our kids. We have a lot of work ahead of us in order to enact these reforms and make our schools safer. This is a time for all of us to come together, roll up our sleeves, and get it done,” he said.

Senate confirms agency heads, PSC members

The Senate on Friday unanimously approved the confirmation of nine heads of state agencies and water-management districts, along with three members of the Florida Public Service Commission.

Approved agency heads were Erin Rock, secretary of the Department of Management Services; Jim Poppell, secretary of the Department of Lottery; Michael Dew, secretary of the Department of Transportation; Noah Valenstein, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection; Phillip Sutton, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Eric Larson, executive director of the Agency for State Technology; Jonathan Zachem, secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation; Ernie Marks, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District; and Hugh Thomas, executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District.

Confirmed Public Service Commission members were Chairman Art Graham and commissioners Gary Clark and Andrew Fay.

Gov. Rick Scott reappointed Graham and appointed Clark last year to the utility-regulatory board and appointed Fay early this year.

Colin Hackley

Rick Scott to meet with Parkland parents as decision looms

Gov. Rick Scott will meet Friday with the families of victims of last month’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, raising expectations that he will sign into law a sweeping school-safety measure that sparked veto requests from critics on both ends of the gun-control spectrum.

The proposal (SB 7026) would raise the minimum age from 18 to 21 and require a three-day waiting period for people purchasing rifles and other long guns, requirements that already apply to buying handguns. The measure also would ban the sale of “bump stocks,” which allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic fully automatic weapons.

The new gun restrictions have infuriated the powerful National Rifle Association, in a state the gun-rights organization has used for years as a testing ground for model legislation.

Meanwhile, teachers, parents, black lawmakers and other critics are blasting the bill for a controversial provision that would allow specially trained school personnel, including teachers, to bring guns to schools. Teachers who “exclusively” perform classroom instruction would be excluded from the program, meaning teachers who have other duties, such as drama coaches, would be eligible to participate.

The Florida Education Association on Thursday asked Scott to veto the measure, saying more than 200,000 school employees could qualify to carry firearms, which would “do more harm than good.”

“Our teachers and other school employees are ready to fiercely defend our students but none of them should ever have to choose between shepherding students to safety or confronting an armed assailant where they are sure to draw fire towards the very students they are trying to protect,” Joanne McCall, president of the teachers’ union, wrote in a letter to the governor.

NRA Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer on Thursday also sent out an “emergency alert” to supporters, urging them to contact Scott and demand a veto.

Hammer, a former national president of the gun-rights group, accused House leaders of forcing Republicans to support the measure, which the House passed Wednesday in a 67-50 vote. Just 19 of the chamber’s 77 Republican members opposed the bill, following what Hammer called “one of the most despicable displays of bullying and coercion.”

The proposal “violates Second Amendment rights and punishes law-(abiding) citizens for the actions of a mentally ill teenager who murdered 17 people after Florida officials repeatedly refused to get him the help he needed,” Hammer wrote, referring to 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who is charged with murdering 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.

The $400 million school-safety package includes money for early mental-health screening and services, school resource officers, school-hardening grants, and $25 million to raze and rebuild the freshman building where the shooting spree occurred. The bill also includes a commission that will investigate the events leading up to and response to the attack by Cruz, who had a lengthy history of mental-health problems. The commission will also make recommendations.

Scott has repeatedly said that he objects to the three-day waiting period in the legislation and opposes “arming teachers,” but would not say whether he intends to sign the bill into law.

But the governor telegraphed what action he might take on the measure, which the 17 families said they support and asked him to sign.

“I’m going to review the bill line-by-line, and the group that I’m going to be talking to, the group that I care the most about right now, because it impacted them so much, is the families,” Scott told reporters Wednesday.

Immediately following the nation’s second-worst school shooting, students, parents and teachers from the Parkland school flooded the Capitol, pleading with the Scott and the Legislature to act. Many Douglas High student survivors demanded a ban on assault-style weapons, along with a hike in the age to purchase rifles.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been inundated by emails and phone calls from opponents and supporters of the measure, which does not include an assault-weapons ban.

Two fathers whose daughters were among the 14 students slain on Valentine’s Day watched from the House gallery as the chamber debated the measure Wednesday.

The Parkland parents and students were instrumental in the passage of Florida’s first gun restrictions in nearly two decades, said Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat who graduated from Douglas High and served on the Parkland city commission.

“These parents, unfortunately, should not have had to do this. It should have been obvious that we needed to do something after Parkland. We should not have needed an additional push from these parents. These parents should be grieving, not lobbying for us to do the right things. There’s no question that they were the difference makers,” Moskowitz said.

In contrast to previous school shootings, such as the massacre at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, when the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature was unwilling to irk the NRA, state lawmakers quickly passed this year’s measure for two reasons, according to Moskowitz.

“Because we were in Session, and being in Session in an election year, those two forces combined and something had to happen,” he said. “Parkland was the worst place for this to happen, and the best place for this to happen. It showed everybody in America that this can come to your neighborhood. If the safest city in the state, if this can happen there, it can come anywhere.”

Fish and Wildlife picks spark Senate debate

In a somewhat-unusual move, Senate Democrats objected Thursday to three of Gov. Rick Scott’s appointees to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — though the appointees were ultimately confirmed.

The move came as the Senate took up confirmation of up dozens of Scott appointees to state boards.

Sen. Gary Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, questioned the qualifications of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission appointees Gary Nicklaus, Sonya Rood and Gary Lester.

That led Republicans to defend the Governor’s choices.

“These people are of honor and integrity and deserve our vote,” Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, said.

Senators then voted 23-14 to approve the nomination of Nicklaus; 25-12 to approve the nomination of Rood; and 24-13 to approve the nomination of Lester.

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