News Service Of Florida – Page 5 – Florida Politics

News Service Of Florida

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.

Senate targets denial of insurance claims

The Florida Senate on Saturday unanimously approved a bill that would curb the ability of health insurers and HMOs to retroactively deny claims.

Under current law, health plans can retroactively deny claims up to one year after payment if patients are determined to be ineligible.

A Senate staff analysis said that can lead to financial risks for doctors if patients don’t ultimately pay the claims.

But the bill (SB 162), filed by Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, would bar retroactive denials of claims if insurers or HMOs verify eligibility at the time patients are treated and if the health plans provide authorization numbers.

A similar House bill (HB 217) has been approved by the Health Innovation Subcommittee and Appropriations Committee and is in the Health & Human Services Committee.

The annual Legislative Session is scheduled to end Friday.

Senate OKs new rules for payday loans

The Florida Senate on Saturday approved revamping regulations for payday loans.

Senators voted 31-5 to pass a measure (SB 920) that would allow payday lenders to make larger loans for longer periods of time.

The industry-backed proposal also has sailed through House committees, though it has drawn opposition from some consumer advocates.

The bill would allow the businesses to make “installment” loans up to $1,000, with repayment over 60 to 90 days. Current law limits the high-interest loans to $500 for periods of seven to 31 days.

Supporters say the proposal was prompted by potential changes in federal regulations that could affect the types of smaller-dollar, shorter-term loans made by payday lenders in Florida.

Also, supporters contend that payday loans play a key role for many low-income people who don’t have access to other types of credit.

During brief comments on the Senate floor Saturday, sponsor Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, alluded to those issues, saying the bill would ensure the “short-term credit market” would survive amid the potential federal changes.

But some consumer and religious groups have fought the proposal, arguing that payday loans can put borrowers in a “debt trap.”

“We have seen members of our congregations and those in the communities around them fall victim to the debt trap that this type of loan supported by this bill creates,” Rachel Gunter Shapard, of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida, said in a statement this week.

The bill was opposed Saturday by Miami-Dade lawmakers: Democrats Daphne Campbell, Jose Javier Rodriguez, and Annette Taddeo; and Republicans Anitere Flores and Rene Garcia.

The issue now goes to the House, with the 60-day legislative session scheduled to end Friday.

Senators met Saturday primarily to take up a school-safety package stemming from the Feb. 14 mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. The Senate on Saturday morning began what was expected to be hours of discussion about the package.

Stage set for reaching deal on tax cuts

Florida lawmakers prepared Friday to hammer out a tax-cut plan, with the Senate introducing a $148 million package and the House scrapping a controversial tax-related proposal that local governments argued could prevent them from banning unwanted businesses such as “puppy mills.”

For most Floridians, the highlights of a final package could be sales-tax “holidays” for back-to-school shoppers and hurricane-season preparations, though the details of House and Senate proposals differ and will have to be negotiated.

House and Senate leaders said earlier this week that they expect a final tax-cut package of about $80 million. Both proposals are larger than that benchmark, but legislative leaders have said they will need to scale back tax cuts to help pay for a $400 million school-safety plan after the mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

House Ways & Means Chairman Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican whose committee crafted a nearly $400 tax-cut package, acknowledged Friday that changes will be needed.

“Given the recent events, there will be some changes before we get to the final tax bill,” Renner said.

The House on Friday took up its package (HB 7087) and positioned it for a vote as soon as Monday.

The House package includes a 10-day tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers, which would allow people to avoid paying sales taxes on clothes costing $60 or less and school supplies costing $15 or less and on the first $1,000 of the cost of personal computers and accessories. The House plan also includes three seven-day holidays on the purchases of hurricane supplies.

Also, the House package includes a controversial plan to expand by $154 million a year sales-tax credits that businesses could receive to fund voucher-like scholarships in the Gardiner Scholarship Program and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

The Senate package (SB 620) approved Friday by the Appropriations Committee does not include the tax-credit proposal.

Renner called the school tax credits a “very, very important” part of the House plan. But Renner moved Friday to remove two controversial proposals that had only been in the House package.

The first was language that would have prohibited local governments from banning sales of goods that are subject to sales taxes. Local government officials argued the policy change could have lifted restrictions now in place against “puppy mills” and adult entertainment establishments.

The second issue removed Friday would have further lowered a tax on aviation fuel, a proposal that had been opposed by airport officials across Florida.

Proponents of the aviation fuel tax reduction — the rate is already set to drop from 6.9 cents to 4.27 cents a gallon next year — argued a further decrease would help draw more air traffic. Airport officials countered that the reduction wouldn’t result in more flights to Florida, and their facilities rely on the fuel tax to obtain matching federal dollars to pay for upgrades.

Renner said “our priorities have changed” after the Parkland school shooting and that the move wasn’t tied to a Delta Air Lines decision to drops a discount program for National Rifle Association members — an issue that has drawn heavy attention in Georgia’s legislature.

“This is a first step in looking at how we make additional revenues available,” Renner said of removing the proposed $14.1 million aviation fuel-tax reduction from the bill. “We’re going to spend upwards of $400 million in school hardening, in school security and mental health, and these other areas, and that money has to come from somewhere.”

Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican, said the Senate measure, which includes components of other bills, should address the needs of many Floridians, especially “people who suffered from Hurricane Irma.”

The Senate is offering a reduction in a commercial lease tax from 5.8 percent to 5.7 percent.  The House has proposed dropping the tax rate to 5.5 percent starting Jan. 1.

The Senate package includes a seven-day tax holiday on hurricane-preparation items such as batteries, portable self-powered radios and generators.

The Senate’s back-to-school holiday would run three-days in early August. Unlike the House’s 10-day proposal, the Senate would not lift sales taxes on the first $1,000 of the price of a personal laptop computers and accessories.

Both the House and Senate would provide tax breaks on fencing materials purchased for repairs after Hurricane Irma. Also, proposals call for providing tax breaks for citrus packing houses that have had their businesses interrupted by Hurricane Irma or the disease citrus greening and for fuel used to transport agricultural products after the storm.

Lawmakers approve post-hurricane KidCare aid

Despite an earlier assertion from a top Medicaid official that the state could be giving a “freebie,” lawmakers have agreed to fund Florida KidCare health-insurance premiums for more than 6,000 children living in 48 counties that were impacted by Hurricane Irma.

Legislators this week agreed to spend $20,339 in state general revenue for Florida KidCare premiums to cover monthly co-payment requirements. Justin Senior, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, said the money will draw down $522,034 in federal matching funds and will cover the costs of about 6,000 children in the 48 counties who were disenrolled from the program for not paying premiums.

Following the hurricane, Gov. Rick Scott agreed to extend for 30 days the time frame to pay premiums for October coverage. The monthly premiums range from $15 to $20 based on family size and income.

The governor, though, never waived the requirement to pay premiums altogether, as some people had sought. Former Gov. Jeb Bush waived KidCare premiums for Florida families during the tumultuous 2005 hurricane season, and Texas received federal approval to waive premiums for families impacted last year by Hurricane Harvey.

House and Senate Democrats, as well as child health advocates, called on the Scott administration to cover the required premiums with tax dollars. But Beth Kidder, a deputy secretary at the Agency for Health Care Administration, told reporters in October that “tens of thousands” of families in the Florida Healthy Kids program paid their premiums on time and that waiving the requirements could reward people who dragged their heels.

 “Why would you give a freebie to those who did not act responsibly in the beginning?” she said at the time.

Senior said Friday that the Florida Healthy Kids Corp. board of directors told the agency in January to pursue a waiver from the federal government that would allow Florida to pay the premiums and draw down the federal funds.

State Rep. Bobby DuBose, of Fort Lauderdale, was one of five Democratic state representatives who sent a letter to the governor and Senior asking them to assist with the premiums. U.S. Sen Bill Nelson, health-care advocates and the Florida Senate Democratic caucus also called for the governor to act.

DuBose smiled Thursday night knowing the children didn’t lose their coverage for not timely paying the October premiums.

“The things you think are easy and make common sense are the things you work the hardest for,” DuBose said.

School safety, prisons draw budget attention

Florida lawmakers continued budget negotiations Thursday night, trying to find $400 million for a school-safety initiative and money to deal with costly litigation targeting the state prison system.

After striking a deal on local property taxes, the House and Senate have agreed to spend $21.1 billion on public schools in the 2018-2019 academic year, which would represent about a $100 increase per student.

But they are still trying to allocate that funding while accommodating a $400 million school-safety package, prompted by the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Broward County high school.

An offer early Thursday evening by the House would provide $67.2 million for mental-health services in the public schools, as well as $162 million for the “safe schools” program, which provides funding for school resource officers and other security measures. The safe schools program currently receives $64.5 million a year.

Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., a Hialeah Republican who is leading the House negotiations on public school funding, said those numbers reflect the ongoing talks between House and Senate leaders on a school-safety package, which is scheduled to be taken up Friday by the Senate.

But at the same time, he said lawmakers have had to adjust funding for other education initiatives. For instance, the new House offer proposed spending $45.3 million on classroom supplies for teachers, down from a $63 million initial offer from the Senate.

“Whenever you spend $400 million somewhere, you’re going to cause some issues. We’re trying to work through this,” Diaz said.

The cost of the school-safety initiatives as well as other recent impacts on the state budget, including a decline in projected corporate income-tax collections and higher Medicaid costs, are impacting other areas of the proposed $87 billion-plus budget.

On Thursday, the Senate backed off a proposal that sought $345 million in state performance funding for the university system, agreeing with the House to leave it at $245 million, which is the current level. Negotiators also agreed on $30 million in state performance funding for the 28 state colleges, which is also the current level.

In the prison system, lawmakers are having to respond to legal settlements in cases alleging prisoners are not receiving adequate treatment for infectious diseases, mental health issues and disabilities.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, the St. Petersburg Republican who is leading the Senate negotiations on civil and criminal justice issues, estimated the new budget will contain about $100 million in response to those legal mandates involving the Department of Corrections.

Lawmakers agreed Thursday to immediately spend $21 million on treatment for prisoners with hepatitis C, an infectious disease that may affect as many as one out of every five prisoners in the system. Treatment can cost as much as $37,000 for a 12-week regimen.

Additionally, the House proposed spending $19.2 million on the treatment during the upcoming 2018-2019 fiscal year, with the Senate offering $15 million.

The House and Senate agreed Thursday to spend another $42.6 million on mental-health treatment, including hiring 289 people.

Lawmakers are also in agreement on spending more than $6 million to care for disabled prisoners under a court settlement that came after advocates alleged the state was discriminating against prisoners who were deaf, blind or confined to wheelchairs.

Despite the overall challenges, Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley of Fleming Island said the budget negotiations remain on target for a final deal by Tuesday, which will allow lawmakers to vote on the spending plan on March 9, the last day of the 2018 session.

“We’re having great communications. It’s been a very smooth process,” Bradley said.

In negotiations on agriculture and natural-resources issues, Wauchula Republican Rep. Ben Albritton said lawmakers have agreed to set aside $50 million for the state’s natural springs and $50 million for beach renourishment.

The chambers remain apart on issues such as water projects and the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee. The House has proposed $50 million for the federal dike project.

The two sides have also settled at $500,000 for bear-resistant trash containers and $110 million for a petroleum tank clean-up program administered by the Department of Environmental Protection.

In health-care negotiations, House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo of Miami said the distribution of Medicaid dollars to Florida’s hospitals is “one of the big areas of the budget that is left to be negotiated.”

The Senate wants to replace an existing system that favors safety-net facilities that serve a greater percentage of poor and disabled patients with a plan that would increase base Medicaid payments for all hospitals.

“We are much more sympathetic to the safety nets that provide exceptional amounts of indigent care,” Trujillo said. “The Senate is not. So, we are working toward that end of really protecting the safety nets.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers agreed to direct $10 million to provide “transition” payments for nursing homes that will be adversely affected by a new payment system, which the Legislature approved last year and goes into effect in the upcoming year.

“We’re very grateful the Legislature recognized that we needed some transitional help,” said Emmett Reed, executive director of the Florida Health Care Association, a statewide nursing-home group. “It’s huge.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Lawmakers weigh trauma center money after shootings

In a move sparking opposition from some Republicans, Florida senators are considering a proposal to use money collected from gun owners seeking concealed-weapons licenses to pay medical costs for victims of mass shootings.

The Senate has included the proposal in a major school-safety and gun-regulation measure drawn up in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people. The push to steer money to trauma centers came from Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, a Miami Gardens Democrat.

Gino Santorio, Broward Health executive vice president and chief operating officer, applauded the proposal.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragedy in our community and appreciate the state’s support in times like these,” he said in a statement to the News Service of Florida.

Seventeen patients were treated at the health system’s hospitals following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The system also treated 54 patients following the January 2017 shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport where five people were killed.

But Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican running for governor this year, blasted the idea of using concealed-weapons license money for trauma centers. Putnam oversees the department that is charged with issuing concealed-weapons licenses.

“I oppose taxing law-abiding concealed weapon licenses for atrocities carried out by criminals,” Putnam said in a prepared statement. “If anyone should be taxed for those heinous acts, it should be criminals. The monster who murdered 17 people in Parkland wasn’t even eligible to have a concealed weapon license.”

The proposal also doesn’t seem to have support from House leaders, who have not included trauma funding in their bill dealing with guns and school safety.

Under Braynon’s proposal, $10 million in concealed-weapons license fees would be shifted to the Attorney General’s Office. Trauma centers would apply for reimbursements, which would be based on a fee schedule. Reimbursement would have to be accepted as payment in full, and trauma centers could not bill the victims.

House budget chief Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican, said he was sympathetic to the victims but said the proposal didn’t make sense.

“I can understand for maybe the indigent,” Trujillo said. “But I think a lot of variables need to be considered,” such as patients’ insurance coverage and whether hospitals are part of public health systems.

If a victim is covered by a commercial insurance plan, the carrier is likely to reimburse the hospitals more than the state ever would, Trujillo said. Moreover, even if the insurance was “subsidized,” there still is some type of insurance coverage a carrier is obliged to pay, he said.

“I think there’s a lot more going on than just saying we are going to give them (trauma centers) money just because of mass casualties,” Trujillo said. “We’re 100 percent sympathetic with the victims, and they shouldn’t be charged co-pays. And we should help them as much as we can. But how is that different than any other traumatic event? These are trauma centers. So how is that different than the lady who got hit by the drunk driver?”

This isn’t the first time the Legislature has been asked to provide funding to hospitals that treat patients from mass shootings like the one at the Parkland high school.

A similar request was made during the 2017 Session by two Republican lawmakers. But the idea never gained momentum and wasn’t part of budget discussions. The money would have been available to any trauma center or emergency department with a graduate medical education program that treated victims of mass casualties or disease outbreaks.

Rep. Rene Plasencia, an Orlando Republican, noted in a budget request that there was “overwhelming support in communities where trauma centers responded to mass casualty incidents — in particular in Orlando when Orlando Health’s Level I trauma center so effectively managed the Pulse mass casualty incident.”

Orlando Health’s Orlando Regional Medical Center treated 35 patients at its trauma center in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016. Orlando Health billed for $5 million in health-care services that weren’t reimbursed, most of it stemming from the trauma center, said Kena Lewis, Orlando Health director of public affairs.

David Strong, President and CEO of Orlando Health, said he appreciates Braynon’s efforts.

“As the only Level One Trauma Center in Central Florida, we understand the mental, emotional and financial toll these horrific tragedies have on a community,” Strong said in an emailed statement. “A fund like the one proposed will provide some level of certainty and relief for healthcare organizations who are charged with providing life-saving care to these victims.”

House passes abortion restriction

The Republican-dominated House on Thursday approved a bill that would restrict the most common type of second-trimester abortions.

The measure (HB 1429), sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican, would impose new restrictions on doctors performing dilation-and-evacuation abortions, in which a woman’s cervix is dilated and the fetus is removed in pieces.

The procedure, described by opponents as “dismemberment abortion,” would be prohibited unless the heart of a fetus is stopped first by the injection of a drug, like potassium chloride, or by another procedure.

The bill would allow exceptions when women’s lives are in danger and if no other medical procedures would suffice. Grall described the legislation as a “middle ground” for her since she staunchly opposes abortions.

“This bill acknowledges a woman is having an abortion,” Grall said. “Let us remind ourselves of our humanity and make sure we do not tear a child apart in the womb just because they cannot articulate their pain.”

Rep. Amy Mercado, an Orlando Democrat, spoke in opposition to the bill, saying the new restrictions would present “substantial obstacles” to a woman’s right to an abortion under federal and state law.

The bill passed 72-42 largely along party lines, with House Republicans in support and Democrats in opposition.

A similar bill (SB 1890), sponsored by Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Rockledge Republican, has not been heard in the Senate.

House backs tougher texting-while-driving ban

The Florida House approved a measure Thursday that would allow law-enforcement officers to pull over motorists for texting while driving, despite concerns the bill could increase instances of racial profiling.

The House voted 112-2 to support the proposal (HB 33), which would make texting while driving a “primary” traffic offense, allowing officers to pull over motorists for texting.

It currently is a “secondary” offense, which means police can only write tickets for texting while driving when they stop motorists for other reasons, such as speeding.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, has made a priority of the change, but a Senate version (SB 90) of the bill is stalled.

Rep. Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican who is the primary sponsor of the House bill, said that “despite all the other important issues that we are dealing with, we came together and worked together in a bipartisan fashion to save lives.”

Co-sponsor Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat whose twin sister, Dori, died in a car accident 22 years ago, said the change is needed. Currently, when police officers see someone texting while driving, she said they have to “wait for that 16-year-old driver to hit somebody, or run a red light, or kill somebody.”

To try to address concerns about racial profiling by police, the House and Senate versions require law-enforcement officers to record the race and ethnicity of each person pulled over for texting while driving.

Rep. Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat, said he initially opposed the bill, but the data collection requirement eased his concerns.

“I represent a district where a lot of people look like me, and I do not want another reason to pull someone over that looks like me,” Shaw, who is black, said. “But the process works in this particular bill. There was a data collection component placed into the bill where we will be able to collect data and see whether there is a racial component to this and act accordingly.”

Both proposals would allow motorists to make phone calls on electronic devices. Also, the devices could be used for such things as getting directions.

Regulators back new FPL power plant

A Florida Power & Light project to build a new natural-gas plant in Broward County received a key state approval Thursday.

The state Public Service Commission approved what is known as a “determination of need” for the 1,163-megawatt plant, which would replace two older generating units in Dania Beach.

The $888 million project is planned to begin operating in 2022.

The Sierra Club and the state Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers in utility issues, opposed granting the determination of need, saying FPL had not shown the new plant is needed to meet customers’ projected energy usage in 2022.

But during a brief discussion before Thursday’s vote, Commissioner Julie Brown said reliability of electricity generation is “paramount” with the project.

FPL has said the project would improve air emissions and would lead to long-term cost savings for customers, at least in part because the new plant would operate more efficiently than the older units.

Plan for armed teachers causes political rifts

A controversial proposal that would allow armed teachers in schools has led to bipartisan bickering and prompted accusations that people in both parties are making political pawns of victims of this month’s catastrophic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 14 students and three faculty members dead.

The mother of a slain teacher, black legislators and Florida Democrats are pushing back against the proposal, which would allow teachers with special training to bring guns to schools and is an element of sweeping school safety measures slated for debate Friday in the House and Senate.

With the legislative session scheduled to end March 9, House and Senate leaders are scurrying to pass a school-safety bill, sparked by the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the high school in the Broward County community of Parkland.

The House and Senate proposals include funds for mental-health screening and treatment in schools as well as money to “harden” schools and add more school resource officers.

Also, the bills would raise the required age from 18 to 21 and impose a three-day waiting period to purchase rifles and other long guns and would give law enforcement officials the ability to remove guns from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.

But the measures are drawing criticism from all corners.

Linda Beigel Schulman, whose son, Scott Beigel, died protecting students from a hail of bullets at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, said she and others are being manipulated by politicians far more sophisticated than the Parkland community members.

“I feel like sometimes we’re being used,” Schulman told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

Lawmakers have earmarked $67 million for what has been dubbed the “school marshal” program that could lead to armed teachers. Gov. Rick Scott has not included such a program in his school-safety proposal and has repeatedly said he opposes arming teachers.

Under the Senate version, school boards and school superintendents would have to agree to the marshal program, and county sheriffs would be responsible for training and deputizing teachers or other school personnel who volunteer. But sheriffs would not be required to place volunteer marshals inside schools.

In contrast, the House plan was amended Tuesday to require sheriffs to implement the program, if school districts decide they want to use it. The move angered Democrats, who were already frustrated that the GOP-backed plan failed to include a ban on assault-style weapons.

The marshal program – rejected by Scott again Wednesday – has heightened tension on the already controversial package, splitting Democrats who are torn about whether to support the package without the ban on assault-style weapons. Republican House members also are in a sticky spot as they decide whether to vote against the powerful National Rifle Association, which opposes the bills, or vote against a measure framed by GOP leaders as essential for making schools safer.

Schulman told Senate Democrats early Wednesday that many parents who testified in support of the House proposal Tuesday were unaware of how the bill (HB 7101) had been altered.

“We’ve been very misled,” Schulman said, adding that the night before the bill was amended, lawmakers promised her and other parents that it would not be changed. They endorsed the bill “not knowing what was thrown into it,” she said.

“When I told people after, they were mortified. So here we’re supporting one thing and something else is there. I don’t know how we can be told the truth, if there’s such a thing at this point,” Schulman said.

But House Rules & Policy Chairman Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican who was among the lawmakers who met with more than 100 parents and others from the Parkland community at a dinner Monday night, said he didn’t promise the grieving family members that the bill would remain as is.

“We’re in a highly charged environment. People are highly charged about what they think the solutions are and what works and what doesn’t,” Oliva told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

Oliva said he met with some of the parents after the House proposal was amended, and they did not share Schulman’s reaction. He called the bill a compromise.

“That’s the thing with compromise. You’re going to get people on both sides of the aisle that are not happy about it,” he said.

Oliva said people “on all sides” are politicizing the legislation.

“This is a compromise bill that has been put together, but the politics around it are toxic, and people are taking advantage of the opportunity,” he said.

Some Republicans oppose the bills because they “feel this infringes upon a right for a group of people that were not responsible for this,” according to Oliva.

Democrats in both chambers are split on the measures.

“I’m totally mixed,” Democratic Rep. Lori Berman of Lantana told The News Service of Florida Wednesday evening. Berman said she voted for the bill in committee Tuesday, in part after hearing the support of teachers, parents, school board members and others.

But after listening Wednesday to Schulman, Berman, who said she opposes “arming teachers,” is even more ambivalent.

“I’m still not sure how I’m going to vote when it’s on the House floor. It’s not just South Florida Democrats who are conflicted. I think we’re all internally conflicted,” she said.

For other Democrats, a “no” vote is simple.

Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, who is black, called the program “a recipe for disaster,” in part because he fears it could endanger minority students.

The House and Senate plans already have additional funding — $75 million in the Senate proposal, and nearly $100 million in the House measure — that schools can use for resource officers. The legislation also includes up to $100 million for mental- health screening and services and up to $95 million for school hardening grants.

The school marshal program backed by the Republican leaders is “icing on the cake,” Braynon said.

“And I’m going to say it, this icing hurts little black children. And you’re telling me, I don’t care. I like icing anyway. And that is what has pissed me off and made me so angry and it also made me sad. Because it almost implies that someone else’s children are more important than my children,” he said.

While the House and Senate Democratic caucuses haven’t taken a position on the measures, the Florida Legislative Black Caucus came out Wednesday in opposition.

Sen. Perry Thurston, chairman of the caucus, said black lawmakers fear that the marshal program could worsen what he called a crisis in the black community regarding how law enforcement treats minority children.

While mass shootings in schools “happen way too often,” they don’t occur as frequently “as the shootings that our kids see in their own community,” Thurston said, adding the black caucus wants more resources directed to minority communities instead of a program that arms teachers.

Schulman, the grieving mother, asked officials on both sides of the aisle to “do what’s right.”

“Could you just erase your minds, erase your political affiliations? You can’t put yourself in our place. It’s an impossibility. But without all the other stuff, just be human. Do what’s right. Not do what’s going to get you elected in November,” she said.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons