Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 389

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at

Chris Sprowls gets Democratic opponent in HD 65 race

While Palm Harbor Republican Chris Sprowls is expected to glide to another two-year term in the Florida House this November, at least the Democratic Party has now put up a candidate to run against him.

On Friday, Alex Stephen Toth, also of Palm Harbor, filed to run for the House District 65 seat.

Sprowls, 34, has been on a fast track in the Legislature since winning HD 65 in 2014. He currently serves as chair of the House Judiciary Committee and is in line to become Speaker in 2021.

He’s raised more than $119,000 in his race to win reelection this year, with more than $100,000 still available for him to spend.

Toth was not immediately available for comment.

HD 65 includes Clearwater, Dunedin, and Tarpon Springs in northern Pinellas County.

Sean Shaw: Second Amendment silent on assault weapons

The Second Amendment has already surfaced as an issue in the Attorney General race, although a different perspective will likely emerge once Sean Shaw hits the campaign trail full-time.

The Tampa Democrat hasn’t done much campaigning since he officially entered the contest last month, but, undoubtedly, he will transition into candidate-mode when the Legislative Session concludes.

Speaking to parishioners Sunday at Bethel African-American Episcopal Church in East Tampa, Shaw was incredulous that House Republicans rejected a proposal to discuss banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, despite the pleas from students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The vote came just six days after a former student killed 17 people at the Broward County school.

“I don’t care what you hear, I don’t care what you see, or who you speak with, that is a fact, and it’s very upsetting,” Shaw said.

Speaker Richard Corcoran and other House Republicans say it would have been unprecedented to address the bill (HB 2019) since it had not been passed out of committee.

Republicans in the Legislature will have a chance to vote on gun regulations this week, beginning Monday, when the Senate Rules Committee will discuss provisions which include raising the legal age for purchasing any firearm, imposing a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases, and increasing school safety measures. A similar package will be taken up by the House Rules Committee on Tuesday.

Shaw says he supports those proposals and will vote for them in the House. But he also says the proposals do not address assault weapons, a common denominator in the Parkland and Pulse massacres.

“People should not have access to these weapons of war,” he said angrily. “I don’t care what (people say) the Second Amendment says and I read it and I’m a lawyer and it does not give you the right to have an assault rifle. It’s not what the Second Amendment does. The Second Amendment allows the government to regulate gun laws and that’s what we intend to do.”

In the early stages of the Republican race for Attorney General, Jacksonville state Rep. Jay Fant accused former Hillsborough County Judge Ashley Moody of being insufficiently supportive of the Second Amendment, and challenged her to a debate on the subject (Moody declined).

While the political fallout from Parkland may rejigger the calculus for some Republicans on gun regulation matters, Fant does not appear to be in any sort of retreat, tweeting just days after the Parkland massacre that “liberals on fake news” were driving the gun control debate.

Shaw was elected in 2016 to represent the heavily Democratic-leaning House District 61 in Tampa and other parts of Hillsborough County, but he says that constantly being on the losing end of party-line votes like last week’s bill on discussing an assault weapons bans is in large part what has compelled him to run for Attorney General this year.

“I worked very hard for this seat, but you can hear the frustration in my voice, and that’s one of the reasons why I decided to run for attorney general, because, as one of 120 members of the Florida House, I can’t do anything but vote in the minority to address those kids that we’re standing up at that gallery,” he said, “but I know what I can do as Attorney General. I don’t have to ask nobody for nothing! If I want to do something, it gets done.”

Ryan Torrens is the other Democrat in the race. Pensacola state Rep. Frank White and Dover state Rep. Ross Spano fill out the Republican field.

(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco).

Bill Nelson dismisses Rick Scott charge he’s done ‘nothing’ on gun safety

Bill Nelson is responding to criticism offered by Rick Scott that the Democrat has done “nothing” when it comes to gun safety.

“I have voted for and sponsored every major piece of legislation, including the comprehensive background checks, as well as getting the assault rifles off the streets,” Nelson told reporters Sunday following a church service he attended at Bethel African American Episcopal in East Tampa.

He said that those votes have gone in vain because Democrats are the minority party in Congress, sidestepping the fact that the Democrats did control all levers of the federal government in 2009 and 2010.

“Too many people have a desire to have an A+ rating from the NRA,” Nelson continued, boasting that he’s proud to have earned an “F” grade from the country’s leading gun rights group.

Scott announced a $500 million school safety package on Friday that the GOP-led Legislature will begin debating on Monday. Most of that funding would go towards putting a law enforcement officer in every public school, and beefing up Safe Schools funding to provide metal detectors, bulletproof glass and steel doors in classrooms. The proposal also calls for gun purchase restrictions for those committed under Baker Act and, perhaps most notably because it goes up against the NRA, a law requiring all people buying firearms to be 21 or older.

That provision, as well as similar measures proposed by President Donald Trump such as stronger background checks and banning “bump stocks” – a device that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire more rapidly — has left Nelson “encouraged” in terms of Republicans being willing to consider measures that they never explored prior to  the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre.

Nelson says it’s the young people at Stoneham Douglas and around the state who have been so passionate in calling for gun regulations that is making a difference so far.

“They see how the massacres increase so much when you have a high-velocity, rapid fire weapon that is designed for combat,” said Nelson, a self-described lifelong hunter.

Nelson said he was in sync with Scott in not supporting the idea of giving teachers guns for protection.

The Florida Democrat is running for reelection for his Senate seat, where he expected to face Scott, who has yet to formally declare his candidacy.

On Friday the two sounded like they were already running against each other when Nelson was dismissive of Scott’s suite of gun safety measures, saying the leadership coming from the governor’s office was “weak” and that he was choosing to only to listen to the NRA, and not the voices of the friends and family members of the Parkland victims who are calling for a ban on assault weapons.

Those comments prompted Scott to reply in kind that Nelson was simply a career politician who in almost 50 years of public life had done “nothing” to show for himself when when it comes to gun safety.

When asked to respond to that claim on Sunday, Nelson began by saying that Scott had failed to answer the question posed by a reporter.

“The question was: what do you think about Bill Nelson said ought to be done? The governor didn’t answer that question. He just wanted to go out, always blame the other fella,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he would reserve comment about the fate of Broward County Sheriff Sheriff Scott Israel, who is now facing severe heat following revelations that his office failed to adequately follow up on red flags about Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old confessed gunman of the Parkland incident. Coral Springs police officers who responded to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School say several Broward sheriff’s deputies waited outside rather than rush in as the killer was gunning down students.

Scott has called for the Florida Deptartment of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to conduct an investigation into the law enforcement response to the shooting in Parkland. Because of that investigation, Nelson said he would refrain from commenting.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bill Hager became the first member of the Florida House to call for  Israel to resign from office based on reports about his agency’s handling of the shooting. That list had grown to nearly every other member of the Florida House by Sunday afternoon.

(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco).

Hundreds of high-school students protest gun violence in Tampa rally

Chanting “we want change now,” hundreds of Blake High School students marched to Curtis Hixon Park Friday afternoon, calling for gun-control measures in the wake of the massacre in Parkland last week.

The crowd was stacked with mostly students, joined by other Tampa Bay area activists determined to perhaps finally see gun regulations enacted following the most recent shooting attack on primarily teenagers which stunned the nation.

“We don’t want your prayers, we want legislation,” read a sign held by Elizabeth Smith, who said that she’s never been much of a fan of the National Rifle Association, the all-powerful gun-rights organization that for nearly two decades has been described as the single most significant force for Congress and state legislatures failing to enact gun regulations.

“I feel like once we get rid of the NRA, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) can step in and figure out why these things are happening,” Smith said. “They say ‘they’re just high school students, they’re too young to know anything, but here we are. We know why we’re here, and we know what we’re talking about, and we know that if we do this, and we’re collective about compromise and change that we can get something done.”

Antonio Walker held a sign reading: “How many lives is your gun worth?”

Walker hopes that the anger in the country about Parkland can result in a diminution of the NRA’s power.

“I hope that they hate what we’re saying and they understand that it’s an issue for everybody,” he said of school gun violence. “It can happen to their kids. It can happen to any of us.”

While he won’t turn 18 until after the election, Walker can’t wait to vote in 2020.

“We’re about to vote and make change ourselves in our own voices,” he said, “so it’s time that we actually do that.”

Zoe Gallagher is a 14-year-old sophomore at Blake who also dances at the Patel Conservatory. She attended the march with her mother and little brother.

When she learned of the killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week, Gallagher was shocked and scared.

“I’m not really a big follower of politics, but things like that have made me think more about how I want to make sure to stay attuned about what’s going on, ” she said. “its made me more conscious.”

High-school students weren’t the only ones at the protest.

Sixty-eight-year-old Kent Fast says he vividly remembers the protests against the Vietnam War that was led by the younger generation half a century ago. He said the protests this week against gun violence “feel different,” a feeling he attributes directly to youth leading the activism, something not seen in America in a very long time.

A hunter and gun owner, Fast says he’s not “stupid” and sees no reason anybody needs an AK-47, AR-15 or any other type of assault weapon.

“I want some reasonable gun control and I think there’s some room for that,” he says, adding that “even Marco Rubio was moving off the square” regarding his announcement on live television on Wednesday night in the CNN town hall from Sunrise where he announced he now supported some gun regulations he had never previously believed in.

At 29, Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Pigott is used to being one of the younger people at social protests. He calls it “very encouraging” to see so many people just half his (relatively young) age out in the streets calling for social change.

“Their eyes are open, and they’re determined to keep on knocking, until somebody answers,” says Pigott, a pastor from Riverview.

Activist groups announce plan to pre-register high school students in states represented by pro-NRA legislators

With teenagers directly impacted by last week’s massacre in Parkland calling for politicians to stop accepting support funds from the NRA, three activist groups announced this week that they will spend $1 million nationally on registering eligible high-school students to vote in the 2018 midterms, with an emphasis on Florida and California.

NextGen America, Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, and Everytown for Gun Safety will launch on March 25th, a day after the March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington, and will include a national voter registration drive, support fellowship programs for high school students, and provide trainings that will reinforce their activism.

NextGen America is led by environmentalist and progressive philanthropist Tom Steyer, who will kick in $1 million of his own money to jump start the program.

“If this Congress won’t act to protect our kids, we must elect one that will,” said former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of the gun safety group Giffords. “If the politicians who have benefited from millions of dollars in NRA cash won’t pass laws to make our schools and communities safer, we will vote them out. Today, students from Parkland and across the country are inspiring the country to be better. Come November, many of those young Americans will be making the difference themselves as they cast their votes for the first time.”

“The passion and courage displayed by young people after the mass shooting in Parkland has compelled millions of Americans to act,” said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Teens are speaking out and demanding more of their elected leaders. Now they’re ready to channel their passion into the 2018 elections, when voters will throw out lawmakers who are beholden to the gun lobby and its dangerous agenda.”

According to a press release, the effort will focus on districts and states represented by legislators who are backed by the NRA and have consistently opposed common sense gun reform. It will include a large digital and mail voter registration program, as well as a pre-registration program for 17 years olds in states such as Florida and California.

Florida, coined “The Gunshine State,” by critics following the Trayvon Martin Stand Your Ground case in 2012, has long been considered one of the most pro-Second Amendment states in the union, at least when it comes to its conservative  Legislature.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, considered a leading candidate for governor,  tweeted last summer that he was a “proud sellout” to the NRA, and directed supporters to sign a petition declaring that they too, could become an NRA sellout. He has now removed any such reference on his campaign website.

Florida’s largest teacher union backs Rick Scott school safety plan

The Florida Education Association hasn’t often championed Gov. Rick Scott‘s education proposals, but it is applauding his $500 million plan to address school safety that he announced Friday in Tallahassee.

The suite of proposals most notably does not include arming schoolteachers, an idea that President Donald Trump and other Florida Republican lawmakers have proposed in the wake of last week’s gun massacre in Parkland.

“I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who has mental issues to use a gun,” Scott said at a news conference unveiling his proposals. “I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who is a danger to themselves or others to use a gun.”

The plan does include spending $450 million to put a law enforcement officer in every public school, and one officer for every 1,000 students by the 2018 school year. It also calls for hiring more mental health counselors to serve every student a school and funding to provide metal detectors, bulletproof glass and steel doors.

Safety plans would be required before the money would be spent.

“Our members’ primary concern right now is to ensure that our students feel safe and cared for in our schools. We are determined that our students never again experience these all too common shootings,” Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall said in a statement. “We thank the governor and all those involved in crafting this proposal, it is very close to what the FEA has been calling for.”

Scott worked with a variety of experts in preparing his school safety plan, including educators.

An “overwhelming majority of citizens are in agreement that weapons designed for war have no place in our society,” McCall said, adding that while legislators can debate gun control regulations, the FEA will continue to focus on educating public school children and protecting students and education employees.

“We call on both sides of the gun debate to come together for our students — especially for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High,” McCall said. “The safety of our students is in the hands of our elected officials. It is time to act. No more excuses.”

In defiance of the National Rifle Association, Scott also backed raising the minimum age to buy any firearm, including semi-automatic rifles, to 21 from 18.

Ross Spano, Grady Judd call for allowing guns in schools, churches

In the aftermath of the shooting massacre in Parkland last week, Florida Democrats (and some Republicans) have talked about reducing the ability for some individuals to acquire firearms.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Ross Spano, a candidate for Attorney General, is going in the opposite direction.

Spano and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd released their own sets of proposals Friday to address gun violence, pre-empting similar announcements scheduled to be made later by Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders.

“All week we’ve seen people react to the Parkland tragedy reflexively, often without substance or long-term vision,” Spano said. “We owe the families and friends of those 17 victims, as well as the thousands of survivors, something much better than an empty gesture,”

The recommendations include provisions for making schools safer and addressing mental health issues, but one measure would allow churches and other religious facilities to allow members of a congregation who are licensed to carry a concealed firearm to carry during services.

It would also expand the ‘sentinel program‘ that would allow teachers, administrators and parents who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon. The program would require participants to pass enhanced background checks, undergo emotional/psychological evaluation and complete comprehensive standardized training.

The measures introduced do include Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs), a proposal that U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said earlier this week that he could support.

These GVROs would permit a narrowly defined group of people (law enforcement, spouse, parent, sibling, roommate, etc.) to petition the court for an order to temporarily remove a troubled individual’s gun rights.

The order would be appealable and would lapse after a defined period of time, that is unless petitioners or the state can produce clear and convincing evidence that it should remain in place.

With eight days left in the 2018 Legislative Session, Judd was asked if there is time to approve such a wide-ranging program.

“They can certainly approve it at the macro level,” he said. “These plans will have to be tailored to each county to provide safe environments for the children.”

 Judd said whatever is finalized, there must be permanent recurring funding.

“One time doesn’t work,” he added.

“My focus has been that you can have a firearm at home to keep your children safe, businesses can be armed to protect themselves. The only gun free zones are the schools, where our treasures, our children are.

“A resource deputy is not enough. It is one-on-one. We want to overpower the attacker,” Judd said.

Second Amendment rights have surfaced as a major issue among the four candidates running for the GOP nomination for Attorney General. Spano is running against former Hillsborough County Judge Ashley Moody and state Reps. Jay Fant from Jacksonville and Frank White from Pensacola.

Fant and White have attacked Moody as insufficiently tough enough in her defense of the Second Amendment. A winning strategy perhaps in the primary, but a stance that could be problematic in the general election, depending if the fervor for gun regulations that emerged this week in the wake of Parkland will continue throughout the rest of the year.

“We need a better system in place to interdict credible threats when they are made,” Judd said. “And, we need a realistic, last best chance to keep our children alive in schools by having a group of select, well-vetted and well-trained teachers, coaches, and staff who will carry concealed weapons on campus to stop a killer if he shows up.”


Bill Rufty contributed to this report.

David Jolly: Assault weapon license should be as hard to get as White House security clearance

David Jolly says he’s not sure that a ban on assault weapons is possible in Washington, but believes a solution that could happen immediately is to make them “functionally obsolete” for the average citizen.

“Make the requirements to get an assault weapon as hard as it is to get a security clearance in this White House,” the former Republican congressman quipped to laughs while addressing the Cafe Con Tampa crowd at the Oxford Exchange Friday morning.

“That would be a yearlong process,” he said, turning serious to say that it would allow authorities to get as much information about a person’s background as possible, including serious training and storage requirements that he thinks would only allow the most trained sportsman or woman to handle.

Like many Republicans, he also says that enforcing current laws on the books to a greater extent would also work, or as he says, “Enforce the gun laws as strictly as Donald Trump wants to enforce the immigration laws.”

Though not a card-carrying NRA member, Jolly did receive $9,600 in contributions from the gun rights organization in his special election against Democrat Alex Sink in 2014 and was the beneficiary of the group spending more than $100,000 against Sink in that same campaign.

He said the current background check process is relatively toothless, consisting of a criminal conviction check and little else. People’s mental health history, including counseling, is currently not part of such a check.

And with all that has been learned about Parkland confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz, Jolly said it should be.

Universal and comprehensive background checks should include every transaction involved with a gun, Jolly said, so if somebody wants to sell it to a family member, it should be done at the local sheriff’s department.

Jolly said he’s now “evolved” to the point where he believes such medical background history needs to be included in such a background check.

Joining the Indian Shores Republican in the discussion was former Treasure Coast Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy, who called guns like the AR-15 “weapons of war” designed to kill human beings, and said they need to go away.

Cruz used an AR-15 to kill 17 people last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week.

“If you need 50 rounds to kill a deer, you need a new sport. Bottom line,” he said.

Murphy said in the current climate in Washington (controlled by Republicans in both the House and Senate)  banning assault weapons isn’t a viable possibility, but says it should be the ultimate goal.

Eliminating bump stocks, addressing mental health and reinforcing school safety are “baby steps” that Murphy believes are possible to achieve now.

A joint appearance by two moderate former members of Congress (who collectively only spent six and a half years in Washington) was part of their traveling road show on ways to get Washington working better, a tour they are holding across the state and other parts of the country since the fall.

To their credit, Jolly and Murphy aren’t preaching to the crowd that they need to be as moderate politically as they are, but that it’s essential to find common ground to fix the problems that our political system is supposed to do but has been breaking down over the past few decades into increased partisan rancor.

Jolly attributes the beginning of the fissure was the mid-1990s when Newt Gingrich led the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives. However, he also insists that Democrats were poised to do the same thing if they were in charge (which they were for decades in the U.S. House before 1994).

“Newt Gingrich realized not only did we take control of the House of Representatives, we’re now going to demand that K Street give us all their money that they’ve been giving to Democrats,” he said, “and then we’re going to go around the country and set up these funds to push lobbyists money into the states, so we can take over our state legislatures, and start to redistrict, start to close primaries, and put a chokehold that ensures that Republicans have a structural advantage for the next couple of decades.”

“And that’s what they did.”

After losing a re-election bid after redistricting in Florida’s 13th Congressional District in 2016 to Charlie Crist, Jolly has become omnipresent on CNN and MSNBC as one of the most outspoken Republican critics to President Trump. Although he’s said as recently as a month ago that he was still considering a run for office in 2018, he all but admitted on Friday that’s increasingly unlikely.

“Not only am I candidate without a party, I’m a candidate without a donor base.”

He did add that he is already involved with efforts to help out a Republican primary presidential challenge to Trump in 2020, having recently met with Republicans in both Iowa and Washington D.C.

Murphy said the teenagers who were directly affected by the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School and have been protesting this week about gun violence give him great hope.

“It’s powerful for our country,” he said.

Murphy concluded: “To get involved, to knock on doors, to get out there to vote, or at least get others to vote. That’s a powerful thing. Politicians, by and large, will care more about that than the money, or anything else, if they see that as a sustaining movement, it can’t be one week, two weeks and done.

“This has to continue for months, and unfortunately probably years to be effective, but with the passion that I see, I am optimistic that this can be a generation that does lead to results.”

Jeremy Ring: Divest FRS from gun makers

During his freshman year in the Florida Senate, Democrat Jeremy Ring led the fight to make Florida the first state in the nation to pass a bill to divest from Iran. Under that legislation, $1 billion in state pension funds was screened for holdings in companies doing business with or investing in Iran’s oil sector.

As he now runs to serve as the state’s chief financial officer more than a decade later, Ring says if elected, he would push to have Florida divest in any company that manufactures assault weapons for civilian purchase.

Ring lives in Parkland, the site of last week’s deadly mass shooting. He said the idea came to him this week as he sought what he could positively do as CFO to try to prevent another such event.

“We are market makers; the Florida Retirement System (FRS) is the gold standard,” Ring says. “It can do more to significantly affect the stock price of a company than just about any pension fund in America.”

Ring adds that, as a fiduciary, his job is to make sure the retirement system gets the strongest return for its beneficiaries and makes its annual investment return goals. There is no way, he maintains, that divesting from such companies will hurt Florida’s pension fund.

His idea came after it was reported that the FRS had more than 41,000 shares in American Outdoor Brands Co. with a market value of $528,000, according to a Dec. 31 securities filing posted on its website. American Outdoor Brands is the Massachusetts-based parent company of Smith & Wesson.

Federal law enforcement officials say Nikolas Cruz used an M&P 15, Smith & Wesson’s version of the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Along those same lines, Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham released a statement on Thursday calling for the state to divest all Florida’s state interests from gun and ammunition manufacturers.

Ring’s proposal would not be as sweeping, as it’s limited to divesting from companies that manufacture assault weapons for sale to civilians, not to the military.

Florida is just one of at least a dozen states that own stocks issued by the makers of firearms, Bloomberg reported earlier this week.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, one of the largest pension funds in the country, has divested from firearm makers that are illegal in the state.

Bob Buckhorn now says Tampa may not appeal firefighter’s sexual discrimination ruling

At one time, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn “vowed” to appeal the federal jury verdict for firefighter Tanja Vidovic, winning her case of claiming that the city discriminated against her because she was pregnant and fired her in retaliation for complaining about it.

But the mayor’s office is now saying Buckhorn, in fact, has not decided whether to challenge the ruling.

“The mayor hasn’t decided on (an) appeal,” said spokesperson Ashley Bauman.

This revelation startled Vidovic during an appearance on Tampa’s WMNF 88.5 FM.

“Everything that I had heard from both [city attorney] Tom Gonzalez and from his statement in the newspaper was that he was [filing an appeal], so that’s news to me,” she said.

Before that, the perception had been that the city would indeed appeal the decision.

In a conversation with the Tampa Bay Times February 14, Buckhorn said: “We are appealing this with valid legal reasons.”

The next day, a Times editorial opined: “Having had its day in court and lost, the city should have respected the verdict and moved on.”

The op-ed continued: “But Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn defended Tampa Fire Rescue this week and vowed to appeal. That was exactly the wrong tack, legally and morally, and it could open taxpayers to even further financial exposure in a case that already has cost the two sides about $1 million in legal fees.”

In December, a federal jury found in favor of Vidovic in her case against Tampa Fire Rescue, awarding her $245,000 in damages. Last week, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich ruled that she should be reinstated back to Tampa Fire Rescue within the next two months.

In the interview Thursday, Vidovic, a married woman, recounted how she had been sexually harassed during the first five years of her career at Tampa Fire Rescue, including having captains text or outright ask her for sex.

Initially, she never complained about it.

“There’s a system in there when you’re called like a rookie for the first five years,” Vidovic recalled. “You’re not supposed to talk. Harassment is supposed to be part of it.”

“I was hoping it would end, and then when it didn’t, when it became more severe, I decided I should speak up.”

Vidovic continued: “After speaking to some women in the dept. and explaining to them what happened, they’re like ‘yeah, it happened to me, it’s going to happen to you.’ There was one woman who said ‘it’s not the first time, it’s not going to be the last.'”

During her eight-year career with Tampa Fire Rescue Vidovic was pregnant three times. Her employment there ended the day after she filed a lawsuit against the city in April 2016. Vidovic never wanted to sue, but she wanted to go through mediation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Also during the radio interview, she complained there was no paid maternity leave at the time. “I requested it.”

Now, that leave is available for all city employees, as the mayor announced in early 2017 that the city would begin providing paid parental leave to full-time workers. The policy will offer primary caregivers with eight (8) weeks and secondary caregivers with two (2) weeks of paid leave after the birth of a new child or an employee with a child placed for adoption or foster care.

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