Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 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

Senate panel clears contentious omnibus education bill

A controversial omnibus education bill made its first appearance Tuesday in the Florida Senate, where Port Orange Republican Dorothy Hukill unveiled a strike-all amendment to the legislation before the Education Committee.

The bill (HB 7055) ultimately was approved, although without a provision that organized labor said was designed to gut the state’s “right to work” laws.

The Senate bill keeps in most of the more controversial elements of the House version, including the Hope Scholarships for students who have been bullied. The estimated $40 million program would be paid for by people who buy cars making voluntary contributions for a tax credit.

The package also included a financial literacy course (SB 88) and school visitation rights (SB 118) and included additional funding for expanded mental health services (SB 1434).

The committee also supported an amendment by Fort Lauderdale Democrat Perry Thurston that would require school districts to implement a school resource officer program, in which officers would be trained by law enforcement on policies and procedures to deal with an active shooter on a school campus.

“We don’t think it goes far enough, but we think it will aid towards fortifying the schools,” Thurston said in introducing the amendment less than a week after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, where 17 were killed.

Naples Republican Kathleen Passidomo (who introduced the bill on behalf of Hukill before the committee) conceded Thurston’s amendment was friendly, but she added that it would be more appropriate to allow that program to be inserted into the comprehensive bill being proposed by Senate leaders Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson.

Simpson disagreed. He recommended that the committee support it, which they did.

Hukill also added the provocative proposal passed in the House that would decertify teachers’ unions and force them to disband if membership falls below 50 percent of the employees they represent. That led to the most dramatic portion of the one hour and fifty-minute hearing.

Thurston added an amendment that would remove the union decertification provision from the bill, saying that it had never came before the Senate yet, and should be debated up or down on its own merits.

Fort Lauderdale Democrat Gary Farmer blasted the provision, calling it a “mean, spiteful attempt to take away the rights of workers.”

Rich Templin from the Florida AFL-CIO said the legislation would not give any power or add transparency to school teachers, but in fact take it away. And he said it would completely destabilize public education in the state.

Republicans on the committee asked for guidance on how many school districts in the state could be affected by the law, but nobody had that answer. Ultimately, Thurston’s amendment passed by a 5-4 vote.

Farmer then proposed that the bill be approved, stripped of the Hope Scholarship provision. That went down in defeat.

There was also a bit of contentiousness towards the end of the hearing, when senators had agreed originally called to be voted on by 12:50 p.m. When the senators weren’t prepared to vote until 12:52, Farmer parried an objection, prompting a call for legal staff to intervene. He then backed down and allowed the vote to be extended until 12:56 p.m.

The measure then passed. It will be held by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Court denies rehearing for developer in $16.5 million Pinellas zoning case

There will not be a rehearing in the case that could have cost Pinellas County taxpayers $16.5 million over a Safety Harbor apartment complex that the County Commission rejected five years ago.

The 2nd District Court of Appeals in Lakeland denied a request for rehearing by the Richman Group of Florida.

The court originally ruled last November in favor of the county, making it clear that local taxpayers would not have to pay the millions for the County Commission having denied a developer its constitutional rights by failing to grant a proposed zoning and land use change.

The case arose out of a 2012 request that the city of Safety Harbor rezone a 34.55-acre parcel of land at the intersection of McMullen-Booth Road and 10th Street so that it could build a 246-unit apartment complex and 25,000-square-feet of single-story office space.

To accomplish this, the land — which had several zoning designations — had to be rezoned to residential. About 15.8 acres of the larger property was zoned industrial.

The proposal won preliminary approval with a 3-2 vote from the Safety Harbor City Council. The proposal had to win the county’s approval before it went back before the Safety Harbor council for the final OK.

But, after hearing from 308 residents opposed to the development, Pinellas County commissioners turned down the proposal saying they believed in the preservation of “industrial” land in 2013.

Richman then appealed to an administrative law judge, who said the Commission was wrong when it denied the rezoning. Preservation of industrial land was not mentioned in the land code as one of the criteria the County Commission can follow in deciding zoning and land use cases.

The case went back before the commission, where they were instructed by their attorney that they were bound to follow the administrative judge’s ruling about what they could consider in deciding the case. The commission once again went ahead and unanimously voted to turn down the request, leading to the lawsuit.

In June 2016, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Walter Schafer Jr. ruled in favor of Richman, and Pinellas was ordered to pay $16.5 million in lost profits and interest to the Richman Group.

The county appealed that ruling, and the 2nd District Court overturned the judge last November. Richman has 30 days to file an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court.

For Democrat Heather Stahl, gun control is now top issue in HD 64 race

When Democrat Heather Kenyon Stahl entered the House District 47 race last month, seeking the seat currently held by Republican Jamie Grant, her emphasis was on education, transportation and health care.

While those issues remain at the forefront of her campaign, another subject emerged — gun control — which few Democrats hoping to make it to the Legislature talked about just a week ago.

Now, guns have become a major part of Stahl’s platform.

“It wasn’t a part of my platform but is now the absolute number one thing priority of my campaign,” Stahl said to cheers at the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee meeting in Ybor City Monday night.

“We have four children that are all in the public school systems in Hillsborough and Pasco counties, and I am devastated at what guns have done for our children,” she told the crowd. “I never want to hear another parent come home and have to hear the words that their child is no longer alive. That is no longer acceptable, so that’s going to be a big thing in this campaign because my opponents are running the race to see who can be the most not only ‘red’ but gun friendly and NRA friendly.”

The issue of gun control has catapulted nationally and in Florida following the latest gun shooting massacre, this time the Broward County city of Parkland on Feb. 14, when 17 people were killed and another 14 wounded at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.

Terry Power, an Oldsmar-based certified financial planner, is challenging Grant in the HD 47 Republican primary. Grant received an “A” rating from the NRA when he began his House career in 2010.

“This isn’t about taking away people’s constitutional rights,” Stahl said in a statement Monday night. “This is about common-sense measures like background checks and raising the age of those that can purchase AR-15’s. I want to ensure guns stay out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have those weapons in the first place.”

On Monday, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, said his chamber is preparing a package that would include raising the age to purchase any firearm to 21, creating a waiting period for purchasing any type of firearm, banning bump stocks that can allow semi-automatic guns to spray bullets quickly and creating gun-violence restraining orders.

Stahl also faced a primary opponent, special needs teacher Christopher Smutko, who has since withdrawn from the race and is now backing Stahl.

“The needs of the hardworking families in our district and the state should always come before personal ambitions,” said Smutko in the statement from the Stahl campaign. “C.S. Lewis once noted that, ‘True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.’ It is in that spirit that I have decided to end my campaign and support Heather Stahl to represent District 64 in the Florida House of Representatives.

“Ms. Stahl has an extensive record of success in driving growth and innovation in the Tampa Bay area and I believe she is the best person for the job.”

Stahl is the former CEO of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, and currently works in sales training.

House District 64 covers parts of northeastern Pinellas and northwest Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough lawmakers pleased with changes to HART routes

As a consequence of funding issues, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) made sweeping changes to its bus system last fall, cutting nearly 20 percent of all routes.The decision alienated some County Commissioners, unhappy with the level of service reductions in their districts.

HART staff heard those objections loud and clear, saying they intended to tweak the system after a few months.

At a news conference Monday in Brandon, officials announced that they were doing just that.

The agency is claiming the new changes will increase frequency on key routes, reduce wait times and provide faster connections for customers.

“Implementing these enhancements allows us to better align our services and routes to best meet the needs of our customers, and ensure they have a great experience when they ride HART,” said HART Interim CEO Jeff Seward. “Enhancements through Mission MAX have provided HART with a solid foundation of high-quality bus service that we can build on as our community grows.”

“I’m proud of the work and investment my colleagues on the Hillsborough County Commission took in supporting HART and realizing this round of enhancements,” Hillsborough County Commission Chair and HART board member Stacy White said in a statement.

White was among the most vocal of critics of HART’s “Mission Max” plan when it was announced last fall, declaring that many of his bus riding constituents in Eastern Hillsborough County “got hosed,” and that it was “terrible for residents in unincorporated Hillsborough.”

The proposed route cuts announced last summer expect to save HART $5.8 million annually, with a fleet reduction during peak hours from 157 buses to 121.

Some of the agency’s busiest routes in Tampa run through City Councilman Frank Reddick’s district. He said the service improvements “will greatly benefit current passengers and future passengers of HART.”

HART Board Chair and County Commissioner Les Miller has bemoaned the agency’s lack of funding and continues to say that he is supportive of the idea of raising the agency’s tax rate, while Commissioner Sandy Murman has said she intends at some point to introduce a proposal to financially support the agency over the next few years.

Commissioner Pat Kemp has argued for the county to give more funding to the board as well, though that idea has not received any traction with her board colleagues.

Route changes can be accessed online. They will go into effect Sunday, Feb. 25.

Rick Kriseman to name St. Pete library after Barack Obama, some take issue

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Monday morning his administration is renaming the city’s main library after former President Barack Obama.

Not everyone was pleased.

Kriseman made the announcement on Presidents Day in front of the library at 3745 9th Avenue North. The renaming is to coincide with the library’s planned $6 million in renovations, using funds from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax recently re-upped for another decade by Pinellas County voters.

While naming public buildings after past presidents is hardly unusual, the move sparked controversy on the internet, with Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith weighing in on his Facebook page, saying Obama has nothing to do with St. Pete.

“Mayor embracing his hyper-partisan image,” Smith wrote. “What if next mayor changed the name to Donald J. Trump Library?”

Predictably, the decision set off an exchange of responses (both pro and con) on the Times website as well, with some comments hinting of racism.

Detractors complained the library should be named for a local figure; supporters noted that Martin Luther King Jr. was not a local figure either. King, of course, has a major street named after him in St. Pete.

“It’s not like anyone is going to forget about Barack Obama (whether your opinion is positive or negative),” wrote Cliff Perkins. “So why waste resources to name a local library after him? He has no connection to St Petersburg. If it needs a name, pick someone local who has contributed to literacy or scholarship in the region.”

Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Susan McGrath thought the decision to name the library after the nation’s 44th president makes perfect sense. One of Tampa’s main streets is named after former President John Kennedy, she noted, and McGrath often flies a few times a year into Reagan-National Airport in Washington D.C., which is named after former President Ronald Reagan.

While partisanship divides the country (as well as some quarters of St. Pete, apparently), the controversy honestly surprises McGrath.

“It’s not an issue before that we expect the legacies of presidents to be carried forth and reflected in the naming of buildings,” she said, adding the election of the first black president in the U.S. was historic and significant.

The Kriseman administration began discussing with community leaders as far back as last spring about renaming of the main library, and the enhancement of the library’s programming to include an emphasis on presidential history, civics, and the contributions of both Obama and Michelle Obama.

Obama endorsed Kriseman in his bid for re-election last August, just days before the primary. In the race against former Mayor Rick Baker, Kriseman took home the most votes in the Aug. 29 primary, going on to win re-election over Baker by two points in November.

Activists call out Donald Trump’s ‘Cover up Caucus’ on Russian investigation

For Presidents Day, activists in downtown St. Petersburg rallied to criticize congressional Republicans who they say have been silent or actively working to end special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mueller laid out charges Friday against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities in a sweeping indictment describing in detail a years-long effort by Russians to interfere with the U.S. political system.

The indictments confirmed the conclusions of the country’s intelligence community but flew in the face of President Donald Trump‘s questioning of the probe.

In the eyes of some Republicans (like Marco Rubio), the indictments confirmed that Russia did attempt to disrupt the election — and are likely to do so again. Others, like Panhandle Representative Matt Gaetz, have been pushing to fire Mueller. In November, Gaetz introduced a nonbinding resolution calling for the House to endorse Mueller’s dismissal.

“These Republicans see their only role as protecting the president, and not the country,” said Andrea Hildebran Smith with the group FACT (Floridians against Corruption and Treason).

“We call them the ‘Cover-up Caucus’ … We expect members of Congress to use every tool at their disposal to protect this country.”

The liberal activists also are unhappy with Trump for announcing that he will not impose additional sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 U.S. election as well as its aggression in east Ukraine. Congress passed a law last year calling on the president to do so.

“We want protection for this special counsel to finish his investigation,” said Karen Berman with Fired Up Pinellas, who along with organized Monday’s protest in front of the federal building on First Avenue North in downtown St. Pete.

“We want to see the latest Russian sanctions enforced, and we want to see the state and federal government take steps to protect our elections from any interference,” Berman added.

Over the summer, amid reports that Trump was considering firing Mueller, members of both parties were compelled to introduce legislation to prevent that from happening.

While four bills have been filed in Congress to protect Mueller’s investigation, none will likely go anywhere in the GOP-led House and Senate.

Two bills have been introduced in the Senate, both bipartisan. Sponsored by North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, the Special Counsel Integrity Act would only permit the firing of a special counsel in the event of “misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity or conflict of interest.”

Sponsored by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, the Special Counsel Independence Protection Act that would require an extensive judicial process to do so.

The Act has been stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee for the past couple of months.

There are similar bills in the House of Representatives, which have a little more support. One, introduced by Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, has 31 co-sponsors, all Democrats.

One Democrat who hopes to make it to Congress later this year is Chris Hunter, a former FBI agent now running in the District 12th Congressional District Democratic primary.

“Our democracy has been compromised, and it will happen again,” he predicted, “because some of our elected officials are running their same type of disinformation campaign against our own country that Russian intelligence services have run.”

Hunter served in the Department of Justice under the administrations of both Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack Obama.

Not once, Hunter said, did political officials in either of those administrations “purposely set out to destabilize our democratic institutions.”

“Not only has our current president fail to protect our country, the Republican Congress has been complicit in that failure,” he added.

The winner of the Democratic primary in CD 12 will face Republican incumbent Gus Bilirakis this November. Bilirakis has not publicly commented on the Mueller investigation, according to statements published on his congressional website over the past year.

As a former FBI agent, Florida Politics asked Hunter what he thought of Gov. Rick Scott‘s comment last week that FBI Director Christopher Wray should resign in the wake of revelations that the bureau ignored a tip last month about Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17  people after he opened fire on a Parkland school on Valentine’s Day.

“I think it’s disgraceful to politicize the massacre in Parkland,” Hunter said.

Support builds for Florida GOP mega-donor’s ultimatum on assault weapon ban

On Monday, Al Hoffman repeated his claim on CNN that he will withhold raising any more money for Republican candidates or committees unless they embrace a ban on the sale of assault weapons to civilians.

For several years, the top GOP fundraiser had helped collect large financial donations for Republicans in both Florida and presidential races. Hoffman claims to have raised more than $600 million for Republicans during the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns of George W. Bush.

The North Palm Beach developer’s company, WCI, also helped construct thousands of homes in Parkland, the location of last week’s gun massacre at Marjorie Stoneham Douglas High School where 17 people died.

Hoffman said that, for him, the shooting hit home.

“I intend to contact every single Republican donor that I have in my little Rolodex file here, and I want to persuade them to hold up their check to their candidates until we can come around and create a movement here that does the right thing,” Hoffman told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Monday morning.

Hoffman issued an email Saturday to fellow Republican donors calling them to join his refusal to bankroll Republican candidates unless they support an assault weapons ban. The ultimatum led to a story published Sunday in The New York Times.

One person that could be affected most by Hoffman’s threat is Gov. Rick Scott, who never discussed any gun control measures since he was first elected governor. Scott is expected to run for the U.S. Senate later this year against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

“I have not talked to him about this particular incident, but he said that all options are on the table, I believe, and I really want to try to help persuade him to adopt this principle,” Hoffman said about how he believes Scott will feel about his proposal.

In a news conference Wednesday night, Scott declined to say whether policymakers should take a stand on gun control, insisting that “there’s a time” to have such discussions.

“There’s a movement coming,” Hoffman added, referring to the measures lawmakers passed in Connecticut after the December 2012 school massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. “And the state of Florida better get with it and pass this assault (weapon ban).”

Legislators in Connecticut significantly expanded an existing ban on the sale of assault weapons, prohibited the sale of magazines with more than 10 rounds and required the registration of existing assault rifles and higher-capacity magazines. The state also mandated background checks for all firearms sales and created a registry of weapons offenders, including those accused of illegally possessing a firearm, The New York Times reported Sunday.

When challenged that the National Rifle Association could make up in financial contributions to GOP politicians who may no longer receive backing from Hoffman, the Republican mega-donor said he didn’t care about the gun-rights organization.

Since the publication of the Times article, Hoffman said he’s received “hundreds of tweets” from GOP donors, with a vast majority in favor of his idea.

This is not the first time that Hoffman has threatened to cut off donations if Republicans didn’t support gun control measures. In an interview with the Palm Beach Post in 2013, Hoffman said he would be reluctant to raise money for candidates who do not support “reasonable” gun control.

A measure to pass universal background checks died in the Senate in April 2013.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell says fighting for gun control is personal for her

On Sunday, Miami U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo called on GOP congressional leaders to introduce gun control measures for consideration by the House and Senate.

“What we need is congressional leaders, specifically in my party, to allow some of these bills to come to the floor for debate,” Curbelo said on ABC’s This Week. He was referring to proposals to expand background checks for purchasing guns, prevent people on the “No Fly” list from having instant access to weapons, and ban “bump stocks” which allow semi-automatic firearms to mimic automatic ones.

Curbelo was one of a handful of congressional Republicans who appeared on national television over the weekend to lend support to some form of gun control following last week’s mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, one of several Democrats running for the nomination to oppose Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, slammed the Miami Republican’s response and his previous support for the NRA. And she said that the death of her father from a firearm is why she is so committed to passing gun control measures if she can get to Washington.

“It is clear to me that Carlos Curbelo doesn’t understand what it’s like to be touched by gun violence,” she said in a statement released Sunday. “I’ve lived the reality of what gun violence does to a family; because of a criminal with a gun, my father didn’t have the chance to walk me down the aisle when I married my husband, or meet my wonderful children. There is no question that my experience shapes the way I understand gun violence in our community. It is insulting that Congressman Curbelo continues to offer lip service while accepting big campaign donations from the gun lobby.”

Shortly after the news broke about the killings in Parkland, Mucarsel-Powell, an Ecuadorian native, issued a series of tweets where she mentioned how her father was shot and killed by a criminal with a gun in Ecuador.

Mucarsel-Powell says she supports a handful of specific bills to reduce gun violence, like banning the sale of military-style weapons like the AR-15 used by the shooter in Wednesday’s incident. She also says she wants to close a background check loophole which allows private sellers without a federal license to sell guns, and she would strengthen background checks so that domestic abusers, those affected by mental illness and terrorists don’t have access to purchasing a gun.

“These are firm actions that are immediately needed and would be more effective in ending gun violence,” she says. “If I am lucky enough to serve, have no doubt that you can count on me to fight for these three initiatives and not take a dime from gun manufacturers, the NRA, or any entity that makes money while our children pay with their lives.”

Hillsborough Republicans choose new chair Tuesday

For years, the Hillsborough GOP dominated local politics.

However, over the past few years, their grip has begun to loosen.

Long known as a bellwether in presidential elections, Hillsborough went big for Hillary Clinton in 2016, while the rest of the state went for Donald Trump.

And while local Republicans won all of the county’s legislative elections, former federal prosecutor Andrew Warren defeated incumbent Mark Ober in the State Attorney’s race by running on a reform agenda, while Pat Kemp easily defeated Tim Schock in the only countywide race for commissioner.

The collective energy levels of the two local parties have been evident since the 2016 election, with the Hillsborough Democrats having signed up a record 270 precinct members in recent months, while the GOP meetings are not nearly as well attended.

On Tuesday night, members of the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee will choose a new chair to succeed Deborah Tamargo, who resigned last month over what seemed to be a relatively trivial matter.

Then again, Tamargo had been constantly fending off critics ever since she defeated former chair Debbie Cox-Roush in December 2014.

In December 2016, she was challenged by Jonny Torres, who was backed by Republican state House members Jamie Grant, Dan Raulerson (since retired), and Ross Spano, in an ultimately losing effort.

“Out of respect to Chairwoman Tamargo, not everyone is willing to step forward,” Torres said in a debate regarding unhappiness some party members felt about her leadership. “What I keep hearing from the campaigns and the consultants time and time again is that they saw little to no members from the REC supporting their efforts.”

Party members will choose a replacement for Tamargo Tuesday night. GOP consultant April Schiff will be running against Jim Waurishuk, a former deputy intelligence chief of U.S. Central Command.

Waurisuk was one of four members of the party’s executive committee to file a grievance last year against Tamargo, accusing her of violating state party rules, specifically in her manner of discussion over the site of the party’s monthly meetings.

At St. Pete vigil for Parkland shooting, calls for political action

Charlie Crist hopes things will be different this time around.

Before a public appearance at Williams Park Saturday, the St. Petersburg Democrat said he was still unconvinced the Republican-led Congress will support gun control legislation, even after 17 people were massacred last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Several hundred people gathered in downtown St. Pete for a vigil to remember the victims of the shooting.

“It’s different because those students have been speaking out about it,” Crist said, “very strongly and passionately from the heart.”

Crist, joined by other Pinellas Democrats, wanted to convey the message that the hurt and anger people are feeling over this latest tragedy must be transformed into political action at the polls this November.

St. Petersburg Councilwoman Darden Rice said it was the power of gun control groups like Moms Demand Action that helped defeat former New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte in her bid for re-election in 2016.

Ayotte paid a political price for voting against the 2013 bill that would have expanded gun background checks. Ayotte ultimately lost to Democrat Maggie Hassan by just 716 votes.

“Let me tell you, those groups were total ‘badasses’ and they stood up to the gun lobby,” Rice said to cheers. “And that’s what we have to do, again and again. It’s a lot of work. We gotta stick to it. We can’t snap our fingers and have something happen overnight right after a tragedy.”

Pinellas County School Board Chair Rene Flowers explicitly called out Republicans and rallied for more Democrats elected in November.

“Put (Marco) Rubio out of office!” she shouted as the audience continued to cheer. (However, it is something not likely to happen anytime soon — Rubio doesn’t come up for re-election until 2022.)

“Do not shuffle, shake and jive to hide behind the Second Amendment, ” she added. “If you want to protect your home, that’s fine, but there is no place to want to kill a deer, a coon or a possum with that kind of weapon fare. It’s not being used to eat!

Flowers then referenced Tuesday’s special election in Sarasota County, where she knocked on doors and made phone calls to help Democrat Margaret Good, who defeated Republican James Buchanan by seven points in a traditionally GOP-leaning district.

“We can do it!” she shouted.

In his brief remarks to the audience, Crist also referred to Good’s victory, as well as other recent elections in Florida that saw Rick Kriseman get re-elected mayor of St. Pete and his 2014 running mate Annette Taddeo win a special election state Senate seat in Miami-Dade County last year.

“Another red to blue,” he said referring to the Democrat taking over a seat formerly held by a Republican. “You see the trend. It’s coming, but only if we stay engaged.”

Crist told the crowd that he supports “comprehensive and significant ” background checks, a ban on all assault weapons and measures to keep schools safer.

“Now is the time. And I hope and pray that we can get some of these things passed, quickly, like yesterday. I’m an optimist, but I am somewhat pessimistic about the leadership in Congress, and how could you not be?  What have they done? How many does it take? When is enough enough?”

One Florida Republican lawmaker who said Sunday he would support such bills is Miami U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, considered one of the most vulnerable Republican members of Congress in the nation as he fights for re-election in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

“What we need is congressional leaders, specifically in my party, to allow some of these bills to come to the floor for debate,” Curbelo told Martha Raddatz on ABC’s This Week. “There are a lot of Republicans who are prepared to support reasonable, common-sense gun safety laws, new laws, stronger laws that protect rights for responsible citizens, people who are responsible gun owners, but will prevent those who want to do harm to innocent people from obtaining these weapons.”

Rice said the time for activists who want to see gun control laws change is to get active right now. “Congress is where the work ends, it’s not where it begins. It begins here. It begins now, and we stick to it.”

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