Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis on Thursday denounced Florida Legislature efforts to tighten gun restrictions and said the mass shooting two weeks ago at the Parkland high school should be seen as “a catastrophic failure” by the Broward County sheriff and the FBI.
DeSantis, a congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach, has made similar comments in television appearances on Fox News in the past two weeks, but otherwise has been largely silent within Florida about his response to the massacre, drawing heatfrom other gubernatorial candidates, particularly Democrats. On Thursday he broke that, taking a hard line against any gun measures, and condemning those being considered now in the Florida Legislature.
He also called for the resignation of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for not having responded to numerous reports, prior to the Feb. 14 mass shooting, that suggested Nikolas Cruz was dangerous; and for the firing of anyone in the FBI who might have failed to pick up in advance on the shooter’s intentions.
And while DeSantis called on the Florida Legislature to back off proposed gun restrictions, presumably such as one to raise the minimum age for firearms purchases to 21, he was not specific in his statement.
DeSantis said he supported much in Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposed school safety package to “harden schools” and also supports one idea Scott rejected: arming teachers. He also said the state should enlist the help of veterans and law enforcement officers to help protect schools.
DeSantis faces Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow in the contest for the Aug. 28 Florida primary nomination to run for Governor. The leading Democrats are former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Winter Park developer Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, DeSantis contended, was the result of law enforcement failures and mental illness, and should be addressed as such.
“Given that the issues of bureaucratic incompetence, school safety and mental health demand immediate attention, I’m disappointed that the Florida Legislature is rushing to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens,” DeSantis said in his statement.
“When dealing with a right that is specifically enumerated in the Constitution, blanket restrictions that diminish individual rights are suspect. Better to focus on denying firearms to dangerous individuals, which avoids infringing on constitutional rights and is also more likely to be effective. The goal should be to keep our students safe, bring accountability to the officials and institutions that failed, and protect the rights of Floridians,” DeSantis continued.
With the Georgia Legislature considering blocking a tax break for Delta Air Lines, former Miami Beach Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is the latest Democrat outside the Peach State to ask the carrier to come to Florida.
The solicitations to Delta Air Lines CEO Edward H. Bastian have been flowing since the Georgia Senate threatened a jet-fuel tax break earlier this week because of the airline’s halt to a discount-fare program with the National Rifle Association.
“I believe this is a unique opportunity to send a loud message as a corporate citizen that you will not stand to be bullied by politicians who will not do the right thing,” Levine writes.
“This is a moment in time where you could relocate your airline hub to the Sunshine State, as Florida offers a diverse and deep pool of talent, great weather, a portal to the rest of the world, and an economy that is ready to take off under the right leadership.”
Delta is one of a number of corporations to withdraw from offering discounts or other offers to the NRA following the aftermath of the massacre in Parkland on Valentine’s Day.
Officials with the airline, based in Atlanta, announced on Saturday that it was withdrawing from an agreement to provide discounted travel for NRA members attending the pro-gun group’s annual meeting.
Georgia Lt Gov. Casey Cagle, running for governor as a Republican this year, blasted Delta for their move, tweeting “I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA. Corporation cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”
I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA. Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.
While Levine hopes to become Florida’s governor later this year, other Democratic governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Virginia’s Ralph Northam have also sent out messages to Bastian that he should consider moving Delta to their respective states.
Throughout his tenure in office, Gov. Rick Scott has traveled to other states to try to woo corporations to the Sunshine State. An NRA supporter, he has not commented about wanting to recruit Delta to Florida.
Levine is competing for the Democratic nomination for governor against former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King has released a new online campaign video declaring that the massacres in Pulse and Parkland demand a transformation of Florida politics, stressing his commitments to banning assault weapons, pushing for universal background checks, and expanding Medicaid.
The 90-second video “This is the Year”includes footage of vigils held for the mass shootings and King giving a speech in which he talks about attending the vigils, and believes that the last two weeks must spark a transformation. The ad is being targeted to Democratic voters on Facebook across the state.
“The next Governor of the State of Florida in my view has to be committed to transformation when it comes to gun safety,” King says. “So let me make it very clear to you what this governor would do: I would not take money from the NRA. I would work hard to pass an assault weapons ban, as I said for my very first speech as (a candidate for) governor. I would stand up for universal background checks. I would work to pass Medicaid expansion because there is no bigger idea for caring for the needs of the mentally ill in this state.”
King is competing with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine for the Democratic nomination. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.
With fresh media reports that Russians hacked into and potentially compromised election systems in Florida and six other states in 2016, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham called Wednesday for Gov. Rick Scott to take immediate action to protect Florida’s election infrastructure.
“Dangerous Russian interference in the 2016 election is not only confirmed, but it happened right here in Florida. President [Donald] Trump has deliberately and outrageously refused to address these cyber threats and protect our American democracy, so our state must act — Governor Scott must act,” Graham said in a news release from her campaign.
“This is not a partisan issue. Faith in our government depends on confidence that our elections are not influenced by any foreign power.”
The Florida Department of State said late Wednesday it was notified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that Florida was unsuccessfully targeted by hackers last year. This attempt was not in any way successful and Florida’s online elections databases and voting systems remained secure, the department noted.
Graham contended it must be addressed.
“Governor Rick Scott cannot sit idly by and continue passing the buck to Trump. We can not rely on this president to protect America and our next election from foreign interference,” Graham said. “Scott must immediately direct the Florida Department of State to protect our vote in 2018 to prevent the Russians from tampering with our state elections.”
Scott’s office and the Florida Department of State responded late Wednesday saying they already were addressing the concerns, dating from an earlier report from September about possible Russian interference.
Additionally, Scott’s recomended 2018-2019 budget includes nearly $2.5 million and five positions to enhance cyber security at the Department of State’s Division of Elections, the governor’s office noted.
Graham, a former member of Congress from Tallahassee, faces former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park businessman Chris King in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary for Governor. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Declaring that Florida lawmakers are failing to respond to post-Parkland calls to address guns, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King said Wednesday that the people of Florida deserve a special session.
King, a Winter Park businessman, advocated for a ban on military-style assault weapons and comprehensive background checks on gun purchases, and contended that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and others responding to the Feb. 15 massacre deserve action on such measures, rather than the “too little, too late” they’re being offered.
Republicans are pursuing instead packages that would address increasing the purchase age for guns to 21, expanding background checks to all weapons, and, in Gov. Rick Scott‘s proposal, spending up to $500 million on programs ranging from mental health services to tightening school security. But King cited a report by the Tampa Bay Times that suggests even those measures leave loopholes open.
“If our lawmakers fail to pass comprehensive gun safety legislation, they will owe the Stoneman Douglas students and people of Florida a special session to enact real solutions to ban assault weapons and close the loopholes in our gun laws,” King said in a news release issued Wednesday. “The proposals offered by Gov. Scott and Florida Republicans are too little, too late – their plans have gaping loopholes that would still allow dangerous people to get their hands on deadly weapons.
“Otherwise,” he added, “Florida Republicans will prove themselves as the party of ‘proud NRA sell-outs’ once and for all.”
King faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham for the Aug. 28 Democratic primary in the governor’s contest. The leading Republicans are Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.
Graham released a similar statement last week, urging a special session.
The American Federation of Government Employees on Sunday endorsed Winter Haven businessman Chris King for Florida governor.
“District 5 of the American Federation of Government Employees, its thousands of members across Florida and I are proud to endorse Chris King for governor because working families need fresh ideas and new leadership in the governor’s office,” AFGE National Vice President Everett Kelley said.
AFGE District 5 covers all of Florida as well as Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“We are supporting Chris King’s campaign because the old way of thinking hasn’t worked for Florida families and Chris will offer a bold, progressive vision for Florida’s working people. Chris King will be our partner in Tallahassee and build a fair economy that lifts up every Floridian and leaves no one behind.”
King is one of four major Democrats running to replace termed-out Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. He faces former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine in the primary race.
Republican candidates include termed-out Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who is expected to formally announce his bid after the 2018 Legislative Session.
“I am honored to have earned the support of our state’s federal workers in my campaign to bring bold, progressive leadership to the governor’s office. I welcome AFGE District 5 and the grassroots strength of their 20,000-plus members in Florida as part of my campaign to build a fair economy for our state,” King said.
“Florida families need a new voice who will take on business as usual in Tallahassee – that’s why I’ll address Florida’s affordable living crisis by fighting for Medicaid expansion and free tuition at community colleges and public trade schools.”
King has held around the 2-percent mark in recent polls of the Democratic gubernatorial field, but has said he is not concerned about his standing this far out from the primary election.
“My opportunity over the next seven months is as people are messaged and as people understand where we are on these issues, they’ll be making choices,” King said in a Thursday radio interview.
As House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s priority education bill is pushed through the Senate committee process, some watching this week were perplexed by the vote of one sometimes perplexing Republican lawmaker.
Sen. Tom Lee, who has helped carry Corcoran’s policy in a sometimes-hostile Senate, voted with Democrats to gut language from the omnibus bill that would decertify teachers’ unions if their membership does not stay above 50 percent of total eligible employees.
Versions of the language, deemed “union busting” by opponents, have been the subject of partisan slugfests all session.
Lee told Florida Politics he voted for Sen. Perry Thurston’s amendment out of an “abundance of caution.” But insiders said there may be another reason: former Gov. Jeb Bush endorsing Jimmy Patronis for chief financial officer, a role Lee says he is mulling a run for.
The connection is this: An education reform foundation founded by Bush has been a big supporter of the House measure, and by him voting down on that provision, it would be a jab at them.
Lee says he is not always in lockstep with the foundation, as many Republicans are, but his vote was based on needing more information on the impact of the issue, which critics say is a “spiteful way of taking rights away from workers.”
“I tend to be an ally of the Speaker and expect to continue to be so, but at the end of the day, you take your orders from the people who elected you,” Lee said, “and not the former governor or the House Speaker.”
Lee said he gives Senate President Joe Negron “a lot of credit” for sending HB 7055 through the Senate committee process. The bill will be heard next week the Appropriations Committee, according to Senate Budget Chairman Rob Bradley.
Whether the proposal will be a hiccup in budget talks remains to be seen.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Arming teachers — A week after the worst school shooting in the state’s history, the Republican-controlled Legislature unveiled their proposals, which include training school employees to become armed “marshals.” It’s something President Donald Trump agrees with, but Gov. Rick Scott does not. House Speaker Corcoran said teachers who have the requisite hours to act as trained law enforcement officers would be allowed to carry guns in schools, adding that it is a “first of its kind proposal” in the nation. With two weeks left in the 2018 legislative session, state lawmakers and the governor are also pushing for more school resource officers and boosting funding for mental health services.
Unprecedented gun law proposals — After thousands of students, parents and teachers came to Tallahassee to speak to legislative leaders seeking more restrictions on the purchase of “war weapons,” both chambers and the governor all agreed to raise the minimum age of owning and possessing “all firearms” to 21 and banning the sale of bump stocks. Gov. Scott said a ban on assault weapons would “not fix the problem” and would hurt “law-abiding citizens.” The House and Senate plans also include a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases.
Scott on mental health services — Gov.Scott wants to expand mental health services teams statewide to serve youth and young adults with early or serious mental illness by providing counseling, crisis management and other critical mental health services. He also wants every Sheriff’s Office to have a crisis welfare worker embedded in their departments to work on repeat cases in the community. This would mean adding 67 more employees at the Department of Children and Families by July 15.
Budget slap fight — With less than three weeks to go in a legislative session, the direction of which has now been overcome by the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, budget negotiations between the House and the Senate aren’t just stalled, they’re not happening. The first indication that the annual back-and-forth between the two chambers is not on track surfaced Tuesday afternoon. The Associated Press’ Gary Fineoutreported that House budget chairman Carlos Trujillo said there has been “no progress” on allocations and, instead, that legislators are focused on responding to the tragedy in Parkland.
Criminal justice reforms move ahead — A sweeping criminal justice bill that would upend how the state collects data on offenders in an attempt to better determine who is incarcerated and for how long is moving in the Senate. The measure would require the Department of Corrections to use risk-assessment instruments that can identify the appropriate intervention and program for offenders in an effort to reduce recidivism. Sen. Jeff Brandes said his bill (SB 1218) could be used as the foundation for “meaningful” criminal justice reform in the future. Another measure that would ease mandatory minimums in certain drug trafficking cases also headed to the Senate floor this week.
Scott to sign bill replacing Confederate statue with McLeod Bethune
Gov. Scott will soon sign a bill that will make Florida the first state to commemorate an African-American historical figure in the U.S. Capitol.
The state House and Senate have approved legislation that will honor civil-rights leader MaryMcLeodBethune at National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Her statue will replace that of Confederate General EdmundKirbySmith. The Legislature agreed to remove Smith’s statue in 2016.
Daytona Beach Democratic Rep. PatrickHenry sponsored the initiative in the House, which cleared the measure Tuesday. PerryThurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, sponsored the Senate version.
“Bethune’s life and values illustrate the best of Florida,” Thurston said. “Choosing her likeness for the Hall sends a powerful signal to the world that Floridians recognize our state’s rich history and its present-day diversity.”
Bethune served as president of the National Association of Colored Women. She was an appointee of President HerbertHoover to the White House Conference on Child Health and was an adviser to President FranklinRoosevelt. Bethune also founded what is now Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. The school has offered to cover the cost of Bethune’s statue.
Each state is allowed two representatives in Statuary Hall. The Sunshine State’s other statue commemorates JohnGorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.
The week in appointments
Greater Orlando Aviation Authority — Scott appointed Maggie Montalvo to fill a vacant seat in the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
Montalvo, 53, is the executive vice president and the chief operations officer of First Colony Bank of Florida. She received a degree in banking from the American Banking and Accounting Institute.
Her term ends April 16, 2020, and her appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
St. Johns River Watch Management District — Scott appointed Allan Roberts, the owner and operator of First Coast Cattle, to the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Roberts, 70, is currently a member of the Florida Cattleman’s Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
He will fill a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending March 1, 2020. His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
Floridians flocked to CRC hearings in Melbourne, Jacksonville
The Constitution Revision Commission held two meetings in its “Road to the Ballot” public hearing tour this week, and much like the first stop in Ft. Lauderdale, turnout was healthy.
An estimated 600 people went to the Feb. 19 meeting at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne. Among them were 240 individuals who filled out a speaker card.
The Jacksonville stop, held on the University of North Florida campus Feb. 20, more than 500 showed up, with 210 requesting a chance to speak before the commission.
The next tour stop is a Feb. 27 hearing at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, followed by a March 5 hearing at The Westin in Cape Coral and a March 13 stop at University of South Florida — St. Petersburg.
House Democrats still working on AR-15 ban
Among the state House’s most visible actions while Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting survivors were in Tallahassee was a no vote on advancing an assault weapons ban bill to the chamber floor for debate.
The 71-36 party-line defeat in the HB 219 vote was met with astonishment and tears by students in the gallery, but Miami Democratic Rep. Kionne McGhee isn’t giving up on getting a bill to ban semi-automatic rifles to the House floor before the end of the 2018 Legislative Session.
McGee said semi-automatic assault rifles, particularly the AR-15 model used in the Parkland shooting, are a “common denominator” in mass shootings and lawmakers need to discuss the issue before they can “move on.”
McGee didn’t reveal his strategy for getting such a ban through the GOP-controlled House, but Senate Democrats this week said they would attempt to attach gun legislation, including an AR-15 ban, to bills moving through the Legislature.
FDP chair calls out Republicans for AR-15 vote
The Florida Democratic Party chair said state House Republicans turned their backs on the survivors of the Parkland shooting this week when the chamber voted not to hear a bill banning semi-automatic assault weapons.
“[Tuesday’s] vote is just one more reminder that Gov. Scott,Corcoran and the GOP-led legislature continue to fail to provide the leadership needed to put an end to senseless mass shootings,” said FDP Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo.
“If tragedy strikes again and innocent children and citizens are gunned down in a classroom, a dance club or an airport, we can look to yesterday as another example of elected officials that care more about special interest money than keeping our kids safe from harm.”
The House voted 71-36 against hearing the bill, HB 219. No Republican voted in favor of the measure.
Car dealer bill stalls in House committee
A bill aimed at making changes to car dealership regulations stalled out in its second House committee this week over objections it was tailored to hand a single industry association a monopoly on dealer training.
The bill (HB 595) by Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel would make changes to various legal definitions relating to car dealers.
But a strike-all amendment also by Rommel would have required new car dealers to take a four-hour course each year to keep their license. That would put them in line with requirements set for used car dealers.
That training could only be offered by “a Florida-based, nonprofit, dealer-owned, statewide industry association of franchised motor vehicle dealers.”
Only one group in the state (probably not coincidentally) qualifies under that definition: the Florida Automobile Dealers Association.
FADA representative John Forehand testified that the cap isn’t necessarily indicative of the charge the group would levy but was there as a protection since the language would make it the sole source for the training.
“Why not $200? $300?” asked St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton. No matter: The bill later was temporarily postponed.
FCUA names Jones ‘Lawmaker of the Year’
The Florida Credit Union Association this week named West Park Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones as their “2017 State Lawmaker of the Year.”
FCUA recognized Jones as a longtime friend of credit unions, and for sponsoring a bill in the 2017 Legislative Session to exempt credit unions from regulation and lawsuits under the Florida Deceptive & Unfair Trades Practices Act.
“Representative Jones has served credit unions in Florida as a true champion,” said Patrick La Pine, who heads FCUA’s parent organization, the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates.
“He has sponsored legislation to include credit unions in an exemption under the Florida Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices Act and understands the critical role that credit unions play in Florida’s economy and in serving Floridians throughout the state.”
FCUA honored Jones in Tallahassee last month during the Florida Advocacy Conference, where the lawmaker addressed credit union leaders gathered to help promote the industry at the state capitol.
Senate fracking ban bill on life support
A fracking ban sponsored by Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young didn’t make the agenda for the Feb. 27 Senate Appropriations Committee, and anti-fracking groups are laying the blame on Appropriations Chair Bradley.
Floridians Against Fracking, a statewide coalition of anti-fracking groups and businesses, put out a statement this week blasting Bradley not allowing the bill to be heard.
“The fracking ban has broad, bipartisan support in both chambers because the people of Florida have been demanding it to protect our water, our tourism economy and our natural resources. If a fracking ban does not end up on the Governor’s desk to sign this session, it will be seen by the people of Florida as a failure of leadership,” said Brian Lee, the group’s legislative director.
Floridians Against Fracking suggested in the same release that Senate PresidentNegron bring the ban bill up for a vote directly on the Senate floor, or in a future, unscheduled Appropriations Committee.
The fracking ban was a major campaign pledge of Young’s in the 2016 cycle. The House companion has not yet been heard in any committee, though the House has said it would take up the Senate version of the bill should it pass.
Business rent tax debate flares up on Twitter
The National Federation of Independent Business/Florida and the Florida AFL/CIO’s Rich Templin had a little back and forth on Twitter this week about the business rent tax cut when the tax package was up in House Appropriations.
It’s the only state-sanctioned sales tax on commercial leases in the entire nation. Gov. Scott and trade groups have long called to lighten the load on commercial businesses, which pay more than $1.7 billion in rent taxes every year.
Shot by NFIB: “The small and independently owned businesses NFIB represents overwhelmingly support the biz rent tax cut; #smallbiz drives the economy, and saving them money creates jobs, improves benefits and keeps the dollars in our backyards.”
Chaser by Templin: “This bumper sticker sloganeering doesn’t equate to sound fiscal policy. The overwhelming bulk of this tax cut will go to larger retailers based out of state. The taxpayers shoulder the burden & services workers & small businesses need are hindered.”
Background: Supporters of tax cuts say Florida’s business rent tax puts the state at a distinct competitive disadvantage, one that is unique in the country. Commercial rent taxes makes Florida’s competitors more attractive to business since companies are naturally more resistant to move to the state if they can get similar benefits elsewhere without paying a tax on rents.
AOB reform ad hitting Florida airwaves
Radio stations across the state this week started playing an ad warning Floridians of the dangers of “Assignment of Benefits,” which allows insurance policy rights to be signed over to third-party contractors.
The Consumer Protection Coalition, one of the chief organizations pushing AOB reform is led in part by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a member of the coalition, is footing the bill for the ad.
Listen to the new ad here:
“On the heels of the Florida Justice Reform Institute releasing a new report showcasing the need for AOB reform, the Consumer Protection Coalition felt it was important to alert Florida home and auto owners on how the AOB scheme works and why it is important for them to engage in asking Florida lawmakers to support meaningful AOB reform,” said Florida Chamber VP Edie Ousley.
The ad goes over how AOB works — or at least how it can be abused by unscrupulous lawyers and vendors. The radio ad is available on CPC’s website.
FSU prof to help on Hamer doc
A Florida State University professor is teaming up with Tougaloo College in Mississippi and the Kellogg Foundation to produce a new documentary on civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.
FSU’s Davis Houck, the current holder of an endowed chair named after Hamer, will serve in an advisory capacity on the film, “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America,” and the corresponding civil rights K-12 curriculum, “Find Your Voice.”
“Having Fannie Lou Hamer’s name attached to my work and Florida State University is inspiring and daunting,” said Houck, a professor at FSU’s School of Communication.
“The project is inspiring because of the life she led in pursuit of justice, and it is daunting because her fearlessness — often in the face of grinding and lethal adversity — sets an enormously high bar for anyone seeking to walk in her footsteps.”
Hamer was a leader in the civil rights movement known for her powerful speeches, songs and activism. The K-12 component focuses on youth empowerment and community engagement in the Mississippi Delta, and it intends to connect students and teachers to the region’s history during the civil rights movement.
Tallahassee a ‘Great Small Town for Big Vacations’
The Travel Channel listed Tallahassee as one of “10 Great Small Towns for Big Vacations” this week, much to the delight of the capital city’s officials and its tourism marketing arm.
“The uniqueness of our area continues to gain the attention of national media that recognize Leon County’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Nick Maddox. “We know that we live in an exceptional part of Florida and we think it’s time the rest of the nation, and the world, knows it, too.”
The slideshow article says what Tallahassee “lacks in beaches it more than makes up for in Florida culture and adventure.” Recommendations included Ernestine Fryson’s famous fried catfish at the Bradfordville Blues Club, and the abundant nature tourism in the area.
Article author Steve Larese’s visit resulted from an invitation by Leon County to give the area a look. He was one of many of travel writers who visited the Leon County area while researching stories for various publications.
“To be counted among the country’s small towns for big adventure demonstrates the hard work of Leon County Division of Tourism in elevating and promoting what our community has to offer both visitors and residents,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long.
Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:
Gun-reform measures released by Gov. RickScott and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature are being hailed as the greatest proposed deviations from hard line pro-gun laws in the Sunshine State in recent history — but Democratic officials, groups and politicians have been quick to claim the proposals are inadequate.
The legislative initiatives released Friday are intended to address issues unearthed by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre. Scott and the Legislature have proposed banning the sale of bump stocks and raising the minimum age to 21 for the purchase of all guns, with some exceptions for military and law enforcement personnel.
Both plans have hefty price tags. The Legislature wants to allocate $263 million for school safety improvements and $102 million for mental health services; respectively, Scott wants $450 million and $50 million.
The Legislature is backing the idea of the “Marshal Program,” in which school faculty members are trained to carry firearms on campuses. Scott does not support the idea.
State leadership announced the measures in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 19-year-old NikolasCruz fatally shot 17 students and teachers with an assault rifle.
As expected, the Parkland-inspired proposals are not being lauded across party lines. At the crux of Democrats’ criticism is the absence of a proposed ban on assault weapons.
Democratic U.S. Sen. BillNelson:
Instead of listening to students & parents, Gov. Scott’s plan bows to the NRA’s demands. It does not expand criminal background checks or ban assault rifles, such as the AR-15. Raising the age to 21 is the bare minimum. We need to get these assault rifles off our streets.
“The Governor’s proposal still falls well short on assault weapons, even though this is the time for a statewide ban and Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are demanding one,” Gillum’s campaign said in a written statement. “Republicans’ own polling shows a majority, including a majority of Florida gun owners, want a ban on these weapons of war.”
But, citing a Republican-commissioned poll that shows the majority of Floridians and state gun owners support a ban on assault weapons, the campaign criticized Scott for not attempting to halt assault rifle sales.
Gubernatorial candidate GwenGraham:
The proposals announced Friday were “too little, too late.”
“Investing in safer schools is long overdue — and must be prioritized and fully funded this year. … Raising the age for purchasing all firearms is long overdue — and must be passed this Legislative session,” Graham said in a statement. She also called for an assault weapons ban.
Gubernatorial candidate PhillipLevine:
Levine agreed with “making school safety a top priority in Florida,” along with providing for more intensive background checks, mental health screens and additional law enforcement resources at schools.
But, joining the battle cry of his Democratic colleagues, Levine ultimately criticized the Legislature and Scott for not banning assault rifles.
“The elephant in the room is still there: we must get assault rifles off the streets and away from our schools. Permanently,” Levine said in a prepared statement. “Freedom should not come with a warning label: ‘These guns may be harmful to children’s survival,’ but with a guarantee that these killing weapons remain on the battlefields, not in classrooms.”
Gubernatorial candidate ChrisKing:
“In 20 years of one-party rule, Florida’s leaders have utterly failed to take action to end the scourge of gun violence in our state and today’s proposals from Governor Scott and the GOP legislature are too little, too late. Governor Scott’s plan does nothing to ensure universal background checks and would not ban military-style assault weapons. Tallahassee has ignored our voices for far too long––their time to act was long before Parkland or Pulse. Now we must take up the cause ourselves and elect new leaders who offer fresh ideas, bold solutions.”
Senate Minority Leader OscarBraynon:
“We can beef up mental health screenings, raise the age for gun purchases, and dream up other stopgap measures, but the threat to our children and our citizens will continue until we finally take bold action ban assault weapons designed for the battlefield from easy access in our communities. Without that, the voices of the students, and the will of the people, continue to be ignored.”
House Minority Leader JanetCruz:
“These measures backed by the gun lobby are unacceptable. If leadership is truly willing to have a real and open discussion and debate on the merits of policies to save the lives of Floridians, then I am ready and fully committed to working hard to achieve a product that will keep our constituents safe. If this is the normal bait and switch that will leave Democrats shut-out of the “process” while they crow of bipartisanship, then I will call it like I see it; a sad attempt to cover their asses in the face of tragedy.”
State Rep. ShevrinJones:
Party politics has failed us. Working together always works better. Some don’t agree with my style, but I sleep well at night. 🤷🏾♂️
On the Legislature-backed proposal to train and arm school faculty, the FDP called it a measure “to keep the gun lobby happy and advance RichardCorcoran‘s political ambitions at the expense of the lives of our children.”
“The only people who think that putting guns in the hands of teachers is a good idea are Richard Corcoran and DonaldTrump,” claimed FDP spokesman KevinDonohoe. “Both Republicans and Democrats have agreed that arming teachers is dangerous and will make our schools more unsafe, endanger the lives of students and teachers, and do very little to prevent mass shootings.”
State Attorney General candidate RyanTorrens:
“As America is enveloped in our crisis of gun violence, I am reminded of President Franklin Roosevelt in his First Inaugural Address when he said: ‘Our nation asks for action and action now!’
“Sadly, our legislature, backed by the NRA, voted against even bringing an assault weapons ban up for a vote. It is clear that the Florida GOP is going to keep putting the NRA and their own reelection before the safety of our children and our families.
“Not only is our legislature refusing to act, but in 2011, the legislature actually passed a law prohibiting local governments from passing reasonable gun ordinances to protect their children and families. This is absurd.”
On the debate over assault rifle bans, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King believes the Florida Legislature is a bunch of cowards.
With the eyes of the nation on them, the GOP-led state House blocked a move by Democrats Tuesday to debate a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines in Florida, six days after a massacre that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Republicans explained it would have been unprecedented to take a bill stuck in a subcommittee and move it to the chamber floor for debate.
The optics have been terrible though, with national media organizations focusing on showing Parkland students who were in the gallery that afternoon crying after the vote.
Headlines from outlets like The Washington Post screamed, “Florida House refuses to debate guns, declares porn dangerous,” referring to a resolution by Dover RepublicanRep. Ross Spano that declares pornography a health risk that states a need for education, research and policy changes to protect Floridians, especially teenagers, from pornography.
King said it was downright “cowardly” for the House to not even engage in a debate on the issue.
“That’s a terrible explanation,” he said about the reasoning that such bills aren’t heard out of committee while appearing on Tampa’s WMNF 88.5 FM Thursday.
“There are good people that can talk about these issues, recognize that they’re complicated, and that we need to have a debate and we need to discuss it and talk about the substance of these ideas,” he said, adding that he supported the same proposal by Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (HB 219) that was similarly never brought up for debate last year after the Pulse nightclub massacre.
“I think it’s a real absence of leadership and it’s cowardly to not even talk about solutions, to not even be willing to stand out there and say, ‘I oppose,’ as the Republicans would likely do, ‘I oppose an assault weapons ban, and here’s why.’ They don’t want to make that argument. They don’t want to stand up to folks like those students from Parkland who can’t understand why they wouldn’t do that,” King said.
On Wednesday night, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Boca Raton U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch appeared before a live town-hall audience broadcast nationally by CNN in Sunrise. Missing in action was Gov. Rick Scott, an absence that King calls “tragic.”
“We need a governor to not only sooth the wounds but propose big ideas that we can get behind,” King said. “I believe that’s a big problem. We haven’t had leadership from this governor for a long time.”
A Gravis Marketing poll released earlier this week shows King with only two percent support in his contest for the Democratic nomination for governor, but the Winter Park businessman says he remains unconcerned with more than six months to go before the August primary.
“My opportunity over the next seven months is as people are messaged and as people understand where we are on these issues, they’ll be making choices,” King said, adding that the poll showed that more than two-thirds of Democratic voters haven’t decided on a candidate yet.
Noting that while his better-known opponents, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are still relatively unknown by Democratic voters at large, King’s job is to “catch fire” and speak to voter concerns.
The campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is sponsoring buses to transport gun-law advocates from St. Petersburg and Orlando to a rally in Tallahassee Wednesday, and the campaign of his rival candidate Philip Levine announced Tuesday it would be doing something similar next Monday.
King, a Winter Park businessman, will be joining protesters on a bus heading from St. Petersburg Wednesday, and will attend the rally for gun law reforms being organized in Tallahassee as a reaction to last week’s mass-shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which killed 17, his campaign announced Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Levine’s campaign announced it was helping organize another rally for gun law reforms for next Monday in Tallahassee called Rally in Tally for Gun Reform.
Among those that will be joining King on one of the buses will be members of Fired Up Pinellas, Indivisible FL-13, The League of Women Voters, and other groups, his campaign indicated.
In an internet post last week, King vowed that, if elected governor, he would take on the National Rifle Association, and push to ban assault weapons. King also renewed his declaration of support for expanding Medicaid, saying it would provide access to quality, affordable healthcare and mental health services to hundreds of thousands of additional Floridians.
The event that Levine’s campaign announced it was helping organize for next Monday, “Rally in Tally,” also involves the Women’s March Florida and the Miami-Dade and Broward Democratic Party, Levine’s campaign said. There also will be buses coming from cities across Florida for that rally.
“We are coming to Tallahassee with a simple message: enough is enough. We have had it with the chipping away at our gun laws, year after year. The latest incident, which allowed a disturbed 18-year old in Broward County to commit this atrocity, is the final straw,” Levine said in a news release.
The other two major Democrats running for governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, already are Tallahassee-based.