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Aramis Ayala’s staff build up raises questions about whether she has enough

State budget cuts the Florida Legislature is aiming at Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala‘s office  could slice up to $1.3 million and 21 staff members yet there is dispute over how much she’ll need that money and staff to prosecute criminal cases in Orange and Osceola counties.

Her office currently has 55 open jobs out of 385 authorized staff positions, including 22 openings for assistant state attorneys.

Ayala’s 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office contends that is because it is taking time for the new, reform-pushing state attorney to recruit, hire and bring on board the staff she wants.

But critics in the Florida Legislature, notably state Rep. Scott Plakon, contend the openings show her office is functioning with far less staff than his proposed budget cut would provide.

Ayala, of course, is in hot water, particularly with state Republicans, for her announcement last month that she has concluded Florida’s death penalty laws are unjust for all, and she won’t use it in first-degree murder cases. Plakon is one of many critics who therefore accuse her of refusing to do her job.

Yet while Plakon and others are unabashed in their vitriol toward her, they are defending the proposed budget cuts with some of the same language that Ayala used in opposing the death penalty: death penalty cases are expensive. Ayala contended she’d rather not spend so much money on so few cases, and instead use it for everything else, from domestic violence and human trafficking prosecutions to seeking life in prison without parole for murderers.

Plakon, meanwhile, suggests the money needs to go to other state attorneys who are taking on the financial burdens of death penalty cases. That most likely starts with 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King, to whom Gov. Rick Scott has reassigned 23 of Ayala’s murder cases.

If the house budget cut goes through, or if a smaller, $622,000 budget cut in the Senate budget plan carries the day, Ayala may never get the chance to show what her office might be able to do with money it did not spend on death penalty prosecutions.

She didn’t expect to get her office fully staffed until about six months into her four-year term, said her Communications Director Eryka Washington. By then her 2016-17 budget year will have ended, and she’ll be running the office on whatever the Florida Legislature provides in the next couple of weeks for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Washington said two weeks ago that the office had just 33 open positions and the number was dropping. But on Monday she clarified that saying the number she used reflected all the  job offers that have been made, many of which are pending such things as background checks and bar scores. That includes seven job offers of assistant state attorney jobs to individuals awaiting their Bar  Exam scores, and to another three to people who are awaiting either a background check, or who haven’t yet accepted.

“Our goal was to be fully staffed within six months,” Washington said, noting Ayala took office in January. “When she came into office, she wanted to restructure, and when she came in it was understaffed. This does take some time.”

According to staffing data provided to FloridaPolitics.com last week, the office had 330 people on its payroll through April 12, and the state had authorized 385.5.

The differences include 22 openings among 160 authorized assistant state attorney positions, 13 for legal secretaries, four for investigators, four for paralegal specialists, and three for victim and witness counselors. There also were a sprinkling of openings an administrator, clerks, an information systems director, a multi-media specialist and other jobs.

Plakon expressed skepticism that anyone in Ayala’s office thought the number was 33 job openings two weeks ago, at a time when state records showed 60 openings. He accused the office of attempting to mislead the public during the legislative budget debates.

And he continued that theme late last week, arguing that the office will not feel a budget crunch if $1.3 million – equal to 21 staff positions – is siphoned off to follow the death penalty cases to other prosecutors willing to take on those difficult and expensive assignments.

Last year the office received an extra $1.4 million, also authorizing 21 positions, specifically targeting new programs for domestic violence and human trafficking prosecutions. Plakon expressed confidence those programs – which Ayala had pushed as priorities during her campaign last year – should be unaffected, given all the current understaffing.

“She had, according to transparency.gov, 60 vacant positions. So she has all the resources she needs to effectively do her job,”  Plakon said. “That’s especially true in light of her refusal to do part of her job, so we’ve systematically taken $1.3 million and moved it to the Justice Administration Commission.”

The Florida Legislature Conference Committee will have the final word on the budget cut for Ayala’s office.

 

Millions donated to Florida politicians amid 2017 Session

Some of the biggest companies involved in battles at the state Capitol showered campaign contributions to the state’s political parties and other top politicians in the first few months of the year.

Newly filed campaign finance reports show that the Republican Party of Florida raised $2.46 million during the first quarter of the year, while a separate GOP campaign committee that raises money for state Senate candidates raised $1.43 million. The Florida Democratic Party raised slightly more than $843,000 during the same period.

The annual Session of the Florida Legislature started in early March. That triggered a flow of money from groups either pushing legislation, or seeking to block bills from passing.

Money came from utilities such as Florida Power & Light, companies such as U.S. Sugar and companies in the gambling industry.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Martin Dyckman: Who needs strong, independent courts? We do.

It’s a paradox in America’s ongoing experiment with self-government that we depend on the weakest branch of government to defend us from the more powerful ones.

The Founders gave a lot of thought and ink to this. Writing in the Federalist, Alexander Hamilton pointed out that the judiciary would always be “least dangerous” to the public’s freedoms because it would be “least in a capacity to annoy or injure them.”

The courts have no police or troops of their own, no power to make laws but only to review them, no control over even their own budgets.

It would be their job, though, to protect against abuses of power by the president or the Congress.

When you see one of those branches going after the courts, like the hotheads in the Florida Legislature at the moment, consider whose ox they’re really trying to gore: yours.

Three pending acts reek of political revenge against the Supreme Court for its decisions to enforce the “Fair Districts” initiatives that voters approved, overwhelmingly, in 2010.

You voted to put a stop to political gerrymandering. You wanted to choose your legislators rather than have them choose you.

The Legislature largely ignored you, to put it politely, and tried to hide the evidence of its skullduggery by hiding behind such phony excuses as “legislative privilege” and “trade secrets.” All that took time, nearly three years in fact, but the court eventually, and rightly, ordered up new maps for the state Senate and the congressional districts.

Now look what’s happening:

— HJR 1, Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s top priority, would impose 12-year term limits on Supreme Court justices and judges of the district courts of appeal. Nearly everyone who doesn’t have a grudge against the courts thinks that’s a bad idea and unnecessary as well, The House passed this with one vote to spare. The Senate appears to be holding on to it as a bargaining chip.

— HB 301, also now in the Senate, nitpicks at the court by calling on it to submit annual reports detailing how many cases are awaiting decision and for how long. That’s a blatant invasion of the court’s constitutional power to make its own rules.

— S for SB 352, a transparent erosion of the “Fair Districts” initiatives, provides for challenged districts to go on the ballot if the cases are still pending in court by the campaign filing deadlines. In the event a map is found unconstitutional afterward, the remedial districts would not go on the ballot until the subsequent election.

In practical terms, it’s impossible to complete any complicated case in the few months between a legislative session and the filing deadlines. What if the politicians whose seats are at stake might again be the culprits behind prolonging the litigation? That would not matter.

This particular act of legislative arrogance also tries to tell the court how to conduct its hearings, although it couches this as encouragement rather than a command. And it cheekily maintains that none of this is meant to “supersede or impair” the Fair Districts amendments. There’s an “alternative fact” for you.

Lord Acton‘s famous maxim that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is on almost daily display in Congress and the state legislatures. The perks and emoluments—doorkeepers, pages and messengers, reserved parking places, and, not least, the fawning lobbyists—are intoxicating. One can quickly forget to whom that House or Senate seat actually belongs.

Without the courts—the federal courts, in this instance—the people of Florida might still be the servants of a legislature so malapportioned that fewer than 15 percent of the people, residents of the smallest counties, could elect a majority in both houses.

It was that Legislature, in 1957, which had passed an “interposition” resolution declaring that U.S. Supreme Court desegregation decisions were null and void in Florida. But of course they were not null or void, and the same fate awaits the present legislation that attempts to tell the Florida Supreme Court how to do its business.

Some other incidents are worth recall.

In 1982, the Legislature put on the ballot a constitutional amendment purporting to require financial disclosure by former legislators and Cabinet members who intended to lobby. The title and summary neglected to mention that this would nullify an absolute two-year cooling-off period, directly subverting former Gov. Reubin Askew‘s ethics in government initiative of 1976.

Askew sued, and the Florida Supreme Court threw the deceptive amendment off the ballot. The Legislature did not like that.

In 2000, the court invalidated a constitutional amendment after it had been approved in an election because it had been misrepresented as preserving the death penalty when the intended result was actually to have more executions. Again, the Legislature was unhappy.

In 2010, it bounced two legislatively proposed amendments for misleading language: one dealing with health care, and another that could have weakened the pending “Fair Districts” initiatives.

As for term limits, the way they have dumbed down the Legislature since they took effect there in 2000 hardly makes a case for doing the same to the appellate courts.

Florida needs nothing less than to discourage lawyers in mid-career from devoting themselves to their profession’s highest calling.

It was four such young lawyers who redeemed the Supreme Court from a slough of ethical scandals in the 1970s. Of the four, Ben Overton was the only one who stayed longer than seven years. Arthur J. England and Alan C. Sundberg returned voluntarily to private practice. Joseph Hatchett was appointed to a federal appeals court. Among 22 justices who came and went after 1968, the typical tenure was approximately 10 years. Overton’s, at 24, was the longest.

Florida already requires judges to retire upon reaching 70 or soon after, and that is enough.

Remember who needs strong, independent courts. You do.

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Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Divided over dollars: Florida legislators split on spending

With about a month left in the regular session, Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature is on a major collision course over spending.

This past week the House and Senate released rival budgets for the coming year that reveal a wide divide between the two chambers on everything from taxes to schools to state worker pay raises.

The two sides don’t even have the same bottom line: The Senate’s overall budget is more than $85 billion, or roughly $4 billion more than the House proposed. The current state budget is nearly $82.3 billion.

Part of the reason for the disparity is that House Republicans sought aggressive budget cuts, aimed largely at hospitals and state universities. But the House budget also sets aside money for roughly $300 million in tax cuts, including a reduction in the tax charged on rent paid by businesses.

House leaders say they pushed ahead with deep spending cuts to help the state avoid possible shortfalls that are projected over the next two to three years by state economists. In describing the need for cuts, House Republicans have referred to a budget “deficit” even though state tax collections are actually growing.

“We have to make informed decisions, and we have to make tough decisions,” said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican and the House budget chairman. “We can’t be all things to all people.”

A big sticking point between the House and Senate will be over money for public schools.

The Senate is recommending a nearly $800 million increase for day-to-day operations that would boost the amount spent on each student by close to 3 percent. That contrasts with the House’s proposal that would increase the per-student amount by 1.25 percent.

“The budget meets the needs of our growing state in a manner that reflects the priorities of the constituents who elected us,” said Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.

But a large portion of the Senate plan relies on an increase in local property taxes triggered by rising property values. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has vowed to block any proposal that relies on higher taxes.

Corcoran and other House Republicans have proposed steering large amounts of money into contentious programs, including an ambitious $200 million “Schools of Hope” plan that would offer money to charter school operators that set up schools near failing public schools.

Another wide area of disagreement: Money for economic development programs and tourism promotion that has already pitted House leaders against Gov. Rick Scott. The Senate has kept intact the state’s economic development agency known as Enterprise Florida and agreed to keep spending on tourism marketing close to current levels. The House is proposing to shutter Enterprise Florida, while slashing the state’s tourism ad budget by roughly $50 million.

“Over and over again, politicians in the House have failed to understand that Florida is competing for job creation projects against other states and countries across the globe,” Scott said this week about the House proposal.

The House and Senate also differ on the need for across-the-board raises for state workers. The Senate is offering a raise of $1,400 to all employees making $40,000 or less, and $1,000 to those who earn more than $40,000. The House is recommending targeted pay raises to corrections officers and state law-enforcement agents.

The Senate is also proposing to borrow up to $1.2 billion to acquire 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries that have been blamed for toxic algae blooms. House leaders have said they are opposed to borrowing money this year but have not rejected the Senate plan.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Franchise group tweets tone-deaf opposition to ‘Florida Small Business Act’

A pro tip for anyone seeking to curry favor with the Florida Legislature: get your facts straight — or at least know which state you’re trying to lobby.

A couple of months ago, state Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur announced supporting the “Protect Florida Small Business Act” (SB 750), which seeks to “promote fair business relations between franchisees and franchisors and to protect franchisees against unfair treatment by franchisors.”

“I want to be sure that there is a level playing field for all business owners in Florida,” Brodeur said. “Whether they are a small independent shop or a franchisee.”

For some reason, that hasn’t set well with the International Franchise Association, the industry’s leading trade group.

IFA has been a vocal opponent of the act, calling it “unnecessary government overreach and intrusion into private contract negotiations.”

So, like any good trade organization, the IFA took to social media to make its case, seeking to pressure a growing number of state lawmakers — including Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Sens. Greg Steube and Lizbeth Benacquisto and others — into opposing the bill.

But something was not quite right.

A series of tweets on the group’s page (@Franchising411) blasted several lawmakers, calling on them to reject SB 750 and its House companion (HB 1069). The tweets asked followers — nearly 12,000 of them — to tell the legislators to “protect franchising.”

Behind each image of a Florida legislator was a map of California, not Florida.

Oops.

Now, IFA is no bush-league organization; the group claims to represent more than 700,000 franchise establishments, 7.6 million direct jobs, billions in economic output for what they say is nearly 3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. That’s not small potatoes.

In addition, IFA boasts members in more than 300 different occupations including marketing, law and business development.

Apparently, that list doesn’t include cartography.

With such a vast reach, it would be reasonable to assume IFA could spring for a staffer with some basic geographic knowledge, or at least hire a person (anyone) who knows the difference between Florida and California.

Say, someone who lives in either of those states. That should narrow it down to only 56 million people.

Ironically, the worst of these misguided tweets is one the few that got it right — with Florida in the background, that is.

Sent March 30, the tweet in question asked supporters to contact Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

Double oops.

You see, even a cursory Google search would show Hukill is not even in Tallahassee this Session. She is contending with a more pressing issue — radiation treatments for cervical cancer.

Mistaking California for Florida is ridiculous enough; going after a cancer patient in active treatment is not only tone deaf, but also insensitive and mind-numbingly stupid.

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Mark Wilson, Dominic Calabro: Strangling Enterprise Florida, VISIT FLORIDA costly to Sunshine State future

Right now, jobs and the future of Florida’s economy are in jeopardy. That’s because some politicians in Tallahassee want to eliminate Florida’s economic development programs and slash the state’s tourism marketing efforts.

Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA, Florida’s economic development and tourism marketing programs, are essential to the economic well-being of our state. Eliminating Florida’s targeted and proven economic development programs is not the way forward, and will slam the brakes on the amazing job creation success Florida has seen since the end of the Great Recession.

While incentives paid for by hardworking taxpayers are rarely if ever used and are almost always inappropriate, Enterprise Florida has safeguards in place to ensure taxpayer dollars are not used as corporate welfare to skimp on contractual obligations. As Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida TaxWatch, have often said, programs offered by Enterprise Florida are not paid until the business achieves what is outlined in the contract.

If the Florida House has its way, VISIT FLORIDA will see its budget slashed by $50 million — a move that would cut two-thirds funding. Tourism is still one of Florida’s top industries for jobs and economic growth, despite Florida having a more diverse economic portfolio than at any other time in state history.

Florida has advantages, but the Sunshine State also has a major lawsuit abuse problem, we’re the only state that taxes small business rent, and our unfunded pensions cost eight times what we invest in economic development. The point is that until the Florida Legislature puts jobs and families first, now is the worst possible time to make Florida less competitive.

Taking economic development strategies that work off the table is short sighted, and without question, harms Florida’s ability to continue to lead the nation in job creation. Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA are important pieces to Florida’s economic puzzle and strangling their resources will hurt our state, our taxpayers, job creators and 20-plus million residents for years to come.

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Mark Wilson is the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Dominic Calabro is the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

Patient groups abound in formulary debate, but who funds them?

Legislation introduced this Session – HB 95 and SB 182 – seeks to change the current drug formulary system utilized by health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.

Both bills have received significant support from “patient advocacy groups” during the course of the debate.

But who are these so-called patient groups, and how are they funded?

Well, a recent New England Journal of Medicine paper titled, “Conflicts of Interest for Patient-Advocacy Organizations,” which has been widely reported on, including in a recent Kaiser Health News report, indicates that many “patient advocacy groups” may be funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

That’s right, the same industry that gave consumers the EpiPen, which cost so much that parents could no longer afford them for their kids, and featuring characters like pharma bro Martin Shkreli, who raised the price of an AIDS-related drug by 500 percent, are creating “patient advocacy groups” to push for legislative changes across the U.S., likely including right here in Florida.

Some important points from the study to consider:

– At least 83 percent of the nation’s 104 largest patient advocacy groups take contributions from the drug, medical device and biotech industries, raising questions about whether they consistently put patients first. . .

– “If you’re a policymaker and you want to hear from patients, there’s a danger if there’s an undisclosed or underdisclosed conflict of interest,” said Matthew McCoy, the paper’s primary author. “The ‘patient’ voice is speaking with a pharma accent.”

– Of the 18 nonprofits not reporting pharmaceutical money, all but five failed to disclose donors at all. Just one of the 104 nonprofits stated explicitly that it does not accept industry money.

– Executives or former executives in the pharmaceutical industry serve on a third of the organizations’ boards, the researchers found.

– About one-fifth of the patient advocacy groups studied accepted $1 million or more from drug makers, but exactly how much those groups accepted is fuzzy. Half of the organizations disclosed their donations in ranges rather than precise amounts, and most of those reported their highest donations with an unbounded upper range, the study says.

So, who is really behind the formulary change in the Florida Legislature?  Is it patients or is it really big pharma?

Beyond that debate, however, formularies have also been proven to be effective at controlling costs, especially at a time when the price of drugs continues to escalate.

Moreover, effective drug formulary management also helps to identify drug therapies that will benefit patients and, similarly, helps to detect drug therapies that may have a negative interaction with other medications a patient is taking.

As Florida lawmakers continue the debate over drug formularies, they should be wary of potentially shady patient groups and take into account what really matters in this debate, positive health outcomes balanced with affordable prescription drugs for Florida patients.

Don’t throw decoupling out with the proverbial gaming bath water

It seems like every year the Florida Legislature revisits the idea of decoupling, which is not a term to describe modern romance, but rather a gaming term. It’s what happens when venues operate a casino without the requirement to also run live horse or dog racing.

Seems simple enough; but every year, decoupling doesn’t pass because, inevitably, the gaming bill turns into a gambling train, and decoupling has to go along for the ride.

Ultimately, the two chambers can’t agree, and nothing passes at all.

Decoupling, though, has something for everyone, so it should be something all parties agree on — except for my friend Jack Cory — even during a contentious session.

 For the pro-growth crowd, it would have a positive economic impact on the communities where there is a casino that is forced to continue to run live dog or horse races because of this archaic law.

Look no further than the City of Miami Gardens for example.

The mayor there, Oliver Gilbert, has made the trek up to Tallahassee to implore legislators to seriously consider decoupling this Session, because, as he puts it, his city has “only one sit-down restaurant, virtually no shopping and little in the way of regular entertainment.” Yet, there is a parcel of land positioned on a major commercial thoroughfare that cannot be redeveloped because a horse track, mostly unused, occupies it.

He thinks that if the facility, Calder Race Course, had the ability to sell its land, but continue to operate its casino, the city could redevelop the land, infusing needed capital and adding jobs to a community that has a suppressed economy.

And, for the No Casinos crowd — with which I typically sympathize — who want to see reduced gaming in the state, decoupling may be the best to get rid of gaming.

Yes, these venues would still be able to operate their casinos, but decoupling would get rid of some horse and dog racing. And, oh by the way, while you have to be 21 years old to get into casinos across the state, you can go gamble at dog and horse tracks at just 18. So not only would decoupling reduce gaming, it would reduce exposing gambling to those under 21.

Beyond these positive benefits, while many gaming issues come with plenty of controversy, decoupling just isn’t one of them.

Aside from the thoroughbred industry claiming that it will be detrimental to Florida families — a red herring argument because the consolidation of thoroughbred racing has actually had a positive effect on the industry in South Florida — there simply isn’t much opposition to decoupling.

I get it, the reality is a lot of gaming policy won’t see the light of day this session — especially in the Florida House which remains staunchly opposed to the expansion of gaming — but, I would just say: Don’t throw decoupling out with the proverbial gaming bath water.

It’s just too simple and too much to agree on not to finally allow decoupling.

Michael Carlson: Don’t trade a tax cut for a tax increase – preserve the salary tax credits for insurers

Michael Carlson

For three decades, Florida has offered insurance companies a highly effective, performance-based tax credit that has resulted in tens of thousands of good jobs being created or imported to our state. Not only does this credit bolster our state’s economy in a transparent, accountable way, it also helps ensure insurance rates for Floridians stay as affordable as possible.

Senate Bill 378 by Sen. Anitere Flores would bring that to an unfortunate end. It would repeal tax credits available to insurers as a way to lower the communications services tax currently levied on telecommunications, video, cable and satellite television and other related services.

Cutting one tax but increasing another is a bad trade that would do more harm than good. It would eliminate tax credits that have been working exactly as intended and sets a bad precedent for other businesses considering a move to Florida based on the availability of similar tax credits. Importantly to consumers and businesses, it would amount to a $300 million tax increase that could translate to higher insurance rates for everyone.

The insurance premium tax credits allow insurers to deduct 15 percent of the employee salary for each job they create or import to Florida from the premium tax they pay each year to the state. For taxpayers, the essential fact is this: Insurers only get the credit if they actually create or import a job. They don’t get a credit for a mere promise of creating jobs. And if the insurance company eliminates the job, they lose the credit.

An independent evaluation of the tax credit in 2013 found it had led to the creation of 40,000 insurance industry-related jobs since 2008 – a tremendous return on the state’s investment. In other words, while many industries were being hit hard and laying off workers during the Great Recession, the insurance industry in Florida was able to create good-paying jobs for Floridians.

Since the recession, Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature have strongly focused on job creation and strategies that promote economic growth in the state. Unquestionably, this credit has contributed to the insurance industry’s considerable investment in Florida. In fact, the insurance industry today touts more than 200,000 jobs that collectively pay about $12 billion in total salaries to workers in Florida.

It’s important to consider that if this successful tax credit is repealed, Florida will be sending a conflicting message to all industries that are thinking about relocating to Florida under the promise of a tax credit like this one, only to watch it get repealed years later. Even worse, eliminating it could send companies out of Florida to a competing state to plant their headquarters or call centers and, quite possibly, to a location that offers the tax credits they thought they would be able to maintain here in Florida.

While periodic review of corporate incentives is reasonable, it would be a mistake to repeal tax credits that have created jobs in Florida and contributed to the economy. We urge lawmakers to reject SB 378 as a shortsighted move that would swap one tax for another and result in higher premiums for all purchasers of insurance.

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Michael Carlson is the president of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida, a trade association of insurance companies that provide automobile and homeowners’ property insurance.

Lauren Book, Joe Geller file bills seeking higher penalties for guns at school, boost firearm safety

Two bills introduced in the Florida Legislature this week seek to bolster gun safety when children are involved.

Cosponsored by Plantation Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book, SB 648 would establish a perimeter of safety for students around schools, as well as strengthen penalties for careless storage of firearms which then fall into the hands of minors.

Aventura Democratic Rep. Joseph Geller filed the companion House Bill (HB 957).

If passed, the bills would increase penalties on individuals who brandish a firearm on or near school property, on the unlawful firing of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school, and for those who do not properly store their firearms, allowing access to minors

“All children deserve to be kept safe,” Book said in a statement Monday. “One of the most basic and straightforward ways we can ensure child safety is by keeping firearms out of the hands of children and away from school property.”

According to the American Bar Association, in 47 states, a parent can leave a loaded, unlocked gun on a dining room table, nightstand or other easily accessed location and face no legal consequences for having the gun within a child’s reach.

“The safety of Florida’s students, both while at school and at home, is paramount to their success in the classroom and in life,” Geller said in a statement. “There’s no excuse for brandishing a firearm at a school. Neither is there any reason for allowing a minor access to a firearm because it isn’t stored in a secure manner. These commonsense gun safety reforms ensure that our students are protected and that those who threaten their safety are punished.”

Under the bill, if a minor gets ahold of an improperly stored gun, the owner would be charged with a first degree misdemeanor instead of a second degree misdemeanor as current law allows. The bill would also tack on a felony charge if the gun is fired.

The bill would also ratchet up charges on adults if a minor brandishes a gun in public or if a minor violates the same rules with a BB gun or air gun.

 

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