The National Rifle Association grew into an organization with outsized influence because it keeps lawmakers in line with the threat of political and economic pressure. Its leaders have long understood that politicians can be controlled with those strong-arm tactics.
In recent days though, the reverse is becoming reality. In the wake of the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, major sponsors are disassociating with the NRA and even some political leaders – most notably Florida Gov. Rick Scott – offered proposals they wouldn’t have made a month ago.
Scott now wants the minimum age to buy a gun in Florida increased to 21. The confessed killer in Broward County is 19 years old and legally bought the AR-15-style rifle used in the massacre. He also has refused to support the NRA proposal to arm teachers in public schools.
The NRA, naturally, opposes raising the minimum age to buy a weapon. In the Miami Herald, lobbyist Marion Hammer dismissed it as “political eye wash” and said it will “punish law-abiding gun owners.”
The NRA, according to the profile, has about 300,000 members in Florida, a state with more than 20 million people.
That amounts to 1.5 percent of the population, but Hammer’s ability to summon NRA members en masse to meet any perceived waffling by puppet politicians makes that number seem a lot higher.
She has been able to keep her team in line because opponents have never been able to organize a serious counter challenge. This boycott suggests that might be changing.
The hashtag #BoycottNRA has been attacked by conservatives, who promise companies that go along with it will pay dearly. Major airlines like Delta and United announced they will no longer offer special deals to NRA members, and some hotel chains and credit card companies are doing the same.
The big showdown is with Amazon, YouTube and Google, which thus far have resisted calls to sever ties with the NRA that includes showing its videos online.
Determined opponents have called for such things as canceling memberships to Amazon’s lucrative Prime program. If that begins to catch on, the public backlash against the NRA could turn into an avalanche.
The NRA is fighting back, of course, but we go back to the numbers. It claims to have 5 million members in a nation of about 325 million. We’re back on that approximately 1.5 percent number again.
That also assumes every NRA member is in lockstep with the loudest voices in the organization. In the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas killings, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Well, if any gun restrictions get through the Florida Legislature, mild as they probably will be, that’s a start. Democrats will be running hard for state offices and congressional seats on anti-gun theme, and that really could change things.
If the NRA boycott spreads, it could impact the organization’s ability to distribute pro-gun literature and send campaign donations to favored politicians.
The seeds of change are there.
Public opinion is turning, some reliable politicians are deserting, and determined Stoneman Douglas students are eloquently demanding change.
That’s how it works.
Pressure. And time.
The NRA, finally, is learning what its like to be on the other side of that game.
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:
Gov. RickScott on Friday ordered flags at half-staff for former state Rep. RobWallace.
Wallace, a Republican, represented House District 47, comprising northwest Hillsborough and northern Pinellas counties, from 1994 to 2002. He lived in Tampa, and owned and operated a civil and environmental engineering company.
The 65-year-old died earlier this week after jumping from a Dale Mabry Highway overpass in Hillsborough County, according to law enforcement.
Scott directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa, Tampa City Hall, and the State Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Monday.
“He was a true family man who loved and cared deeply for his community,” said Wallace’s daughter, Amber Loper.
In addition to his daughter, Wallace is survived by his sons, Robert, Scott, and Connor Wallace, and his wife, Ann. He had three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Lutz on Monday at 1 p.m.
Gov. RickScott on Friday offered a $500 million proposal to address school safety, gun laws and mental-health issues after the mass shooting this month that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.
The proposal, in part, calls for at least one school resource officer to be stationed in every public school in the state. It also calls for requiring that people buying guns be at least 21 years old, a requirement already in place for handguns but not long guns.
It also includes proposed changes designed to keep guns out of the hands of people who are violent or mentally ill and pose threats.
The package does not include a ban on semi-automatic weapons, commonly known as “assault” rifles, and would not lead to arming teachers.
Meantime, House and Senate leaders also Friday outlined proposals that could lead to some armed teachers in public schools and requiring that gun purchasers be at least 21 years old. (Senate’s summary here.)
House Speaker RichardCorcoran said at a news conference that lawmakers are expected to spend $400 million to $500 million on the issues, though details were still being worked out.
Lawmakers want to allow teachers who go through extensive training and work under the direction of law-enforcement agencies to be able to carry concealed weapons at schools.
Also, they would increase the age to purchase long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, to 21, which is already the age requirement for purchasing handguns.
Lawmakers will not seek to ban certain semiautomatic weapons, commonly known as assault rifles, such as the one used in the Broward County murders.
The proposals come as legislators still have not gone into the conference process to work out a state budget for 2018-19.
The 2018 Legislative Session is scheduled to end March 9—about two weeks away—but a constitutionally mandated 72 hour “cooling off” period must occur between a spending plan being finalized and a vote of both chambers.
The budget then must be approved by Scott, subject to any line item vetoes.
Gov. RickScott on Friday announced a “major action plan to keep Florida students safe following (the) tragic Parkland shooting,” according to a statement from his office.
That includes $500 million for school safety and mental health initiatives.
Here are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jamie Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alexander Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang.
Unfortunately, none of the plans I’m announcing today will bring any of them back, but it’s important to remember them. The seventeen lives that were cut short and all the hopes and dreams that were ruined have changed our state forever. Florida will never be the same.
Today, I am announcing a major action plan. I will be working with the legislature aggressively over the next two weeks to get it done.
This week we asked law enforcement leaders, education leaders, and health leaders from all over the state to drop what they were doing, clear their schedules, and immediately get up to Tallahassee for urgent conversations about what we can – and must do – to make our schools and communities safer. We must take care of our kids.
I can tell you that everyone said yes, and they came, and they got to work.
I have also spent a lot of time in Parkland meeting with families and students. I’ve been there nearly every day since the shooting. I have listened to their ideas to make sure this never happens again.
I also met with students who courageously came to Tallahassee to have their voices heard. What we saw in this building on Wednesday is what our democracy is about and why we live in the greatest nation on earth.
My message to them has been very simple – you are not alone. Change is coming… and it will come fast.
This is a time when I believe we must all come together, and even cross party lines. Of course, we won’t all agree on every issue, but I do believe this is a moment when our state can come together around a common sense set of actions.
I also want to encourage people to listen to each other and keep listening to each other. I’ve done a lot more listening than talking this week. Sometimes leading involves more listening than talking.
I’ve listened to things that I agree with, and to things I don’t agree with. It’s important to consider all viewpoints.
I’ve broken my action plan down into three sections. Gun laws, school safety, and mental health. We must get this done in the next two weeks.
First, on guns:
I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who has mental issues to use a gun. I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who is a danger to themselves or others to use a gun.
I want to create a new program in Florida – I call it the Violent Threat Restraining Order. This concept is very simple, and very common sense in my view.
This will allow a court to prohibit a violent or mentally ill person from purchasing or possessing a firearm or any other weapon when either a family member, community welfare expert or law enforcement officer files a sworn request, and presents evidence to the court of a threat of violence involving firearms or other weapons. There would be speedy due process for the accused and any fraudulent or false statements would face criminal penalties.
Let’s take a moment to look at the case of this killer. This person was not stopped from legally purchasing a weapon, was not arrested, was not detained, and was never forced to turn in his weapons.
Let’s review the warning signs here… he had 39 visits from police, his mother called him in, DCF investigated, he was kicked out of school, he was known to students as a danger to shoot people, and he was reported to the FBI last month as a possible school shooter.
And yet, he was never put on the list to be denied the ability to buy a gun, and his guns were never removed from him.
We will also strengthen gun purchase and possession restrictions for mentally ill individuals under the Baker Act. If a court involuntarily commits someone because they are a risk to themselves or others, they would be required to surrender all firearms and not regain their right to purchase or possess a firearm until a court hearing. We are also proposing a minimum 60-day period before individuals can ask a court to restore access to firearms.
Also, we will require all individuals purchasing firearms to be 21 or older. Let me repeat – we will require all individuals purchasing firearms to be 21 or older.
There will be exceptions for active duty and reserve military and spouses, National Guard members, and law enforcement.
Next, we will prohibit a person from possessing or purchasing a firearm if they are subject to an injunction for protection against stalking, cyberstalking, dating violence, repeat violence, sexual violence, or domestic violence.
We will establish enhanced criminal penalties for threats to schools, like social media threats of shootings or bombings. We will also enhance penalties if any person possesses or purchases a gun after they have been deemed by state law to not have access to a gun.
And, we will completely ban the purchase or sale of bump stocks.
The secondpart of my action plan provides $450 million to keep students safe.
Today, I am calling for a mandatory law enforcement officer in every public school. These law enforcement officers must either be sworn sheriff’s deputies or police officers and be present during all hours students are on campus.
The size of the campus should be a factor in determining staffing levels by the county sheriff’s office, and I am proposing at least one law enforcement officer for every 1,000 students. This must be implemented by the start of the 2018 school year.
We will also provide sheriff’s departments the authority to train additional school personnel or reserve law enforcement officers to protect students if requested by the local school board.
And, we will require mandatory active shooter training as outlined by the Department of Homeland Security. All training and code red drills must be completed during the first week of each semester in all public schools. Both faculty and students must participate in active shooter drills and local sheriff’s offices must approve and be involved in training.
We are also increasing funding in the Safe Schools Allocation to address specific school safety needs within each school district. This includes school hardening measures like metal detectors, bullet-proof glass, steel doors, and upgraded locks. The Florida Department of Education, with FDLE, will also provide minimum school safety and security standards by July 1 to all school districts.
All school safety plans must be submitted to their county sheriff’s office by July 1 each year for approval. Once all plans and requests for school hardening have been approved by the county sheriff’s office, in consultation with local police, plans will be forwarded to the Department of Education by the school district to receive any state funds.
School districts must also take all capital outlay funds received from taxpayers and use it for school hardening before it can be spent on any other capital outlay. All safe school allocations must be spent in accordance with the sheriff approved plans.
We will also require each school district that receives a Safe Schools Allocation to enter into an agreement with the local sheriff’s office, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Law Enforcement and any community behavioral health provider for the purpose of sharing information. That will allow us to better coordinate services in order to provide prevention or intervention strategies.
We will also establish a new, anonymous K-12 “See Something, Say Something” statewide, dedicated hotline, website and mobile app.
Next, we will establish funding to require access to dedicated mental health counselors to provide direct counseling services to students at every school. These counselors cannot serve dual roles, like teaching or academic advising. Every student must have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a mental health professional, and receive ongoing counseling as needed.
Each school will be required to have a threat assessment team including a teacher, a local law enforcement officer, a human resource officer, a DCF employee, a DJJ employee, and the principal to meet monthly to review any potential threats to students and staff at the school.
Finally, we will require crisis intervention training for all school personnel. This training must be completed before the start of the 2018 school year.
The final part of my action plan includes $50 million in additional funding for mental health initiatives.
We must expand mental health service 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.
We are also requiring every sheriffs’ office to have a DCF case manager embedded in their department to solely work as a crisis welfare worker for repeat cases in the community. This will require 67 additional employees to be hired at DCF by July 15.
Finally, we will provide law enforcement and mental health coordination matching grants to allow sheriffs to establish special law enforcement teams to coordinate with DCF case managers.
Before I take your questions, I want to close with this.
The goal of this plan of action is to make massive changes in protecting our schools, provide significantly more resources for mental health, and do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of those dealing with mental problems or threatening harm to themselves or others.
I know there are some who are advocating a mass takeaway of Second Amendment rights for all Americans. That is not the answer.
Keeping guns away from dangerous people and people with mental issues is what we need to do.
I do know that some are going to accuse me of unfairly stigmatizing those who struggle with mental illness. I reject that. I am not asking them to wear a scarlet letter, nor am I unsympathetic to their plight. I have a family member who has dealt with these issues. It is hard on them and it is hard on the family.
But, what I am saying is no one with mental issues should have access to guns.
It’s common sense, and it is in their own best interest, not to mention the interests of our communities.
And much of what I’m proposing involves giving law enforcement the ability to stop people from harming themselves and others, while giving them the tools to keep our schools safe.
We know for certain that we cannot simply rely on the current federal background check system.
This killer should not have been able to purchase or even possess a weapon.
And we know that the federal government can’t even be counted on to investigate or act on serious and credible threats as we saw with the FBI’s complete failure.
It’s obvious we can’t trust the federal process which is why we have to make these changes here in Florida.
I’m an NRA member, a supporter of the Second Amendment, and the First Amendment, and the entire bill of rights for that matter. I’m also a father, and a grandfather, and a Governor.
We all have a difficult task in front of us… balancing our individual rights with our obvious need for public safety.
But of course, some will say it’s too much, and some will say it is not enough. I respect everyone’s opinion, and I don’t ridicule those who disagree with me. An open dialogue is crucial.
But, I will not accept the old, tired political notion that we don’t have enough time to get anything done. Government does not have to be slow or lethargic. And when it comes to protecting our schools and our kids, we need to be swift and decisive.
I also understand that I am proposing half a billion dollars for school safety and mental health initiatives.
But let me be clear – there is nothing more important than the safety of our children. Our kids deserve nothing less. Fortunately, our economy is booming, and we have the resources to protect our schools and our students.
And, if providing this funding means we won’t be able to cut taxes this year – so be it.
And, if we have to give up some of the projects we all hold near and dear – so be it.
We are all elected to come to Tallahassee to represent the best interests of Floridians. And, today, there is nothing more important than to do all we can to make sure a horrific and evil act like the Parkland shooting never happens again.
Gov. RickScott on Thursday ordered flags at half-staff to honor Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy KevinStanton.
Stanton, a nearly 11-year veteran of the department, died while on duty Feb. 17.
“His patrol car was struck by a tractor-trailer on I-95,” according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
“The tractor-trailer suffered a tire blow-out, causing the driver to lose control and swerve into the left lane where Deputy Stanton was driving,” the site said. “Stanton’s patrol car then struck the rear of the semi.”
Scott directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Brevard County Courthouse, City Hall, and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office North Precinct, all in Titusville, from sunrise to sunset on Friday.
“We pray that his family, fellow officers and loved ones find comfort in knowing that Deputy Stanton will be remembered as a decorated officer and hero,” Scott said in a statement.
“While we saw firsthand the bravery of our law enforcement officers during and after the tragic shooting in Parkland this week, we must remember that Florida’s law enforcement officers make the incredible decision to put their lives on the line every day to protect families across our state.
“I ask that all Floridians take the time to thank their law enforcement officers for their service and also pause to honor the sacrifice of every fallen officer who lost their lives as they courageously served our state.”
Trying to undo a 2016 court ruling in a case involving Florida Power & Light, the state Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that deals with approval of electric transmission lines.
The 34-4 vote by the Senate sends the bill (HB 405) to Gov. RickScott. The House voted 105-2 to approve the measure last month.
The issue stems from a 2016 ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeal in a dispute involving local governments in Miami-Dade County and FPL about a proposed project that would add two nuclear reactors at the utility’s Turkey Point complex.
Scott and the state Cabinet approved the project in 2014 in their role as a state power-plant siting board.
But the appeals court overturned that decision, with a key part of the ruling saying Scott and Cabinet members erroneously determined they could not require underground transmission lines as a condition of the project approval.
Lee said the bill approved Wednesday would make changes that would effectively revert to an approval process that had been in place for decades before the court ruling. He said the changes are needed to make sure that transmission lines, which are crucial to power-plant projects, can be sited.
“Over the 45 years since 1973, every transmission line in this state has been sited and permitted under the process that we are reaffirming here in this legislation,” Lee said.
But Sen. JoseJavierRodriguez, a Miami Democrat, said the appeals court sided with local governments on issues related to land use and local regulations and urged senators to oppose the bill.
Rodriguez, Sen. GaryFarmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, Sen. ReneGarcia, a Hialeah Republican, and Sen. AnnetteTaddeo, a Miami Democrat, cast the dissenting votes.
Six days after the deadliest high school shooting in the state’s history, a law enforcement panel convened Tuesday in Tallahassee at Gov. Rick Scott’s request to discuss ideas that can prevent future campus massacres.
“I have a wife at home that won’t send our kids to school,” Coconut Creek Police Chief Albert “Butch” Arenal said. “The public is not going to tolerate anything less than security for their schools right now.”
After a two-hour morning discussion, several suggestions were made. The most popular ones: hiring more school resource officers, having more detailed background checks for gun buyers and making it harder for people committed under the Baker Act to get back access to their guns.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gaultieri said the state needs to have better background checks for gun buyers because they are currently “very limited and narrow in scope” and only serve to find a gun buyer’s “disqualifying crimes.”
Gaultieri added that police should have more power to seize weapons from people who are involuntarily examined under the Baker Act for making threatening statements against others and give them a “cooling-off” period.
“But if they feel they are stable and that they are not a threat, they can go to a psychologist, get a determination that they are not a threat and they can go to a judge and they can release them from exclusion,” Gaultieri said.
He used 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz as an example of someone who exhibited signs of mental illness since middle school and was still able to buy an AR-15 rifle, which he used to gun down 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
“A person that shows to be a threat can be ‘Baker Acted’ 15 times and they can still go down to a local gun store and buy a gun,” Gaultieri said. “This kid could have been ‘Baker Acted’ and still been able to buy a gun.”
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, however, said the solution is arming teachers with guns and training them to protect students from active shooters.
“It’s not something that we want to do it, it is something we have to do if you want a game changer,” Judd said.
It remains to be seen if the proposals put forth by sheriffs and police officers from more than a dozen communities across the state will sway legislators as they scramble to come up with solutions with less than three weeks left in the 2018 Legislative Session. More so because what they are proposing will cost money.
Scott has yet to indicate what he will support. But he will skip a CNN Town Hall with Parkland students, parents and teachers to continue to attend these roundtable discussions on public safety, education and mental health in Tallahassee.
The governor, however, was not present in the morning panels. Scott’s office said he was attending a funeral in South Florida and that he would fly to the capital city to attend the panels in the afternoon.
With only three weeks left in the 2018 Legislative Session, the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is dominating the conversation in Tallahassee.
Democrats have started making noise about Republicans obstructing their long-stalled gun control bills, while GOP-leaders have focused on the need for changes to mental health laws, and needed funding boosts.
Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and Senate budget chief Rob Bradley all spoke about the shooting through that lens. The Senate is also considering school “hardening” and providing funding to destroy the building where the massacre occurred, the Miami Herald reports.
But the clock is ticking for the Republican-controlled Legislature to make meaningful change in response to 17 people being gunned down at the suburban Broward County school. So far, a push for mental health funding is gaining the most momentum, but concrete proposals have yet to emerge.
With that said, here are 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:
Parkland’s legislative aftermath — The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Broward County shook the entire country and the state Capitol this week, reviving the political debate on what can be done to put an end to gun violence. Senate leadership says the focus will be on boosting funding for mental health services and more security on campuses across Florida — not gun control. House members have sent a letter to House Speaker Richard Corcoran — who has mostly been mum since the shooting — asking him to match the Senate’s funding proposal for mental health services. Broward County legislators flew back home upon hearing the news of the shooting to attend Thursday’s vigil and be with the community.
Putnam pulls gun proposal — A proposal tucked into an agriculture-related bill that would have allowed applicants to get concealed weapon permits if Florida officials don’t complete their complete background checks in time was pulled from consideration due to “timing” and “sensitivity.” The hearing was set a day after the shooting. Senate President Negron said it would be up to the bill sponsor to see if the proposal would get another hearing this session, but Senate Budget ChairmanBradleysaid it will not be coming back this session and that mental health will be a priority.
Underage marriages still in play — A clash between the House and the Senate is putting legislation that aims to end forced child marriages in a tough spot. While the bill is very much alive, legislators that led the effort in their chambers are working together to see what the next step will be. The Florida House voted this week to allow a court to issue a marriage license to 16- and 17-year-olds in cases when there is a pregnancy. Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and the entire Senate want a ban on all underage marriages. Benacquisto said she is “concerned” that the House proposal may not close all loopholes that could lead to forced child marriages in the state. She said she will continue to work with Rep. Jeanette Nunez to weigh all options for the bill.
Fixing voter-restoration process — After a federal judge said the state’s current voter-restoration system is unconstitutional, the state fought back and said Gov. Scott and the Cabinet should be tasked with fixing its flaws — not the courts. But a national voting rights advocacy group that convinced the judge to strike down the current process said the court should restore voting rights to all felons who complete any “waiting period” set by the state. Currently, the state has a five-year waiting period before a former felon can apply to have their voting rights restored.
A hyped-up immigration debate — After days of tweeting back and forth, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and House SpeakerCorcoranmet face-to-face to debate the sanctuary city issue that has taken over the governor’s race. The 45-minute debate centered on Corcoran’s $1.4 million television ad that portraying immigrants who entered the country illegally as a danger to Floridians and HB 9, a proposal that threatens local officials who do not fully comply with federal immigration authorities with removal from office and fines. Corcoran and Gillum advocated for polar opposite sides on the issue — as expected. But both fed their base supporters, which would make it a win for both try to boost their name recognition statewide.
Scott gives update on response to Parkland school shooting
The day after 17 died in a mass shooting at Marjory Douglas High School, Gov. Scott listed off what state agencies are doing to help the survivors.
The Florida Department of Education and the Florida Department of Children and Families through its local managing entity, Broward Behavioral Health Coalition, are providing grief counseling in the area. DOE has also put the Florida Association of School Psychologists on standby if more counselors are needed.
Attorney General Pam Bondi is also on the scene with her director of victim services and approximately a dozen victim advocates. The office is also offering counseling services and funeral, burial and medical expenses for victims and their families.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Highway Patrol are assisting the Broward County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation.
The state Department of Health is also on call to help the Broward County medical examiner, while OneBlood is working to meet the blood donation needs of the victims. The agency said O negative blood is needed to replenish the area’s supply.
Senators ask Negron to convene school safety task force
Sens. Rene Garcia and Anitere Flores sent a letter Friday to Senate President Negron asking him to “immediately convene” a task force that would find comprehensive solutions to “protect our students and teacher from violence.”
“The task force should consider reviewing the following issues, mental health, access to care, funding and treatment options,” they write.
Both Miami Republicans want a task force to explore review issues of mental health treatment options as well as options for hiring former military and police officers to secure schools.
The findings collected by the task force would provide a “framework for action” by the governor and the Legislature.
“We should not allow the inaction of our Federal partners to be the cause of our inaction in addressing the issues of violence in our schools and our community,” the letter states. “The time for action is now.”
Senators visit Floridians affected by school shooting
Senate President Negron, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon and Sens. Lauren Book and Gary Farmer went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Wednesday to meet with those affected by the tragedy.
The senators visited Broward Health where they met with medical personnel responsible for treating shooting victims. They also met with Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
The pictures and video I viewed previously did not prepare us for the horrendous sight we viewed today at Stoneman Douglas,” Negron said. That horrific scene of one person’s destruction was a stark contrast to the heroism and hope we encountered during our meeting with the doctors and other medical personnel.”
Negron said he is committed to pushing legislation that will give $100 million in funding for mental health services, improve the safety and security of state schools and ensure that a person suffering from a mental health issue does not have the ability to purchase a firearm.
“I look forward to visiting Parkland again to share with the community the progress we have made toward preventing a tragedy like this from ever happening again,” Negron said.
Gibson, Berman want gun bills heard in 2018 Legislative Session
In the wake of the Parkland school shooting Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Senate President Negron and House Speaker Corcoran imploring them to consider a proposal that would allow guns to be temporarily confiscated from owners who pose a threat to themselves or others.
HB 231 and SB 530, sponsored by Lantana Rep. Lori Berman and Jacksonville Sen. Audrey Gibson, would allow family, friends, teachers or law enforcement officers to get a court order to temporarily remove a firearm if there is evidence that a person poses a significant danger to themselves or others because of a mental health crisis or violent behavior.
“Now more than ever, these bills must be heard. The most recent shooting is unacceptable and too tragic to comprehend. It is time we step up and come together to act on meaningful gun safety reform,” Berman said. “As a mother, my heart breaks for these families. There are no words to describe the horror of a child not returning home from school. Florida needs to set an example for the rest of the nation by not just demanding action but taking action.”
The bills are based off a Washington state law. Similar measures have passed in California, Oregon, Indiana, and Connecticut.
Florida picks up another $10 million in Israeli bonds
CFO Jimmy Patronis announced this week that Florida is increasing its stake in Israeli bonds by $10 million this year, bringing the Sunshine State’s total investment to $50 million.
“During a time when our nation is criticized and attacked for moving our embassy to Jerusalem, it’s incredibly important to signal to the world that we stand firmly with the State of Israel,” Patronis said.
“Israel’s economy has seen significant growth over the years including expanded development in the high-tech industry. Increasing our investment in Israel by $10 million this year not only provides a good return on investment but strengthens our relationship. The interests of Israel will always be the interests of the United States, and this unprecedented investment further cements us as friends, allies and economic partners.”
Patronis decided to increase Florida’s investment after discussions with Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and other representatives, including Israel Bonds President Israel Maimon. The move gives Florida the third largest stake in the State of Israel among U.S. states.
Conservative activist seeks constitutional fix to abortion issue
John Stemberger is telling supporters their “voice is needed at one of the four upcoming historic hearings of the 2017-2018 Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).”
The commission, in the process of rewriting parts of the state constitution, announced the second round of public hearings on their work, in Melbourne on Feb. 19, Jacksonville on Feb. 20, Pensacola on Feb. 27, and St. Petersburg on March 13.
The panel now has 37 proposals under review for possible addition to the state’s governing document. That doesn’t include one favored by Stemberger, an Orlando attorney who sits on the commission and leads the conservative Florida Family Policy Council. Proposal 22 was voted down by other commissioners.
It’s “designed to fix our state constitution’s privacy clause and require the Florida Supreme Court to interpret it in accordance with the original intent of the Legislature (which placed it on the ballot) and the people who adopted it,” he told supporters in an email this week. “Florida’s privacy clause was intended for informational privacy and not for abortion.”
Stemberger and others have urged the commission to amend the constitution to undo a 1989 Florida Supreme Court decision striking down as unconstitutional a state law that required parental consent before a minor can get an abortion. Opponents complain that the constitutional provision at issue, the right to privacy, was misconstrued to apply to abortion rights instead of a right to “informational privacy” against the government.
“If 15 CRC members vote to revive the proposal, the matter can still be heard and voted on by the entire commission,” Stemberger said.
“The first public hearing in this second round of CRC hearings occurred this past week in Fort Lauderdale, one of the most liberal cities in the state,” he added. “The forum was packed with what appeared to be 500-600 people who were very hostile to life, parental rights and school choice.
“During the hearing, opponents were very rude, disruptive and did not respect the Chairman’s repeated requests to be civil and not cheer, clap, or otherwise disrupt the forum or another speaker’s time. Citizens who support life, parental rights, life and school choice need to attend these upcoming hearings and present better, respectful, more persuasive (not to mention truthful) arguments to this historic commission.”
The 37-member panel convenes every 20 years. Any changes it ultimately approves still must go on the 2018 statewide ballot and gain 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution.
DOH wants Floridians to show their heart some love
The Florida Department of Health said this week that Floridians should treat Valentine’s Day as a reminder to live a heart-healthy life.
DOH and the American Heart Association recognize February as a time to help Americans focus on making changes to their lifestyle in order to combat heart disease, the leading cause of death in Florida and the country.
“This month, take some time to show your heart extra love — if you take care of your heart, your heart will take care of you,” DOH Secretary Celeste Philip said. “Heart disease remains a threat to too many Floridians, and almost half of adults in America have high blood pressure. But there are many ways to reduce your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease, such as making smart food choices, staying active and getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night.”
DOH’s recommendations for keeping hearts fit are 150 minutes of exercise a week, regular visits to the doctor for preventive screenings, and a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Smokers can also greatly decrease their risk of heart disease by quitting, and Tobacco Free Florida is willing to lend a helping hand for those ready to make the change.
Child Safety Alarm Act clears first committee
A bill by Orlando Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart that aims to crack down on children being left in hot daycare vehicles cleared its first committee this week with a unanimous vote.
“This is a bipartisan effort to keep our children safe,” Stewart said. “We need to be doing everything we can to try to prevent our most precious cargo from being left in hot vans and I look forward to the same vote outcome at the Transportation Committee.”
Stewart filed the bill after the 2017 death of 3-year-old Myles Hill, who was left unattended in a daycare van for 12 hours in the scorching summer heat.
SB 486 would require vehicles used by day care facilities to be outfitted with an alarm system that reminds drivers to check the car for children before leaving the vehicle. The bill is expected to be taken up next for a vote in the Senate Transportation Committee, followed by the Rules Committee before it’s ready for the Senate floor.
A similar bill in the House, HB 305, has been filed by Orlando Democratic Rep. Bruce Antone but has not yet been heard in committee.
Plakon gives the ultimate Valentine’s Day present
Some give flowers, others give chocolates. But state Rep. Scott Plakon gets tattoos for Valentine’s Day.
“I just got a tattoo. Really. I’m not kidding. A real one,” Plakon wrote in a Facebook post.
Plakon got a tattoo with the purple Alzheimer’s Awareness ribbon and a daisy in honor of his wife Susie, whose favorite flower is the daisy and was diagnosed with Alzheimer.
“As I’ve shared before,” he said, “my new life’s mission is to help bring more awareness to the reality of Alzheimer’s disease. What better way to make it permanent than to get a tattoo?”
The Seminole County Republican said he went to the tattoo parlor on his way home from Tallahassee. He stopped at Infamous Tattoos in Leesburg.
“Sort of an unusual gift but Happy Valentine’s Day, Susie Plakon!” he wrote.
COA group praises Senate for ‘Condo Cleanup Bill’ vote
A bill by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo that would patch up a number of cracks in 2017 legislation aimed at reforming condominium owners association rules cleared its second Senate panel this week, much to the delight of association group Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies.
“Last year, the Florida Legislature passed a number of needed reforms that instructed Associations what to do but not how to implement those reforms,” said CEOMC Executive Director and Lobbyist Mark Anderson.
“SB 1274 is essentially the instruction manual of how to properly implement those important reforms while protecting our Associations and homeowners from unintended higher costs. We are pleased to see this legislation moving quickly and appreciate the leadership of Senator Passidomo.”
The “Condo Cleanup Bill,” makes clear how long COAs must keep official records, such as vote tallies or contract bids, on hand for unit owners. It also requires larger complexes to post certain records online and clarifies financial reporting requirements for complexes based on their annual revenues.
The bill now moves on to the Rules Committee, its final stop before it’s ready for the chamber floor.
Rhodes Roberts named 2017 Woman of the Year in Agriculture
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced this week that has been picked as the “Woman of the Year in Agriculture” for 2017.
“Florida’s robust agriculture industry would not be as bright as it is today without the dedication and service of individuals such as Dr. Roberts,” Putnam said. “I’m honored to present Dr. Roberts with the 2017 Woman of the Year in Agriculture award.”
Roberts spent 35 years working for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, beginning in 1968, where she championed policy changes for the advancement of Florida’s agriculture industry, trade and production practices.
In 1984, Roberts became the first woman in the United States to serve as an Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture.
After leaving DACS, Roberts spent 13 years as Director of Industry Relations and then as Special Assistant for Government Affairs for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
FSU dedicates memorial honoring Navy hero
Florida State University dedicated a memorial this week to Lt. Cmdr. Scott Speicher, a Navy pilot and FSU alumnus who was killed during the Persian Gulf War.
FSU President John Thrasher and a member of the Speicher family spoke at the dedication, which was part of Military Appreciation Weekend at the university.
The memorial features a bronze helmet similar to what Speicher would have worn and included a black granite pedestal, bronze plaque and his name. The memorial is part of an exterior face-lift to the Scott Speicher Tennis Center, located at the intersection of Chieftain Way and Spirit Way.
The center, completed in 2003, was named after Speicher due to his love of the sport.
FSU women’s tennis coach Jennifer Hyde said she and members of the team were excited and proud to be a part of the dedication.
“I think it’s very important for our student-athletes to pause and appreciate the namesake behind this facility,” Hyde said. “This new memorial honoring Scott Speicher and his family recognizes that we would not be able to live the lives we have without the commitment of our military members, who protect our freedoms and way of life.”
Speicher was shot down over Iraq in 1991 on the first night of Operation Desert Storm. He was listed as missing for nearly two decades until United States Marines discovered the crash site and his remains in 2009. He was the first American combat casualty in the Persian Gulf War.
New cruise line to build headquarters in Florida
The Sunshine State is once again proving to be an ideal location for businesses.
Virgin Voyages, a new cruise company by the global Virgin brands, announced this week that it will house its headquarters in Plantation. The move is expected to bring 300 new jobs to Broward County and an investment of $15.9 million into the local economy.
The state played an integral role in securing Virgin Voyages’ headquarters, coordinating with local ordinances and articulating the strength of Broward County’s diverse, educated and multicultural workforce, infrastructure, quality of life, proximity to major seaports and a competitive tax and business environment — all of which were cited by the new cruise line as reasons for placing its headquarters in Plantation.
“As a top tourism destination, the gateway to Latin America and one of the most business-friendly states, Florida is the best place for Virgin Voyages’ new headquarters,” said Gov. Scott, who has made it a priority to bring jobs to the state during his tenure.
The news capped a great week for Florida’s economy. On the same day of the Virgin Voyages announcement, aerospace powerhouse Lockheed Martin told Floridians it would be expanding in the Orlando area, creating 500 new jobs.
Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:
The federal government on Friday said it was opening Florida’s Gulf Coast to “oil and gas exploration and development.”
A Interior spokesman, however, soon added that the “small slice available (approximately 944,000 acres) … is more than 100 miles offshore Florida.” A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson also said the proposed area is “currently open to drilling and outside the current moratorium.”
“Our staff has spoken with high-level staff at the Department of Interior and they have confirmed that their announcement today does not affect the Secretary’s commitment to not include Florida in any expansion of offshore oil drilling,” said JohnTupps, spokesman for Gov. RickScott, later Friday.
“The Department will offer 77.3 million acres offshore Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida for oil and gas exploration and development,” it said. “The region-wide lease sale, which is the largest in U.S. history, is scheduled for March 21, and will include all available unleased areas in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.”
Zinke has promised to Gov.Scott that Florida would not be subject to offshore oil drilling. In January, however, the acting director of the department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Managementsaid Florida was still in play.
Scott, asked later about that hearing, said Zinke “is a man of his word. He’s a Navy Seal. He promised me that Florida would be off the table, and I believe Florida is off the table.”
The governor added: “Secretary Zinke has made a commitment and he’ll live up to his commitments.”
Florida’s Secretary of Environmental ProtectionNoahValenstein earlier this month sent a letter to the feds in opposition of any exploratory drilling for gas or oil off the state’s coasts.
“Florida’s coastal and offshore areas have high environmental, economic and military value not only for Florida, but also for the nation,” he said. “These areas provide great economic impact for our citizens and provide each resident with recreational opportunities that are unique to Florida.
“(W)e’ve remained concerned by the potential impacts of oil and gas activities on marine and coastal environments and the biological resources and critical habitats associated with them, as well as the military activities critical to our nation’s security,” Valenstein added.
The lease sale terms “include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species, and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region,” the press release said.
The feds estimate that the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) “contains about 90 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered technically recoverable gas. The Gulf of Mexico OCS, covering about 160 million acres, has technically recoverable resources of over 48 billion barrels of oil and 141 trillion cubic feet of gas.”
On Friday,Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said“responsibly developing our offshore energy resources is a major pillar of President Trump’s American Energy Dominance strategy.”
“A strong offshore energy program supports tens of thousands good paying jobs and provides the affordable and reliable energy we need to heat homes, fuel our cars, and power our economy,” he said in a statement.
“We have the strongest safety regulations in the world and today’s technology is making the responsible development of our resources even safer. We look forward to this important sale and continuing to raise energy revenues, which fund efforts to help safeguard our natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans.”
Nonetheless, reaction from Democratic candidates for governor was swift.
“Trump and Zinke may have forgotten about the BP oil spill but Florida families haven’t,” ChrisKing said. “Increased offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is a risk that Florida’s economy and environment can’t afford.”
Added PhilipLevine: “Floridians will not be fooled by the Trump administration’s relentless efforts to drill off our coast. As I’ve said, we are prepared to take on anyone, and I mean anyone, who threatens Florida’s coasts.”
Peter Schorsch, A.G. Gancarski, and Mitch Perry of Florida Politics contributed reporting or background.