Gwen Graham – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Jeremy Ring: Divest FRS from gun makers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris King: Legislature ‘cowardly’ for running from assault rifle ban

On the debate over assault rifle bans, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King believes the Florida Legislature is a bunch of cowards.

With the eyes of the nation on them, the GOP-led state House blocked a move by Democrats Tuesday to debate a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines in Florida, six days after a massacre that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Republicans explained it would have been unprecedented to take a bill stuck in a subcommittee and move it to the chamber floor for debate.

The optics have been terrible though, with national media organizations focusing on showing Parkland students who were in the gallery that afternoon crying after the vote.

Headlines from outlets like The Washington Post screamed, “Florida House refuses to debate guns, declares porn dangerous,” referring to a resolution by Dover Republican Rep. Ross Spano that declares pornography a health risk that states a need for education, research and policy changes to protect Floridians, especially teenagers, from pornography.

King said it was downright “cowardly” for the House to not even engage in a debate on the issue.

“That’s a terrible explanation,” he said about the reasoning that such bills aren’t heard out of committee while appearing on Tampa’s WMNF 88.5 FM Thursday.

“There are good people that can talk about these issues, recognize that they’re complicated, and that we need to have a debate and we need to discuss it and talk about the substance of these ideas,” he said, adding that he supported the same proposal by Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (HB 219) that was similarly never brought up for debate last year after the Pulse nightclub massacre.

“I think it’s a real absence of leadership and it’s cowardly to not even talk about solutions, to not even be willing to stand out there and say, ‘I oppose,’ as the Republicans would likely do, ‘I oppose an assault weapons ban, and here’s why.’ They don’t want to make that argument. They don’t want to stand up to folks like those students from Parkland who can’t understand why they wouldn’t do that,” King said.

On Wednesday night, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Boca Raton U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch appeared before a live town-hall audience broadcast nationally by CNN in Sunrise. Missing in action was Gov. Rick Scott, an absence that King calls “tragic.”

“We need a governor to not only sooth the wounds but propose big ideas that we can get behind,” King said. “I believe that’s a big problem. We haven’t had leadership from this governor for a long time.”

A Gravis Marketing poll released earlier this week shows King with only two percent support in his contest for the Democratic nomination for governor, but the Winter Park businessman says he remains unconcerned with more than six months to go before the August primary.

“My opportunity over the next seven months is as people are messaged and as people understand where we are on these issues, they’ll be making choices,” King said, adding that the poll showed that more than two-thirds of Democratic voters haven’t decided on a candidate yet.

Noting that while his better-known opponents, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are still relatively unknown by Democratic voters at large, King’s job is to “catch fire” and speak to voter concerns.

Chris King, Philip Levine both busing to gun-reform rallies in Tallahassee

The campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is sponsoring buses to transport gun-law advocates from St. Petersburg and Orlando to a rally in Tallahassee Wednesday, and the campaign of his rival candidate Philip Levine announced Tuesday it would be doing something similar next Monday.

King, a Winter Park businessman, will be joining protesters on a bus heading from St. Petersburg Wednesday, and will attend the rally for gun law reforms being organized in Tallahassee as a reaction to last week’s mass-shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which killed 17, his campaign announced Tuesday.

At least 100 students of that high school are expected at the rally, with the theme #NeverAgain. Some school districts, including Leon County in Tallahassee, are offering excused absences from the classroom for students to attend.

Meanwhile, Levine’s campaign announced it was helping organize another rally for gun law reforms for next Monday in Tallahassee called Rally in Tally for Gun Reform.

Among those that will be joining King on one of the buses will be members of Fired Up Pinellas, Indivisible FL-13, The League of Women Voters, and other groups, his campaign indicated.

In an internet post last week, King vowed that, if elected governor, he would take on the National Rifle Association, and push to ban assault weapons. King also renewed his declaration of support for expanding Medicaid, saying it would provide access to quality, affordable healthcare and mental health services to hundreds of thousands of additional Floridians.

The event that Levine’s campaign announced it was helping organize for next Monday, “Rally in Tally,” also involves the Women’s March Florida and the Miami-Dade and Broward Democratic Party, Levine’s campaign said. There also will be buses coming from cities across Florida for that rally.

“We are coming to Tallahassee with a simple message: enough is enough. We have had it with the chipping away at our gun laws, year after year. The latest incident, which allowed a disturbed 18-year old in Broward County to commit this atrocity, is the final straw,” Levine said in a news release.

The other two major Democrats running for governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, already are Tallahassee-based.

Philip Levine launches campaign commercial citing Parkland massacre

Before all of the 17 funerals are even held for victims of last Wednesday’s school massacre in Parkland, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine has launched a new television commercial promising to pursue a ban of assault weapons and declaring the shooting at Stonewall Douglas High School “a wakeup call we can’t ignore.”

Levine’s political committee All About Florida announced Tuesday it is putting $725,000 behind airing the commercial “We Will” in 10 media markets across Florida, unabashedly calling the ad “a direct response to the Marjory Douglas Stoneman shooting, and an urgent appeal from Mayor Levine for common-sense gun reform in the state of Florida.”

The commercial begins with Levine standing next to a school bus, and stating, “When we send our children off to school, we want to know they’re safe. But here in Florida, despite 14 school shootings in 8 years, we still have some of the weakest gun laws in the nation. And the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High is a wakeup call we can’t ignore.

“We need reasonable gun regulations, better background checks, and a permanent ban on assault rifles,” he continues. “And if the legislature won’t do it, we will.”

Levine is battling with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King in seeking the Aug. 28 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor. All four have made strong statements about seeking to ban assault rifles and assure background checks on all gun purchases, before and since the Parkland tragedy.

Leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — A tragic dialogue

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.

Students are released from a lockdown outside of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

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 CeballosJim RosicaDanny McAuliffeAndrew 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 Chairman Bradley said 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 Speaker Corcoran met 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.

Rick Scott speaks to the media outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

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.

Lawmakers call on Senate President Joe Negron to convene a school safety task force.

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.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel with Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie and Gov. Rick Scott.

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.

Instagram of the week

Florida picks up another $10 million in Israeli bonds

CFO Jimmy Patronis presents a $10 million check to Israel Bonds representatives.

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.

CRC member John Stemberger wants to amend the constitution close a loophole allowing some abortions.

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.”

Three-year-old Myles Hill.

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.

Scott Plakon and tattoo artist SP.
Scott Plakon’s new ink.

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.

At the Food Foresight panel during the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in Orlando, from left: Elliott Grant, Martha Rhodes Roberts, Teresa Siles and Kerry Tucker.

“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.

Years after his death, Scott Speicher is memorialized at FSU.

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.

Virgin Voyages will soon be headquartered in Plantation.

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:

Gwen Graham: Rick Scott should address AR-15s or his legacy ‘will forever be covered in blood’

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has expanded her response to Wednesday’s high school massacre from vowing to ban assault weapons if she is elected to calling on current Gov. Rick Scott to immediately suspend their sales.

She also declared that Scott’s “legacy will forever be covered in blood” if he and the Legislature do not confront gun violence.

“The time for talk was before the shooting — we need immediate actions to stem the tide of violence and mass shootings being inflicted upon our state. Listen to the children who survived this shooting and the mothers who lost their kids. I stand with them in demanding our leaders take action now,” Graham stated Friday in a news release issued by her campaign.

This release is her second response to the mass shooting that took the lives of 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. On Thursday Graham declared her platform as governor would include seeking a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as addressing background checks, domestic violence and mental health issues.

On Friday, following similar platform declarations by her Democratic gubernatorial primary opponent the high school from Andrew Gillum, Philip Levine, and Chris King, Graham turned to the immediate moment.  She called on Scott to issue an executive order suspending the permitting and sales of AR-15s and guns like it.

“Governor Rick Scott should immediately suspend the permitting and sale of the AR-15s and assault weapons that have killed 17 children Wednesday. These are weapons of war that have murdered countless Floridians and continue to threaten our communities every day that they are sold,” Graham stated.

She noted that the semiautomatic AR-15 assault rifle used at the high school is the same kind of weapon used at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“It is disgraceful that a troubled 18-year-old can purchase a weapon of war at all. It’s even more shameful that he can purchase one faster and easier than a handgun,” Graham said. “Instead of taking action, the legislature is taking a four-day weekend. They should work every remaining day of this session and for as long as it takes to address the crisis of violence we face.”

“After the largest mass shooting in modern American history, Rick Scott sat on his hands. After 13 school shootings, Rick Scott looked the other way. After the massacre of children, Rick Scott won’t even say the words common sense gun safety laws,” Graham said. “If Rick Scott and Republicans in Tallahassee won’t even confront the problem we face, how can we expect it to ever stop? Rick Scott’s legacy will forever be covered in blood.”


Philip Levine wants ‘immediate policy changes’ on gun laws

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine wrote Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron on Thursday, urging a commitment to gun control measures in the wake of the Parkland massacre Wednesday.

“We need more than thoughts and prayers — we need immediate policy changes that can have an immediate deterrence of these tragic incidents,” Levine wrote.

Levine, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor, saw a primary opponent (Gwen Graham) issue her own calls for gun control measures.

Levine goes farther in terms of policy recommendations than Graham does.

He calls for a reversal of state laws pre-empting local gun bans, a ban on semi-automatic and assault rifles, fast background checks, and a review of mental health funding.

Levine’s letter references a 2016 resolution passed by Miami Beach that calls for a statewide assault weapons ban, while also calling for the end of pre-emption of local gun bans.

The “Legislature’s endless obsession with pre-empting local mayors and city commissioners from enacting sensible policies in their local communities has tied the hands of those who are closest to the people,” Levine writes.

Levine also references “legislation making its way through our legislative session that would weaken background checks, allow guns on college campuses and efforts to weaponize our schools. These policies are simply disgusting and only serve to undermine our public safety.”

“I urge you to immediately suspend the above-referenced legislation from moving forward in Tallahassee and redirect efforts to swiftly enact sensible and responsible gun reforms this year,” Levine writes.

Gwen Graham pushes gun law reform, vows to turn ‘anguish into action’

On Thursday, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham pitched what her campaign calls “common sense” gun law reforms in the wake of Wednesday’s massacre at a Parkland, Florida high school.

Primary among the reforms: Comprehensive universal background checks on gun sales, banning large-capacity feeding devices, seizing guns from abusers, investing in mental health and ensuring the mentally ill can’t keep or buy guns.

“Strengthening background checks, ban[ning] large capacity ammunition clips, removing guns from domestic abusers and ban[ning] assault weapons would save lives in our state,” Graham said. “As a mother, I will not be silent. As governor, I will turn our anguish into action.”

“I expect Republicans will attack me for talking about real proposals that would save lives today, but as a mother, I will not be silent. As a mother, I will speak out for the children who lost their lives, for the teachers who heroically acted to save lives, for the first responders who rush into dangerous situations every day, and for the families in unspeakable pain this morning,” Graham said.

Graham noted that Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam had “expanded the state’s concealed weapons license program to be the largest in the country — he’s expedited almost 100,000 permits. But more guns on Florida’s streets have not made our children safer. Not one of those guns permitted by Putnam prevented yesterday’s slaughter.”

Putnam, who declared himself an “NRA Sellout” earlier in the campaign, backs SB 740, which would require the granting of a concealed-weapons permit within 90 days of application, regardless of whether a background check was completed.

In the wake of the mass murder in Parkland, Putnam has urged a temporary postponement of consideration of the bill.

“Florida’s gun laws are a joke riddled with loopholes that let dangerous people get guns and inflict serious harm, like yesterday’s horrific mass shooting and on the streets of too many communities every single day,” Graham said. “Instead of taking real action to make our state safer, the politicians in Tallahassee want to allow open carry and to actually weaken penalties for those who violate the state’s already weak laws.”

Compilation of reactions by Florida politicians to Broward school shooting

Suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz

A mass shooting took place Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student, shot and killed an estimated 17 people.

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel confirmed 17 people were killed, including both students and adults; two of the victims were killed outside the school, one in the street, 12 inside the school and two died from their wounds at the hospital.

National and Florida lawmakers, many in shock and anger, are speaking out on the tragedy:

President Donald Trump:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:

“I said a little prayer, for all of them, then the next thought that popped into my head was, do we have to go through this again? Look how many of these mass shootings have occurred and we say enough is enough and then nothing is done. Here in the Senate, we cannot even get Senator [Dianne] Feinstein’s bill that would prohibit people on the terrorist watch list from buying a gun.”

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio:

“A mass shooting at one of Florida’s schools is a day you pray will never come. Jeanette and I are devastated and saddened by today’s inexplicable tragedy at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. We join millions of Americans in praying for the victims, their families and all the students and teachers impacted by today’s events. We are grateful to the emergency responders, law enforcement officials, nurses and doctors who assisted the victims of today’s tragedy. Over the next few hours and days, we will learn more about why and how this killer carried out this carnage.

“My office and I remain ready to assist state and local officials and anyone impacted by this horrible tragedy.”

Gov. Rick Scott:

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum:

“I am truly heartbroken for the families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School today. These lives — full of promise and potential — have ended far too soon, and we deeply mourn with their families, friends, and community. Seventeen people went to a place of learning this morning with every intention of returning home tonight, and instead, their loved ones are left with a loss so cruel it defies description. While I am prayerful for them, I am not satisfied with that singular act. I am not satisfied with the status quo of politicians sending thoughts and prayers to victims of gun violence, while they cash campaign checks from the gun lobby. I am not satisfied with politicians who decry mental health’s role in these mass shootings and do nothing to address the fact that they would happen less frequently with fewer weapons on our streets. I am not satisfied with those who lack the courage to follow their condemnation of these acts with equally strong actions to stop their occurrence. I am heartbroken over this needless bloodshed in our state and our country and as Governor, I will work with anyone, and do everything possible, to stop them.”

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“As a mother, I am crushed. And as a Floridian, I am incensed. It is immoral that this senseless violence continues to plague our schools and communities, and rob our children of their lives, their future and their innocence. We must act to prevent these tragedies. We must turn our anguish into the will to protect our children, teachers and families.”

Gubernatorial candidate Chris King:

“On days like this, prayers are not enough. Thoughts are not enough. Our broken hearts are not enough. For too many families in Florida tonight, no time will go by to heal this wound. And there will be no ‘moment’ when it is right to address this crisis if we continue to allow these shootings day after day, week after week, month after month.

“Since 2010, there have been 13 school shootings in the state of Florida. Today marks the fourteenth.

“We are told by politicians that debates over gun laws are debates over freedom. I think there is no freedom when a mother cannot drop off her son at school without fearing it could be the last time she sees him.

“We are told that any loss of American life is unacceptable. If any loss really is too much, then letting mass shootings occur without any action is an unforgivable dereliction of a government’s sacred duty to protect its citizens.

“We have failed, completely, to enact meaningful legislation to prevent mass shootings in this decade. This is an epidemic the United States suffers in a way no other developed country on earth does.

“Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. I am reminded tonight of these words from President Kennedy: ‘With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.’

“There are commonsense steps we can take that would keep weapons out of dangerous hands. It’s time to act.”

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo:

U.S. Rep. Val Demings:

“My heart goes out to the families of the children and school staff who lost their lives. I am heartbroken about this tragedy. And I am outraged that Congress has done nothing to keep children and families safe. Members of Congress lack the courage to act, and think more about their next election than the right of our children to go to school in safety.

“We live in a country where 150,000 children have experienced a school shooting. We are inflicting the horrors of war on our own children.

“The president will talk about mental illness as a reason for this attack. But while sufferers of mental illness must get the treatment they need, it’s a distraction from the real issue: guns. The president and the GOP must keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them in the first place.

“As a former law enforcement officer, I had a duty to enforce laws to protect the innocent. As Members of Congress, we have a duty to create laws to protect the innocent. With each day of inaction, our government grows more complicit in the violent deaths of children.”

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis:

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch:

“Today was a horrible day for Parkland, South Florida, and our nation. We are grateful for our first responders, local, state and federal law enforcement, and especially the teachers and staff who heroically fought to protect their students. We mourn the lives taken, and we will be here as a community for the families and for one another.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:

U.S Rep. Al Lawson:

“My heart breaks for the teachers and students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following today’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Our children go to school to learn, but are now faced with this reoccurring epidemic. It is unfortunate we are at this place again, and these senseless tragedies are happening far too often. There have been multiple school shootings in just the last two months and it is imperative that we do more to keep our children safe.

“Gun violence should not be tolerated and our government has to do its part by providing resources and proper security measures to ensure the safety of our children.  My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims’ families and the entire Broward County community.”

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto:

“It never gets easier to bear the news of a school shooting in America. It devastates me, along with our community, that children faced such horror in their schools today. This senseless shooting claimed the innocent lives of 17 and injured many.

“We’re especially grateful for all of the brave law enforcement officers who risked their lives today, and every day, for our safety.

“I spoke with the FBI today and offered my support on providing federal resources as necessary. During my time in the Florida legislation, I supported funds for more school safety officers in all Florida schools, increasing the response time for scenarios like these. And in Congress, I will continue to fight for sensible gun safety legislation.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

“As a Broward County resident for nearly 30 years and an elected official for most of that time, my heart breaks for the victims, their families, friends, and loved ones.

As a parent of a Broward County high school student, and as someone with friends whose children attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, it is gut-wrenching that another senseless school shooting has occurred, this time in our community.

“In the United States of America, it is simply unacceptable that we allow children to run for their lives with their backpacks on. Unacceptable that we allow parents to fear for the worst while they wait to hear back from their kids, and unacceptable that we allow survivors of school shootings to live with a trauma that can never be explained away.

I stand with my community and our families and ask all Americans to keep the parents, siblings, spouses and loved ones in their prayers this evening. No American anywhere should have to feel the pain that Broward County feels today, and too many communities have felt across our country countless times before. We must do something about this senseless epidemic of gun violence and we must do it now.”

Florida Senate President-Designate Bill Galvano:

“The events yesterday are nothing short of devastating and tragic.  My heart breaks for the students, families, administrators, first responders and law enforcement officers and all who have been impacted by this shooting.

“As we learn more in the coming days and weeks about the perpetrator responsible for these senseless killings, I am asking my colleagues in the Florida Senate and House to join me in findings ways to immediately direct funds to our schools statewide, so they can evaluate and implement a school hardening plan that will strengthen the presence of armed resource officers and harden the entry points for our schools.

“I am asking all of my legislative colleagues to support an appropriation of $100 million for mental health screening, counseling and training, as well as the hardening of our or schools in the K-12 budget, which Senator Passidomo has already included in the Senate education budget.  It is imperative that a portion of this allocation goes toward ensuring that we have the necessary number of armed resource officers at our schools across Florida.  While currently, we have armed resource officers at a number of our schools coupled with other law enforcement personnel, we must identify where the gaps exist and immediately work to fill them.

“Further, we need to make sure that all schools have, and are utilizing, the NSA security audit that was put into place after the Sandy Hook tragedy and look into how we can expedite the implementation of these audits and assist these schools where needed.

“And finally, we must have the conversation about how this individual, with noted and apparent mental health issues, was able to obtain a firearm such as this and discuss measures to prevent this from happening again.  The safety of our children in Florida schools should be the No. 1 priority for all of us in public service.  Enough is enough.

“I look forward to discussing this proposed immediate plan of action with my colleagues as we continue to keep all of those impacted by this tragedy in our thoughts and prayers.”

Florida Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson:

“On a day meant to celebrate love, 17 promising futures came to an end in Parkland yesterday.  As I watched the events unfold and the stories told of terror and heroism today, I want to echo the sentiment of condolences followed by the need for immediate action.”

“As elected leaders, we have no greater responsibility than protecting our children. Our schools should be shrines to learning and possibility where our students feel safe and secure.  We are working today to immediately identify and direct funding to hardening our schools and provide for armed resource officers on every campus for safety and prevention. We must  stand together and support the allocation of $100 million for mental health screening, counseling and training.”

“In the days and weeks to come, the Florida Senate will work to ensure our students and teachers are safe. Increased security for both safety and prevention, hardening our schools, mental health resources, active shooter training and improving how we communicate with our students – everything must be a part of the discussion as we work to secure Florida’s schools.”

State Sen. Lauren Book:

“We hear about school shootings all the time. Sadly, they have become a part of our national news cycle. As a mom and a former classroom teacher, I am left more and more horrified and agonized with each tragedy. And yet, despite the seemingly endless reports, nothing prepares you for the reality of a school shooting unfolding in your own community. I am devastated. I remain in communication with Broward officials and will do all I can to support them during this time. Unending thanks to our First Responders for their courage in the face of the unthinkable – you are our heroes. Fellow parents, let’s all hug our babies a little closer tonight.”

State Sen. Daphne Campbell:

“The tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School deeply troubles me. The time for a “having a conversation” is now. We must take substantive action to ensure that acts of violence like this never happen again. I call on Governor Scott and my colleagues in the House and Senate to support legislation banning the sale of assault weapons (SB 196/H219) in our state.

“Mass shooting like Aurora, Sandy Hook, Pulse, Las Vegas and Sutherland TX all have one thing in common and that an assault weapon was used to kill a large number of innocent citizens in a short period of time.  It baffles me that a teenager in our state can walk into a gun store and purchase a machine of death without a mental evaluation, or a waiting period, before walking out of the store with a gun.

“How many Floridians must die before we take action? Now must be different, now is the time that we must buck the gun lobby and enact common-sense solutions that will protect our children, our cities, and our state. No Floridian should be able to possess a weapon that was developed for use on a battlefield.

“Let’s end these senseless killing in our state, let’s make Florida a safer place for our children and neighbors. We have the power to make a difference. Let’s start now.”

State Sen. Gary Farmer:

“I am heartbroken by the devastating act of evil that occurred yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Every one of these too often occurring incidents is a tragedy, but as a former resident of Parkland and the Chairman of the Broward Delegation, this particular act of violence has left a brutal and lasting scar on my heart. I want to express my condolences and support to both State Senator Kevin Rader and State Rep. Jared Moskowitz who represent the districts where the school is located.

“I have been personally affected by the tragedy that unfolded yesterday. My family previously lived just 7 miles from the school. My daughter had friends in the school that day, and her life and the lives of my entire family have been forever changed. While my fight for proper gun safety measures began long before today, this incident has only hardened my resolve to protect our children from the horrors of gun violence.

“In the wake of this life-shattering event, our initial reaction must be to provide aid and comfort to the victims and their families. Last afternoon the lives of every student in that school and our entire community were shattered, and we need to be ready and available to assist them in any way possible. We cannot, however, lose sight of the major gaps in current statutes which allowed this tragic event and those before it to occur. The Florida State Senate and House of Representatives must act immediately to close these holes and provide our students and teachers with the protections that they so desperately need.

“Legislators and pundits who have been misguided or corrupted by the powerful pro-gun lobby will say that it is too soon to act. To that, I say that it is too late. It is too late to prevent the horrors that unfolded yesterday, and it is too late to prevent the evil acts that have occurred elsewhere. However, it is never too late to take action and prevent this evil act from ever happening again.

“Today a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas accurately summed up the current situation as he reminded politicians that “Ideas without action remain ideas, and children die as a result.” For years I and many of my colleagues have proposed legislation that would take the necessary steps to address our State’s lack of gun safety measures. These proposals have been ignored amongst the majority leadership in both Chambers, and Floridians have paid the price with their blood and tears. The time to act is now, and those who refuse to do so whether knowingly or not are providing material support to the continuation of violence in our State.

“In the State Senate, a bill has been filed to ban the same type of assault weapon that was used to carry out the mass murder that occurred in Parkland. Despite the clear need for such legislation displayed both this week and by numerous incidents before, such as the Pulse shooting, this bill by Sen. Stewart (SB 196) has remained unheard in any committee.

“The weapon used in yesterday’s shooting has been described as an “AR-15 style rifle.” This style of weapon has become the weapon of choice for those seeking to commit mass murder in our schools, businesses, and other community gathering places. These weapons have the ability to carry more rounds than could ever be required for recreation or self-defense. They are loaded using detachable magazines, which allow the user to quickly reload and continue to unleash a stream of lethal ammunition upon their victims. Let there be no doubt about it, AR-15 style rifles and other assault weapons are designed to be instruments of mass slaughter, and have no place in the hands of any civilian. With the devastating result of the widespread civilian access to weapons of war staring us directly in the face, I find it unconscionable that any legislator could oppose an effort to take them off the streets. I once again urge the majority leadership in the State Senate to immediately take up SB 196, to address this threat to our children and communities.

“In the hours following yesterday’s shooting, news quickly surfaced that there were clear warnings about the intentions of the evil perpetrator of this act. Despite online threats made by the shooter which specifically stated his intentions to commit violent acts (both in his former school and against law enforcement) state, local, and federal authorities did not possess the tools that they needed to prevent the shooter’s access to deadly weapons. Currently our State statutes prohibit the registration of firearms in Florida. This means that when threats are issued, our law enforcement is unable to determine if a suspect has access to weapons that would allow them to carry out their threat. My bill, SB 1476, would eliminate the Florida statute that currently bars the creation of a statewide firearm registry.

“The gaps in our current gun safety laws are so major and so numerous that the prospect of taking action may seem daunting. My fellow state legislators need to be aware that the vehicles to provide for gun safety in Florida exist in current bills that have not yet been given the chance to be heard. We can take action to prevent future violence before the legislative session ends in March, and our legislators must be held accountable if they fail to do so.

“It is too late to stop the horrors of yesterday, but it is not too late to prevent tragedy from occurring tomorrow. What we saw yesterday is the direct result of a failure by the Legislature to act. The students of Parkland suffered from that failure, and in the wake of this tragedy, they are calling upon us to act. Broward County School Superintendent Runcie has told us that in the hours following this tragedy students have reached out to him telling him that now is the time for us to have a “reasonable conversation about gun safety legislation.” We owe it to the victims of this horrifying event to take immediate action to address comprehensive gun safety legislation.

“One of the most common descriptions of this event that I have heard and read on social media is that this was a “senseless tragedy.”  That is wrong.  This wasn’t senseless.  It was the logical, even likely result of our failure to regulate the sale of firearms.  It was the result of a steady stream of obstruction by the gun industry.  And it was the result of law enforcement not being provided with the tools needed to stop events like.  What is senseless is that mass killing after mass killing occurs in this country, but we only express remorse and call for thoughts & prayers but fail to take action to stop these events from happening.  Enough!!

“As a State Senator, and more importantly as a father, I will not rest until we can ensure the safety of our children and communities. I will fight tooth and nail against every dangerous and nonsensical pro-gun piece of legislation in the State Senate. I will not allow our State Legislature to act as a contributing factor to the horrifying violence that we saw this week, and I demand that my fellow legislators do the same.”

For those affected by this tragedy, the following resources have been made available:

Grief counselors are available for all of our students, families and staff.

To speak to a BCPS Family Counselor from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Thursday, February 15 and Friday, February 16, call 754-321-HELP or 754-321-4357.  You can also email

In addition, for Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, grief counselors are on site at the following locations:

Pine Trails Park Recreation Center and Amphitheater

Coral Springs Gymnasium

Coral Springs Center For The Arts

For Marjory Stoneman Douglas staff members, grief counselors are available at Parkland Library.

For those seeking to provide help to those affected by this tragedy, a GoFundMe account has been established to help provide for their needs: or

Minority Leader Janet Cruz (with Broward County House members):

“Today’s senseless massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is horrific. We want to extend our deepest condolences to the friends and family of the victims who were viciously attacked this afternoon. Our hearts are with you as we mourn lives lost far too soon. Thank you to our law enforcement officers, first responders, teacher, and students who put their lives on the line on behalf of their fellow Floridians today.

“There are no words to accurately describe what these families are going through. Tonight, while attempting to process what happened today, one feeling will stay with them; Florida’s children are unsafe in their own schools.

“As we mourn together, we must pledge to do everything we can to prevent other families from experiencing the grief and pain that have been inflicted today. As more information is uncovered on the causes behind today’s tragedy, one thing will remain clear: we must increase our efforts to improve safety for students throughout Florida. This cannot be the reality of our state in 2018.”

State Rep. Roy Hardemon:

“Yesterday’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland was a terrible tragedy. These senseless shootings of our youth, in our schools, on our streets, in our neighborhoods, must stop. Having recently lost a grandson to gun violence, I understand what the parents and family members of the victims are going through. We need better legislation to protect our children and to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.”

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz (who represents Parkland, where the school is located):

State Rep. David Silvers:

“This afternoon’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland is heartbreaking. This is a tragic occurrence for the state and the families that have been affected. We’re grateful for the quick response of school staff and first responders. This senseless act deeply shakes us, but I know we will stand together, offering our hearts and hands to those who are suffering.”

Anna Eskamani, candidate for House District 47:

“My heart aches. The students impacted today will live with trauma for the rest of their lives. Their families will forever be in pain, and first responders will only face more PTSD as they do their part to manage this latest tragedy.

“Orlando is all too familiar with gun violence, and we don’t just need comprehensive gun safety legislation, we demand it.

“What is our Republican-controlled legislature doing instead? Attempting to expand access to guns while also attacking our public schools and teachers. Teachers, the very people who served as heroes in today’s tragedy.

“The irony is painful. I promise you, that when you send me to Tallahassee I will fight for Floridians on every level and on every issue, with gun violence being one of the problems we work to solve. Stay strong Broward, we are with you.”

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia:

“Our hearts are broken yet again by the senseless and tragic shooting in our nation’s public schools, this time in Parkland, Florida. We are monitoring closely the still developing and tense situation, but we have confidence in the ability of the first responders and the school staff and administrators to help students and families at this time. While our thoughts and prayers are with Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, educators and their families, we know that we, as a country, need to do more to end these senseless shootings.

“As educators, our foremost priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of all of our students. Our focus now is on supporting the educators, students and their families in the Broward County community today and in the future. We all have a responsibility to create safe schools and communities. As a state and a country, we can and must do more to ensure that everyone who walks through our school doors — educator, student, parent or community member — is safe and free from violence.”

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo:

“It is painful to again have to say the words mass shooting and Florida in the same sentence. There are no words to describe the immense heartache the students, parents, staff, emergency responders and community must be feeling right now. Our hearts are breaking. Our prayers and thoughts are with Parkland tonight.”

Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall:

“At this moment we know little about today’s shooting in Broward’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This is a devastating, heartbreaking and all too frequent occurrence. Our hearts go out to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School families, the school staff and the Parkland community.”

“Our union family stands ready to help ensure the Marjory Stoneman Douglas families, students and staff have the support they need as they confront the inevitable grief and fear in the aftermath of this horrendous loss of innocent lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families tonight.”

Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence:

“This shooting is further proof that semiautomatic weapons do not belong in the hands of civilians. They are weapons of mass destruction. The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and the League of Women Voters of Florida call upon our Legislature currently in Session to hear and pass the ban on assault weapons — HB 219 and SB 196.
“Our hearts break for the young lives that were ripped away in a senseless and all-too-common act of brutality. The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence is committed to fighting for smart, responsible gun legislation. The federal government will not change these laws; the state of Florida can and should protect its citizens, and most importantly its children.”

Philip Levine runs ads in D.C., Florida blasting GOP immigration ‘intolerance’

With new ads running in both Florida and the nation’s capital, Miami Beach Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine is blasting House Speaker Richard Corcoran and President Donald Trump for their tough stances on immigration.

Starting this week, the 30-second spot, called “Intolerance,” is serving as a direct response to Corcoran’s “hateful and race-baiting ad” targeting sanctuary cities that continues to get airtime throughout the state, says Christian Ulvert, a special adviser to Levine’s campaign for governor.

In the ads, Levine also calls out Trump: “It’s bad enough that we hear this from a president who bullies for a living.”

The $250,000 ad buy will be broadcast in English and Spanish, airing in selected Florida media markets.

In addition, the Levine campaign is spending $20,000 to run the same ad on the Fox News and CNN affiliates in Washington D.C.

“We wanted those in D.C. who continue to stoke this kind of fear and message of hate to know that one of the largest states in our country and one of the most pivotal ones in this election cycle, is watching and the mayor wanted to deliver a direct message,” said Ulvert when asked how running the ads in D.C. helps Levine in Florida.

Levine has been the only Democratic candidate to begin airing television ads in this election cycle, and he has been doing so since last November in order to build up name recognition, and it appears to be working.

Mason-Dixon poll released last week showed Levine in trailing former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham by three percentage points in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor, 20%-17%.

On Monday, the University of North Florida released a survey showing that all major Democratic candidates are struggling with name recognition. However, Levine is doing slightly better than either Graham or Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum on that metric, though an overwhelming 73 percent of those surveyed say they haven’t heard of the Miami Beach Mayor (78 percent said they hadn’t heard of Graham; 81 percent said the same of Gillum).

In fundraising, Levine continues to lead all Democratic candidates with over $9 million raised to date.

Meanwhile, Corcoran’s provocative immigration ad is keeping him in the news cycle, as all of the Democratic candidates have criticized its tone and message.

Gillum is taking his beef with Corcoran on immigration public when the two debate in Tallahassee Tuesday night.

“Glad to have Mayor Levine finally speak up the way Mayor Gillum did three weeks ago on Speaker Corcoran’s TV ad,” Gillum spokesman Geoff Burgan said in response to Levine’s ad buy. “Floridians need a fighter like Mayor Gillum in the Governor’s Mansion, not someone who waits for polling to tell him when to take a stand.”

Although he has not announced a bid for Governor, Corcoran is widely expected to do so next month after the Legislative Session ends.

Watch the new Levine ad below:

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons