Marco Rubio – Page 7 – Florida Politics

Bill Nelson bemoans snub to White House gun meeting as ‘counter productive’

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was conspicuously absent from a meeting President Donald Trump convened Wednesday in the West Wing with key lawmakers and stakeholders in the gun violence debate following the Parkland massacre, and on Friday he dismissed the meeting as show, and predicted Trump will pivot from assurances he made there.

Speaking on the MSNBC show Morning Joe Friday, Nelson said his snub by White House officials who did not invite him to the meeting was “counter productive that they would want to exclude me” from efforts to seek any bipartisan reforms in the wake of the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting that left 17 dead.

Nelson is likely to face Florida Gov. Rick Scott in this year’s U.S. Senate election. Scott has been a strong supporter of Trump.

The meeting did have both Florida and Democratic representation. Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was there. So was Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Orlando, who solicited the president’s support for her House Resolution 1478, a measure with some bipartisan backing, which would lift the ban on federal research into gun violence.

Friday morning, Nelson dismissed anything that Trump did offer, embracing some gun control measures, as unreliable, especially since the president followed that meeting with one Thursday night with NRA officials. Trump tweeted last night, “Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!”

Nelson accused Trump of making promises and then rejecting them days later, and said that appears to be happening already with his interest in certain gun reforms.

“It’s symptomatic of what’s happening in our society today, where everybody is retreating to polls, they’re getting very self-interested, highly partisan, highly-ideological rigid, and we’re seeing that play into this question about what do we do in the aftermath of these massacres,” Nelson said.

Nelson expressed strong pessimism that any significant reforms will clear Congress, noting that 60 votes are needed to get passage in the U.S. Senate.

“It depends on the NRA If they go and threaten our Republican brothers and sisters, that they’re going to take them on in the next election, I think it makes it very difficult for them even on something as common sense as comprehensive universal background checks,” Nelson said. “You’re right. That’s off the charts, not only nationally, but in Florida as well.”

Darren Soto gets perfect score from Conservation Voters, tops Florida members

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando received a perfect score of 100 for his environmental issues voting record from the national League of Conservation Voters, the only member of Florida’s delegation to do so.

The league’s annual “National Environmental Scorecard” for the 2017 session of Congress, gave Soto checkmarks across the board on 35 issues the organization tracked in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, putting him the company of 84 members of the U.S. House nationally who got the league’s perfect score.

The scorecard found widespread support for the league’s positions among Democrats, and widespread opposition among Republicans. Nationally, Democrats averaged a score of 94, and Republicans, 5.

In Central Florida, Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando got a score of 97; and Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, 91; while Republican U.S. Rep. U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Lake County and Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach both received a score of 3; and Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Rockledge, 0.

Elsewhere in Florida, the next highest-scoring Democrats were U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings, who both got 94; and the lowest-scoring Democrat was U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, who got 69. The highest-scoring Republicans were U.S. Reps. Brian Mast, Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who all got 23. Several other Republicans got zero.

On the Senate side, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson got a 95 and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got a 0.

Soto has pushed for several pieces of legislation and funding relating to restoration projects for the Kissimmee River and the Everglades. His and the other members scores, however, also covered legislation and issues ranging from support for the U.S. EPA to global warming, and from California water resource management to pesticides.

“I am honored to have received a perfect score on the LCV Scorecard,” Soto stated in a news release issued by his office. “You can count on me to continue fighting to protect our environment, especially fighting offshore drilling and keeping our Florida coasts and waters pristine. Legislation I’ve recently introduced would protect the Everglades and provide resources to restore our beloved Kissimmee River.”

The league has published a National Environmental Scorecard every Congress since 1970, and states that the selected issues, positions, and scores represent a consensus of experts from about 20 respected environmental and conservation organizations. The issues include energy, climate change, public health, public lands and wildlife conservation, and spending for environmental programs.

Marco Rubio post-Parkland plan focuses on school security, restraining order seizures

Florida’s Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio on Thursday announced his Senate plan to respond to the Parkland massacre, which includes strengthening school security, providing for “restraining order” powers for police to confiscate weapons from dangerous individuals and adding to the gun purchase background-check databases.

Rubio said his plan, which he called a comprehensive response, has emerged from his meetings over the past two weeks with law enforcement, firearms sales experts, students, teachers, and administrators, including discussions at his CNN town hall appearance last month.

“I have also been in constant contact with several of the parents of the victims who lost their lives,” he said.

However, it does not explicitly address two things he declared on CNN that he would support: raising the minimum age for weapons purchases, or limiting capacity sizes for ammunition magazines. He said Thursday he would “explore” such reform prospects, in the face of their current unlikelihood in Congress.

Much of Rubio’s plan involved supporting or adopting ideas pushed by his colleagues. He outlined it in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

“After the tragic events of February 14, the Parkland community, the residents of Florida, and the entire nation have demanded action,” he said. “While there are sharp differences on restrictions to the Second Amendment, there is widespread agreement that we must act now to prevent another tragedy like Parkland from happening anywhere else, ever again. “

Rubio reiterated his focus on the reports that the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI had plenty of reasons to suspect that charged attacker Nikolas Cruz was about to commit an atrocity, but failed to take action before he allegedly opened fire with an AR-15 in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17. His plan addresses several responsibilities and potential changes in procedures for federal, state, and local law enforcement, and for schools working with them.

“I believe this attack could have been prevented if current law had been fully enforced. This killer was a well-known danger to the school district and the Broward Sheriff’s office. He was also the subject of two separate and specific warnings to law enforcement agencies. People saw something and said something. And yet this deranged and violent individual was able to pass a background check and buy 10 separate firearms, and ultimately walk right into a public school and take the lives of 17 innocent Floridians,” Rubio said in a news release issued by his office.

“This tragedy is the result of a massive multi-systemic failure involving federal, state and local authorities who failed to identify the threat he posed and coordinate a response to stop him before he took action. It is this failure which we should focus on by addressing the shortcomings and vulnerabilities in our current laws and policies,” he added.

Among his plan:

– He said he would join the Utah Republican U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch‘s “Stop School Violence Act,” to strengthen school security, provide school training to identify threats, and create school-threat assessment and crisis intervention teams to coordinate with law enforcement.

– The introduction of a “Gun Violence Restraining Orders” bill, similar in concept to others previously introduced by such members of Congress as U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, the Democrat from Winter Park, and California Democratic U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, which would give law enforcement protocols to remove guns from individuals who pose a threat.

– Support for the “Fix NICS Act,” introduced last year by Texas Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, which would require all federal agencies, and would incentivize states, to fully report all relevant information to a national background check database that could be used when background checks are run on people purchasing guns.

– Support for a new bill called “Lie and Try,” modeled after some states’ legislation, which would alert law enforcement and prosecutors of individuals who attempt to purchase guns and fail background checks, “so that they can be investigated and prosecuted.”

“I will continue to explore additional reforms involving age limits and potentially magazine capacity,” he said. “These reforms do not enjoy the sort of widespread support in Congress that the other measures announced today enjoy. In order to successfully achieve passage of these ideas, they will need to be crafted in a way that actually contributes to greater public safety, while also not unnecessarily or unfairly infringing on the 2nd Amendment right of all law abiding adults to protect themselves, hunt or participate in recreational shooting.”

Gus Bilirakis defends 2013 opposition to Violence Against Women’s Act

Tarpon Springs Republican Gus Bilirakis is facing heat over a five-year-old vote against the Violence Against Women’s Act.

Since 1994, Congress has taken every opportunity to reauthorize the Act, which provides protections for victims of domestic violence. However, in 2013, several congressional Republicans pushed back hard against reauthorization — a group that included Bilirakis. 

The legislation funds rape crisis centers and hotlines and community violence prevention programs. It also helps victims evicted from their homes because of domestic violence or stalking and offers legal aid for survivors of domestic violence.

Now, in a fundraising email this week, Democrat Chris Hunter, who is running for Florida’s 12th Congressional District, attacks Bilirakis for his opposition five years ago.

“He voted against extending safety protections even though the Violence Against Women Act enjoyed support from people in both parties,” writes Hunter, a former federal prosecutor. “Violence does not discriminate and neither should Congress. Voting to deny safety protections was shameful.”

Bilirakis’ deputy chief of staff Summer-Star Robertson explains his 2013 “no” vote: He was advocating a clean reauthorization of the original Violence Against Women Act and voted in favor of a substitute amendment to the Senate version sponsored by Michigan Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

That version also ensured protecting women from abusive and dangerous situations while offering proper support to victims and prosecution of offenders to the fullest extent of the law, Robertson added.

Nevertheless, she said Bilirakis couldn’t support the final passage of the Senate version because it contained new provisions “that he believed could have negative consequences … Specifically, the final version of the bill diverted a large amount of funding from domestic violence programs to sexual assault programs without any substantial proof or coherent argument that such a transfer would lead to more convictions or greater protections for women.

“Having been a state appropriator, he strongly believes state policymakers should have retained the discretion and flexibility to determine how those funds could best be utilized to meet the needs of women in their states in the most effective manner possible.

“Additionally, he had significant Constitutional concerns about newly added language in the final bill granting tribal courts criminal jurisdiction over cases involving non-Indians.”

Also in opposition was Florida Republican Marco Rubio, one of just 22 U.S. Senators who also voted in 2013 against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women’s Act.

Rubio’s stated opposition echoed Bilirakis; he disagreed with how the bill shifted funding from domestic violence programs to sexual assault programs and took power out of state hands. Rubio also opposed a provision allowing Native American tribal governments greater jurisdiction in abuse cases, giving tribal courts the power to prosecute non-Native American men.

Hunter is one of four Democrats in the CD 12 contest this year; the others are Robert Tager, Matthew Thomas, and Stephen Perenich.

Marco Rubio says Parkland murders result of ‘multi-systemic failure’

At a Congressional roundtable Wednesday at the White House, Sen. Marco Rubio described the Parkland murders not as a failure of gun control, but as a “multi-systemic failure.”

“This was a multi-systemic failure,” Rubio said. “The Sheriff’s Office knew this was a problem. The FBI knew this was a problem. The Department of Children and Families knew this was a problem.”

“The big problem is they don’t talk to each other. Nobody told the others what they knew,” Rubio said, before outlining legislative remedies.

One remedy, Rubio said, is live in the House and soon to be live in the Senate: the Stop School Violence Act, sponsored by Rep. John Rutherford in the House.

“The best way to prevent these is to stop it before it starts. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t harden schools. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have debate in other areas … get on them, get them the services they need, and deny them the right to buy any gun,” Rubio said.

“I think that’s something that holds tremendous bipartisan promise,” Rubio said.

The Senator also held up Florida’s proposed reforms in the wake of Parkland as a possible example for the rest of the country.

The plan offers some moves toward gun control: restrictions of purchases by those who have been Baker Acted, as well as a ban on commercial sales to those under 21, and a “bump stock” ban. As well, $450 million for school hardening, and another $50 million for mental health, including overt cooperation between local law enforcement and the DCF.

“We can still debate some of the other things,” Rubio said, “but we owe it to the families.”

The President agreed with the Senator.

Marco Rubio upside down in new Q poll, especially with Hispanics

Marco Rubio had a rough night last week in Sunrise, where he faced a lion’s den of hostile voters during a CNN live town-hall meeting featuring family members and friends of the victims of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland the week before.

Rubio apparently isn’t too popular with the rest of the state either, as a new Quinnipiac Poll released Tuesday shows that only 38 percent of Floridians surveyed currently support the Republican lawmaker, with 55 percent opposing him. Nine percent did not have an opinion.

The survey of 1,156 Florida voters was conducted Friday, Feb. 23-Monday, Feb. 26, days after Rubio took a verbal beating from angry Broward County residents, some of whom accused him of being a sell-out to the National Rifle Association.

When pressed by Cameron Kasky, a student who survived the shooting at Douglas High, Rubio declined on multiple occasions to say whether he would accept future contributions.

Instead, he insisted over the booing and groaning in the crowd that he does not buy into the agendas of outside organizations and that they instead have to support his.

Rubio notably did say that he was open to reconsidering his position on the size of magazine clips, a chief policy prescription that gun control advocates favor.

He also said that he believes that nobody under the age of 21 should be able to buy a gun, and broke with other Republicans in saying that he did not believe that teachers should be armed.

Rubio, a Cuban-American, is not faring well with Hispanic voters either in the new survey. Only 27 percent of those polled support him, while 66 percent say they disapprove of his performance.

Rubio was re-elected to the Senate in November 2016, defeating Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, 52 percent-44 percent.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson back FDLE request for $1 million for Parkland reimbursement

Days after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement requested $1 million in emergency funding from the U.S. Justice Department to reimburse law enforcement agencies that responded to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, Florida’s U.S. Senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, wrote in support of the request, urging quick reimbursement, along with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch.

The money, via Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Precipitous Increase in Crime emergency funds, would mitigate a “strain on state and local law enforcement resources” created by “the additional costs resulting from this traumatic event.”

If more than $1 million is requested, the letter asks for quick approval.

And it is entirely possible that more is needed in the end.

The exact amount that is needed could change in the future, Petrina Tuttle Herring, the bureau chief of FDLE’s Office of Criminal Justice Grants, said last week in a letter.

Material from Ana Ceballos was used in this post.

Hundreds of high-school students protest gun violence in Tampa rally

Chanting “we want change now,” hundreds of Blake High School students marched to Curtis Hixon Park Friday afternoon, calling for gun-control measures in the wake of the massacre in Parkland last week.

The crowd was stacked with mostly students, joined by other Tampa Bay area activists determined to perhaps finally see gun regulations enacted following the most recent shooting attack on primarily teenagers which stunned the nation.

“We don’t want your prayers, we want legislation,” read a sign held by Elizabeth Smith, who said that she’s never been much of a fan of the National Rifle Association, the all-powerful gun-rights organization that for nearly two decades has been described as the single most significant force for Congress and state legislatures failing to enact gun regulations.

“I feel like once we get rid of the NRA, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) can step in and figure out why these things are happening,” Smith said. “They say ‘they’re just high school students, they’re too young to know anything, but here we are. We know why we’re here, and we know what we’re talking about, and we know that if we do this, and we’re collective about compromise and change that we can get something done.”

Antonio Walker held a sign reading: “How many lives is your gun worth?”

Walker hopes that the anger in the country about Parkland can result in a diminution of the NRA’s power.

“I hope that they hate what we’re saying and they understand that it’s an issue for everybody,” he said of school gun violence. “It can happen to their kids. It can happen to any of us.”

While he won’t turn 18 until after the election, Walker can’t wait to vote in 2020.

“We’re about to vote and make change ourselves in our own voices,” he said, “so it’s time that we actually do that.”

Zoe Gallagher is a 14-year-old sophomore at Blake who also dances at the Patel Conservatory. She attended the march with her mother and little brother.

When she learned of the killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week, Gallagher was shocked and scared.

“I’m not really a big follower of politics, but things like that have made me think more about how I want to make sure to stay attuned about what’s going on, ” she said. “its made me more conscious.”

High-school students weren’t the only ones at the protest.

Sixty-eight-year-old Kent Fast says he vividly remembers the protests against the Vietnam War that was led by the younger generation half a century ago. He said the protests this week against gun violence “feel different,” a feeling he attributes directly to youth leading the activism, something not seen in America in a very long time.

A hunter and gun owner, Fast says he’s not “stupid” and sees no reason anybody needs an AK-47, AR-15 or any other type of assault weapon.

“I want some reasonable gun control and I think there’s some room for that,” he says, adding that “even Marco Rubio was moving off the square” regarding his announcement on live television on Wednesday night in the CNN town hall from Sunrise where he announced he now supported some gun regulations he had never previously believed in.

At 29, Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Pigott is used to being one of the younger people at social protests. He calls it “very encouraging” to see so many people just half his (relatively young) age out in the streets calling for social change.

“Their eyes are open, and they’re determined to keep on knocking, until somebody answers,” says Pigott, a pastor from Riverview.

Rick Scott stays in sync with the NRA as he faces a reckoning on guns

The governor is planning to roll out his legislative proposal Friday that, according to a spokesman, will be “aimed at keeping Florida schools safe and keeping firearms out of the hands of mentally ill people.”

With Florida now at the epicenter of a fast-changing national gun debate, the state’s Republican governor is so far refusing to budge from his long-standing opposition to new limits on firearms.

The approach of Gov. Rick Scott, who holds an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association and is preparing to enter what would be a hotly-contested Senate race, stands in contrast to fellow Republicans such as Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and President Donald Trump who in recent days have expressed openness to some new gun limits.

In the days since last week’s mass shooting at a South Florida high school re-energized gun-control activists, Scott has so far responded to questions about the issue with answers that quickly turn to mental health and the need for enhancing safety protocols in schools.

Although he initially told CNN last week “everything’s on the table,” Scott declined an invitation from the network to appear at Wednesday night’s town hall with survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Rubio attended the event and said for the first time he was ready to consider some restrictions on assault weapons — while Scott’s potential opponent in the fall, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, hinted guns could be a focal point in the race by taking a swipe at the governor’s decision to skip.

″[Rubio] had guts, coming here,” Nelson said, prompting boos from the crowd of 7,000 moments later when he added: “Our governor did not come here.”

Scott could face a reckoning on the issue in the coming days, with GOP lawmakers engaged in talks with Democrats designed to produce a potentially modest gun restriction bill before the Legislature’s Session ends next week. The measure would go to Scott for his signature — or possible veto.

The governor is planning to roll out his own legislative proposal Friday that, according to a spokesman, will be “aimed at keeping Florida schools safe and keeping firearms out of the hands of mentally ill people.” The spokesman, John Tupps, said Scott would like to see “swift action,” but he did not specify what that could be.

Scott declined to be interviewed for this story, but several associates this week told The Washington Post he has no intention of softening his views on gun rights.

“He’s committed to Second Amendment rights, and that’s not going to change,” said Brian Ballard, a veteran Florida lobbyist and Scott supporter. “He’s a strong NRA supporter and knows that you have to be careful about tweaking anything that would affect someone’s right to bear arms.”

Keith Appell, a former Scott campaign adviser, said the governor is highly unlikely to embrace new gun regulations.

“He genuinely feels that you don’t solve a symptom of the problem, you solve the problem,” Appell said. “The problem is that schools aren’t safe and is eroding the Second Amendment going to make one kid safer?”

Appell added, “He’s going to be skeptical about the suggestion that banning guns will make school safer.”

Scott, 65, is a wiry and wealthy former health care executive whose anti-establishment entry into politics eight years ago foreshadowed the rise of his ally, Trump.

Known for an upbeat but scripted style, Scott has not shied away from political drama since last week’s tragedy.

He has placed blame on the FBI for failing to act on a call weeks before the shooting, calling for the resignation of the bureau’s director, Christopher Wray.

He has attended numerous funerals, and he has met with survivors of last week’s deadly rampage that killed 17 people and left scores injured. Even in private discussions, he has avoided talk of gun limits.

“He said there is no way that someone who is mentally deranged, such as [Douglas High School shooting suspect] Nikolas Cruz, should have access to a gun,” said Olivia Feller, 16, a junior at the high school who met with Scott on Wednesday along with other students.

One place for consensus could be a revision of Florida’s Baker Act, a law that determines how far law enforcement can go in restricting the activities or purchases of mentally ill people.

Sheriffs and other leaders were divided on whether a change to the scope of the law would infringe on gun rights. Some officials said it should be left alone and urged the state to concentrate on giving weapons to teachers.

Appearing Tuesday at a policy workshop, Scott steered clear of talk of gun rights and focused on “taking a hard look at security” in Florida schools.

“It’s very important we act with a sense of urgency,” Scott said, sitting with a group of sheriffs and state officials.

The deadline for Scott’s final decision on the changes he could support, if any, is fast approaching. State Republican leaders said Tuesday they are planning for a committee vote on their plans next week.

Scott’s enduring position on gun rights reflects the entrenched support for firearms in Florida, despite several of the most deadly mass shootings in U.S. history occurring in the state during his tenure.

Florida has a history of taking the lead nationally in legislating concealed-carry permits, and it has passed a “stand your ground” law, which protects citizens who use deadly force if they feel they are in imminent danger.

Scott’s stance also underscores just how careful most Republican leaders, especially those eyeing higher office, remain on the issue of guns, knowing the party’s base is wary of any push to limit the usage of guns.

Scott has become one of the NRA’s favorite elected officials. The website for the group’s annual meeting this May in Dallas lists him as a speaker earlier in the week, but his smiling photo disappeared from the website by Wednesday. A flier the NRA sent out in 2014 hailed the governor as a trusted foe of “gun control extremists.”

NRA officials made clear this week they intend to fight back against efforts to curb gun rights. The group said in a statement on Wednesday it would oppose legislation to raise the age requirement for buying rifles.

A bill authored by Florida Democrats to ban high-capacity magazines and some semiautomatic weapons failed Tuesday, as gun-control activists and students watched the vote from the state capitol. State GOP leaders said afterward they would consider more modest bills.

The slow pace of debate is a familiar replay for longtime watchers of Florida politics and its governor, although Scott has shown in the past an occasional willingness to move to the center on issues such as Medicaid expansion.

“Florida is littered with examples of people thinking it’ll be a different moment on guns, but the culture never changes,” Florida Republican consultant Rick Wilson said. “This is another one of those moments. That cold political calculus is made, and there is zero movement in Tallahassee.”

Democrats have increased their attacks. “Governor Scott, we need more than your thoughts and prayers. Stop putting the gun lobby ahead of our safety,” a narrator says in the latest ad from Giffords PAC, the political-action committee helmed by former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat.

Trump’s allies say presidential action, while at its early stages, could ultimately prod Scott to move further on guns.

“The president’s position goes beyond that, the White House wants stronger background checks,” said Christopher Ruddy, a Trump ally and the Florida-based chief executive of Newsmax Media. “The smart thing to do politically would be to require stronger background checks not only for mentally ill people but for those with criminal backgrounds and other issues. Rick is a strong conservative but he likes to be in line with the president, and Trump is the standard-bearer.”

Florida lawmakers and consultants point back to Scott’s responses to past shootings as the better way to predict his next steps.

“The Second Amendment has never shot anybody. The evil did this,” Scott told reporters two years ago following a shooting in Fort Myers, where two teenagers were killed outside of a nightclub.

___

The Washington Post’s Michael Scherer contributed reporting from Tallahassee.

Republished with permission of the Washington Post.

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.

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