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When do you write about the arrest of a lawmaker’s spouse?

No matter what else the reporters of Florida Politics wrote on Monday, I knew that the story that would be most-read would be whatever we posted about a congressman’s wife being arrested for disorderly intoxication.

On that day, FP served up a steady stream of first-of-the-quarter, post-holiday scoops and stories about candidates maneuvering their campaigns into position for 2018 and politicos maneuvering their careers into position for the long term.

That didn’t matter. People wanted to see a mugshot. They wanted to read a police report.

They wanted to be reassured that a politician’s day-to-day life is no better or worse than theirs. Lots of families have someone who drinks too much on a holiday. Some of those folks even end up running head-long into law enforcement. A handful of them get booked into jail.

But is it news? Did we really need to publish the story about U.S. Rep. Darren Soto‘s wife being arrested at Disney World?

If you go by the standard of ‘Well, everyone else is publishing, so why aren’t we?’ then, yes, our reporter in Orlando, Scott Powers, had to write about it. The Orlando Sentinel was covering it, and certainly so were Central Florida’s voracious television news stations. Powers wasn’t first to the story, but since he was close to being first, I knew we’d win the click-bait race.

Later in the day, after I looked at the viewership stats on the story, I pushed Powers to take another bite at the apple. To Powers, a classy veteran of the newspaper industry, I had to have sounded like Jason Sudeikis’ character in the fake movie trailer from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight: “Get some likes. Get some clicks. Get some retweets. Get some forwards.”

Powers’ concern about hyping the story stemmed from Congressman Soto’s acknowledgment (via a press release and a statement) that “my wife has been honest about her struggle of living with mental illness…”

By re-upping the story, would we be taking advantage of someone who needs help and was just having a really bad day, just to earn a few thousand more clicks?

The police report further complicates the story. In it, the officer (who seemingly could not have been more patient) writes that “even while attempting to speak with her (Mrs. Soto), she continued to utter that her husband is a congressman, therefore, she can do whatever she wants.”

It’s that last part – the sense of entitlement it suggests – that guided me to my decision about pushing the story.

Yes, Mrs. Soto is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Yes, she had been drinking and only by the grace of God have I not found myself in the back of a police cruiser for similar reasons. But neither of those reasons are an excuse for haranguing a law enforcement officer.

That’s why we had to publish the story about a congressman’s wife being arrested for disorderly intoxication.

Here’s to hoping Mrs. Soto gets the help she needs.

Geraldine Thompson is back, filing to run in HD 44

Former state Sen. Geraldine Thompson filed for a chance to return to the Florida Legislature, entering the race for Florida’s House District 44 in southwest Orange County.

Thompson, of Orlando, served four years in the Florida Senate, representing Senate District 12, and six in the Florida House, representing House District 39 before redistricting. She left the Legislature to run for Congress in 2016, losing the Democratic primary to now-U. S. Rep. Val Demings.

“This [HD 44] was a district that previously had been so gerrymandered that a Democrat could not compete. After redistricting, people now will have a choice,” Thompson said.

She hopes to take on incumbent state Rep. Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden, who won a special election to fill the seat last October.

Already in the race are Olszewski’s Democratic opponent in the 2017 election, Eddy Dominguez of Orlando, Democrat Matthew Matin, of Winter Garden, and Republican Usha Jain of Windermere, who finished a distant fourth in a four-way Republican primary last year.

Thompson said she ran for Congress wanting to expand her ability to serve her constituency, but now believes the best platform for her to do so is the Florida Legislature. Her old Florida Senate District 12 seat is now held by Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy of Oakland. Due to the redistricting, Thompson had to run for re-election in 2014 after just two years, and won the re-election in SD 12 in a landslide.

HD 44 includes some of west Orlando, parts of Ocoee and Winter Garden, Windermere, and southwest Orange County.

“I think I have solid name recognition in the district. I’ve served the district. I’ve worked with the mayors in the cities of the district, so I think that gives me an advantage,” Thompson said Monday. “With regard to House District 44, I think this is a race where there is an opportunity break down years of history of exclusion. I’m interested in being a part of that.

“Because of gerrymandering … for years the Democrats didn’t really field a candidate.”

Mike Miller releases first digital ad in FL CD 7 race

Republican state Rep. Mike Miller has released his first digital campaign ad in his quest for Florida’s 7th Congressional District, turning comments from Gov. Rick Scott into campaign support.

The ad shows Miller and Scott meet at a March 21 event at the Orlando Torah Academy in Orlando, where the governor signed House Bill 545, outlawing Florida governments from doing business with any entities boycotting Israel.

While there, as is his custom, Scott praised the local Republican lawmakers who joined in the ceremony. Miller and state Reps. Randy Fine and Bobby Olszewski all were commended by Scott.

Scott’s comments about Miller now are in Miller’s first ad. “The Conservative,” a 19-second spot, begins with a narrator stating, “What’s Gov. Rick Scott saying about conservative Mike Miller? I like Mike.”

The video then has the governor making his comments, saying: “I want to thank Representative Mike Miller for all that he’s done. He’s focused on making sure our taxes are low, everybody can get a job, that we have a great education system, and that people are safe.”

Miller, of Winter Park, faces Scott Sturgill of Sanford, Vennia Francois of Winter Park, and Patrick Weingart of Altamonte Springs, in an August 28 Republican primary race. They each hope for the chance to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy in the district that covers Seminole County and north and central Orange County. Murphy also faces a Democratic challenger, Orlando lawyer Chardo Richardson.

“Gov. Scott is a great American, and I’ve enjoyed working with him to keep taxes low and make life better for all Floridians,” Miller stated in a news release issued Monday by his campaign. “I appreciate his kind words about me recently, and I’m proud to call him my friend and my governor. I’m fully supportive of whatever Gov. Scott’s next step will be and look forward to working with him in the future.”

Sturgill’s campaign said it had reached out to Scott’s office for clarification about whether the comments in Miller’s video constitute any endorsement in the race. The governor’s office has not yet responded.

Sturgill’s spokesman Frank Torres called Miller’s ad “disingenuous” and a reaction to Sturgill’s statement last week that alleged Miller’s voting record conflicted with Scott’s policies.

“I would expect this from Stephanie (Murphy) but not from a Republican candidate for Congress,” Torres said in a written statement.

Marco Rubio to move Miami office

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is having to find another new local office, this time in Miami.

But unlike when the Republican senator had to relocate his Jacksonville and Tampa offices last year, the move is being attributed to the office space, not to landlords getting frustrated with ongoing political protests outside the building.

“This is different from Jacksonville and Tampa. We are in the process of relocating that office, but it was our decision, for a couple of reasons. We were not asked to leave by building management,” Todd Reid, Rubio’s state director, said Thursday.

The current Miami office actually is in Doral, just west of the Miami International Airport, and is owned by the American Welding Society, which also has its headquarters in the building. The society did not respond Thursday to an inquiry from Florida Politics.

Reid said the Rubio team has identified a new location in Miami but is not ready to move, nor announce the new location. However, he said the new location would continue to provide easy public access.

As with the Jacksonville and Tampa offices before Rubio relocated them in early 2017, and as with Rubio’s Orlando office, progressive groups are holding frequent protests outside Rubio’s Miami locale, often with news conferences, and usually with chants, signs and demonstrations. In Orlando protesters even staged a sit-in in the building’s lobby one night, forcing police to arrest 10 of them.

In Jacksonville and Tampa, the buildings’ managers reportedly reached a point where they were concerned the protests were bothering other building tenants too much and had the senator move his offices.

The Tampa and Jacksonville offices were moved into federal courthouses. Technically, they still are fully accessible to the public, but federal buildings have high security, and all the other tenants are federal offices. Rubio also has offices in Pensacola, Tallahassee, and Palm Beach Gardens.

Victor Torres, Puerto Rican groups, urging more help for displaced Puerto Ricans

State Sen. Victor Torres, clergy, and others are joining with Puerto Rican activists in Florida to protest the closures of assistance offices for people displaced by Hurricane Maria last year and to renew attention on their plight.

Torres and the others, including organizers from VAMOS4PR FLORIDA, a network of statewide Puerto Rican diaspora organizations, are calling attention to the commonwealth’s closure of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration office closed in Kissimmee last month, and to the closures, Friday, of the state of Florida’s Multi-Agency Resource Centers in Miami and Orlando.

The three centers had served as touch-stones for many of the estimated more than 300,000 Puerto Ricans who came to Florida after Hurricane Maria had made their homes on the island unlivable last September.

Torres, the Democrat from Orlando whose district includes Kissimmee and much of the state’s most densely-centered Puerto Rican population, including storm refugees, said the community’s needs for housing, health care and other assistance remains high.

Many of them are still living in cheap motels on assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that is ending, and many of them are losing their shelter, he said.

He said the spotlight needs to stay on.

“We need to continue to focus. We need to continue to push. We need to continue to have people understanding how important it is to support Americans from Puerto Rico who are suffering, who are here, and who are over there,” Torres said.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló closed the Kissimmee office of the commonwealth’s federal affairs office, which provided outreach and liaison services, in late February. Puerto Rico also allowed its request to FEMA for the federal transitional shelter voucher program available to refugees in Florida to expire on March 20, meaning emergency housing vouchers are expiring for Puerto Ricans who were using them to pay for places to live in Florida.

Florida is closing its centers, which has provided one-stop access to state, federal, local, non-profit and other groups’ services to 34,000 families at the Miami and Orlando airports [and then from an off-site location near Orlando International Airport, at 6490 Hazeltine Dr.] because traffic had fallen way off for Puerto Ricans going there seeking assistance, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Those centers will close to walk-ins at 5 p.m. Friday, but state officials said the assistance programs will continue.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a series of executive orders in early October providing a myriad of assistance and red-tape cutting initiatives for Puerto Ricans coming to Florida. He extended those orders several times, and they now run through May 22.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management and other agencies will continue to provide assistance, but are advising Puerto Ricans needing such to contact the FEMA Disaster Assistance Hotline, (800) 621-3362, or the Florida Division of Emergency Management assistance line, (800) 342-3557, or to visit the Hurricane Maria Information page at www.floridadisaster.org/info/maria.

Torres and the activists are expressing frustration principally with Rosselló, contending he has abandoned the Puerto Rican migrants to Florida even after he came to Kissimmee in January and delivered a fiery speech demanding more assistance for storm victims on the island and in Florida.

Torres, whose family is from Ponce, P.R., and who has been back several times to help since the hurricane, said he has sent letters to Rosselló urging him to extend the temporary voucher program, and to re-open the government’s office in Kissimmee.

Chris King releases ‘March for Our Lives’ video ad

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King is turning his support for the “March For Our Lives” movement into his latest video ad, releasing a 40-second spot on the internet that features a speech he gave during last Saturday’s protests.

King uses the video to promote his strong positions to ban assault weapons, require universal background checks, and face down opposition from the National Rifle Association, and to demonstrate his involvement in the student-led movement started by the survivors of the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

King also uses it to reinforce his theme that he’s a new candidate for a new time.

“The students of Parkland are now inspiring us to do something different, to truly change the world and end gun violence,” King narrates, as the video shows him marching with protesters in Orlando.

King is then shown giving a speech to a cheering crowd, starting, “Are we ready to honor their memories? Are we ready to follow the students of Parkland? Are we ready to change the future of Florida?”

King faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine seeking the August 28 Democratic primary nomination to run for Governor this year. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Amy Mercado, Carlos Smith hear opinions on schools and guns bill

What are progressive Democrats to do when faced with an omnibus school safety and guns bill that has a few things they like but doesn’t have any of the major provisions they’ve insisted on, and also includes something that they worry might be a poison pill?

Democratic state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Amy Mercado of Orlando laid that out as their dilemma Saturday during a town hall meeting in Orlando. The meeting included high school students, survivors of the 2016 massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, along with school representatives, teachers, a mental health organization and Orange County School Board Member Daryl Flynn.

Smith and Mercado heard what sounded like universal opposition to provisions in the House school safety and guns bill that would authorize teachers and other school employees to become gun-carrying marshals, a provision that the two lawmakers agreed they could not support.

And the bill doesn’t come anywhere near what Smith and Mercado have been pushing for their two years in the Legislature, bans on the sales of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Yet there are the provisions, in the current bill, providing funding for mental health services, and for school counselors, as well as the bill’s limited gun reforms, including raising the minimum age for purchases, and the banning of bump stocks.

Is this a take-what-you-can-get and fight for the rest later moment? Smith and Mercado sought constituents thoughts, heading into Monday’s beginning of a hectic final week.

With dozens of amendments already on file on the House side and an uncertain direction for the Senate’s version during Saturday’s special session, Smith and Mercado acknowledged they did not know the language of every amendment. Mercado noted that she has an amendment awaiting the House version to make sure potential school marshals aren’t covered by “Stand Your Ground” protections allowing them to shoot someone just out of fear.

But many of the items in the bills have been sought for years.

“There’s going to be a lot of things in this bill that we don’t like, but there are some things that we do like. Anything that is funding for mental health, as Representative Mercado and I said, there have been a lot of people yelling for that for a long time,” said Eric Welch, executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater  Orlando. “So anything that is funding for mental health… that we can get behind is certainly something that the mental health community can get behind.”

Many of the most powerful thoughts came from Pulse survivors talking about what they have suffered and what they have sought since that June 12, 2016, massacre in Orlando, and from students invited into the discussion from Orlando’s University High School, who spoke of how they have been affected by the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“It should not have to be that when I go to the bathroom in 7th period, and I’m concerned that, what if something happens and I’m in the bathroom? That’s not OK,” said University High student Athena Jain-etienne.

“I will provide in the future for my children so they will not have to have this concern… that they are not coming home,” she added.

Democrats’ Orlando billboard proclaims ‘Rick Scott did nothing’ after Pulse

Democrats have launched billboards in Orlando and Tallahassee that declare that Gov. Rick Scott did nothing to address gun safety following the June 12, 2016, Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.

The Florida Democratic Party has leased two billboards, and the one in Orlando went live Friday. The message charges that the Republican governor’s commitment to addressing gun violence since the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lacked in the days following the Pulse mass shooting.

Specifically, the 612 days that transpired between the two tragedies.

The Democrats’ message is one of several in rotation on that particular digital billboard in Orlando. It cites an editorial published in the Sun-Sentinel of South Florida and presents this message to drivers heading westbound on Colonial Drive toward downtown Orlando:

“612 DAYS BETWEEN PULSE & PARKLAND.

“RICK SCOTT DID NOTHING.

–The Sun Sentinel”

The billboard faces the route downtown from one of Orlando’s largest Hispanic communities, Azalea Park. Many of the 49 people murdered at Pulse were Hispanic as the mass murder occurred during the popular nightclub’s Latino night. That east-side community was particularly hard hit.

The Tallahassee billboard will go up at Magnolia Road and Mahan Drive, facing inbound traffic, and go live on Sunday.

“Rick Scott’s long record of opposing common-sense gun safety measures shows exactly who he is: a self-serving politician who says one thing and does the opposite — while Floridians pay the price,” Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Juan Penalosa said in a news release announcing the billboards.

“He broke his promise and did nothing to make Floridians safer from gun violence after the Pulse tragedy because he was more concerned about looking out for his political interests and the agenda of his gun lobby backers. Now he’s ignoring the clear calls from Parkland students and gun safety advocates by refusing to back an assault weapons ban.“

The Sun-Sentinel editorial that the billboard cited criticized Scott and President Donald Trump‘s responses to the Parkland shooting, as well as Scott for refusing to consider a ban on assault weapons in the wake of the Pulse shooting.

It didn’t explicitly refer to the period between Pulse and Parkland or enumerate the days.

The editorial stated: “After Sandy Hook, Pulse, the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting or any other mass shooting, Scott did nothing on guns or school safety.”

Scott’s office responded Friday with the following statement: “Following the terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub, Governor Scott proposed and took action on ways to make our state safer against threats of terrorism. The Governor proposed and then signed $5.8 million for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to add 46 counterterrorism agents to the Terrorism Task Forces. This year, the Governor also proposed $1.3 million to the FDLE for incident command vehicles and emergency ordinance disposal vehicles to strengthen counterterrorism and intelligence efforts.”

With train bills dead, safety study language appears in Senate budget offer

With the derailment of bills seeking state regulation of the private Brightline passenger train system, state Sen. Debbie Mayfield has gotten language inserted into the Senate budget plan that would authorize a safety study of the train.

The budget proposal includes new language that would authorize a transportation research center at the University of South Florida to conduct a study of the safety of high-speed passenger rail that is planned to one day extend from Miami to Orlando, and an overview of whether state officials can regulate such systems.

The overview specifically would have to include assessments of whether Florida can review and identify any road and street crossings that would need to be improved for safety reasons, and whether Florida can then require specific improvements.

The language appears after the fate of Mayfield’s Senate Bill 572 and its counterpart in the Florida House appears clear. The bills are dead, as SB 572 stalled in the Senate Community Affairs Committee and House Bill 525, sponsored by Republican state Reps. Erin Grall of Vero Beach and MaryLynn Magar of Tequesta, never got out of the station. Those bills sought to require Florida to practice regulatory oversight and control over the Brightline system.

Mayfield, of Melbourne, was not immediately available Friday to discuss the budget language.

Brightline officials and their political allies have maintained that trains always have been under the regulatory purview of the federal government, and that it’s not appropriate for the state to get involved. They also insist their system already is being assembled to the highest possible federal requirements for high speed rail, even though their trains technically are not high-speed trains.

Brightline, formerly known as All Aboard Florida, began running passenger train service in January between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale with trains that can reach a maximum speed of just 79 mph. The next extension, to Miami later this year, will go no faster. The company’s longterm plans call for a train from West Palm Beach to Orlando that could go 110 mph up the coast and 120 mph between Cocoa and Orlando International Airport. Officially, under federal guidelines, the more rigid rules for high-speed rail is for trains that exceed 125 mph.

Much of the opposition to the train has come from the Treasure Coast, where many people and political figures are concerned about the trains passing through urban areas and crossing scores of streets and roads at speeds up to 110 mph. Brightline has not announced any plans for any stops in cities Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, or Brevard counties.

Mayfield, a Melbourne Republican, has become particularly urgent in her calls for state regulatory control since revelations in recent months that several people already have been killed by Brightline trains along the lower-speed tracks in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

In every case, however, the incidents involved pedestrians or bicyclists who ignored warning lights, train whistles, and other obvious signs of an oncoming train and stepped or peddled around or under crossing gate arms, onto the tracks, into a train’s path.

The Senate budget language calls for the USF Center for Urban Transportation Research to study any passenger rail operation in Florida where at least one  segment of the train’s route would have the train travel at least 80 mph. Brightline currently is the only operation that would qualify.

The language instructs the USF center to submit a report by Nov. 1 to Gov. Rick Scott, the president of the Senate, and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

Orlando airport board votes to send ultimatum to TSA

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Board of Directors voted Wednesday to tell the federal Transportation Security Administration that if it does not start pleasing Orlando International Airport officials more the airport will seek to replace federal screeners with a private company.

The board essentially is telling the federal agency that Orlando International Airport leaders are so fed up with what they contend has been a lack of communication, cooperation and accountability by the local TSA leadership, that they’re willing to pursue the extreme measure of becoming just the second or third major airport in America to throw out TSA screeners and replace them with private security.

In a nutshell, the board told TSA Wednesday it wants the local TSA leadership replaced with someone who will work with local officials to cut wait times and improve passenger satisfaction levels, and if the agency won’t do it, Orlando will. Both GOAA Board Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher and Airports Executive Director Phil Brown told the board they have repeatedly tried to get TSA to address their concerns about wait times, passenger satisfaction levels, operational flexibility, and dealing with new rules coming out of Washington D.C.

“I’m taking the gloves off with this: there is a leadership problem at TSA locally,” Kruppenbacher said.

“I don’t think any of us really desire deep in our hearts to go down this road but we’ve talked and talked, and so this is like, we’re moving in this direction,” he said.

Among the seven board members, there appeared to be a wide range of what was in their hearts regarding whether and how aggressively Orlando should begin what could be a year-long process of switching to private passenger screening services.

On one hand, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer voted against the ultimatum-laiden resolution approved Wednesday. He argued that the board was already sending a clear message, and didn’t need to actually begin a game of chicken with federal officials, heading toward something that at least a few of the board members appeared to not really want, private screeners.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs was not far from Dyer’s position, but she grudgingly, after several rewrites of the resolution, voted yes.

On the other hand, a couple of the board members, notably Ed Fouche, appeared adamant, sounding convinced that Orlando International Airport might be better off with a private passenger screening company.

Kruppenbacher contended he was more with Jacobs, but did not want to show any weakness to the agency, not after years of frustration. And so he sought a firm resolution that would have to be stopped if negotiations between the airport and federal officials succeed in the next 60 days, not a stopped resolution that could be restarted if such negotiations fail.

“I’m sorry; it’s time to go to Washington and tell TSA we mean business,” Kruppenbacher said.

Private screening at airports is available through the TSA’s Screening Partnership Program. The vast majority of the 22 airports that have opted into the program, such as those in Bozeman, Roswell, and Tupelo, are small, and they include four in Florida: Key West, Sarasota, Punta Gorda, and Orlando-Sanford. Only the San Francisco and perhaps Kansas City airports are in Orlando’s class. San Francisco International Airport is a little bigger, in terms of passenger counts, while Kansas City’s is less than half of Orlando’s size.

A switch to a private passenger screening service would come first with Orlando submitting an application to the TSA, while Orlando simultaneously begins interviewing and researching the 15 or so companies authorized by TSA to do the work.

The board struggled with how far members wanted to go Wednesday in a stare-down with the TSA, leading the resolution to be recast at least twice.

Kruppenbacher wants Airports Executive Director Brown and key staff and board members to meet with TSA. And before Wednesday’s meeting, Dyer arranged a meeting with airport officials, federal officials and the Central Florida congressional delegation, notably U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Darren Soto, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, for March 30. [Word that such a meeting already had been arranged, critical to a process that had not yet been voted on, and involving more than one GOAA board member, clearly irked Jacobs, who only found out about it when Kruppenbacher first mentioned it. Dyer tried to ease her by saying Demings actually arranged it, and texted him about it earlier Wednesday.]

Ultimately, the board offered a 60-day window for TSA to “meet the triggers,” in Kruppenbacher’s words. Those triggers were not explicitly spelled out.

“The step we would take today is to begin the process; the board will not be formally voting to file the application,” he said.

The matter has come up before in past years, previously pushed aggressively by then U.S. Rep. John Mica, who fought a long political battle with the TSA and its unions, and wanted to have his hometown airport become a leading example of one that abandoned the agency.

This time the matter appeared to be more driven by airport staff, as Brown laid out a case Wednesday for why TSA screening operations had become disappointing and frustrating in light of the airport’s standards and objectives. Essentially, the agency appeared unable or unwilling to participate in big-theme-park levels of customer service and satisfaction, what airport officials long have called “the Orlando Experience.”

Kruppenbacher expressed annoyance that TSA officials left Wednesday’s meeting early.

Meanwhile, many of the thousand or so TSA employees at Orlando International Airport could lose their jobs and their federal pensions if Orlando switches to a private company. A number of TSA employees and union officials, some from other aviation unions such as flight attendants, spoke Wednesday, pleading with the board to not switch to a private security company.

“Screeners, you’re in the middle of it, but this is not about you,” Kruppenbacher said.

The screeners and others insisted no private company could offer more dedication to safety than they do.

Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants, noted she was working out of Boston the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists, screened by pre-TSA private security screeners, boarded two planes there and crashed them into the World Trade Center. Air safety is very personal for those in the business, she reminded everyone.

“It could have been me on that plane that fateful day. Instead, it was my good friends…. We can never go back to giving private companies the enormous responsibility of airport screening,” Nelson said.

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