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Linda Stewart, Carlos Smith both confident Pulse memorial will get money

“I’ve been assured there will be Pulse money.”

Faced Wednesday morning with zeros on the line item for state money to support a Pulse Memorial and Museum in Orlando, state Sen. Linda Stewart and state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith both expressed confidence later Wednesday that the money will re-surface.

On Tuesday it looked as if state money for the memorial, sought and denied last year, may have been denied again, as $245,000 initially included in the Senate budget was zeroed out, and the House budget showed none.

But Stewart, an Orlando Democrat, said Wednesday she has been working the issue and received assurances from Senate leadership, including Budget Conference Chair Travis Hutson, that Pulse memorial money will likely reappear tonight as Senate and House negotiators meet. Smith, also an Orlando Democrat, said he also has been working the issue Wednesday and expressed confidence that something would come through yet in this Legislative Session.

“I’ve been assured there will be Pulse money in the spreadsheet,” Stewart said of the expected work product from Wednesday night’s budget conference committee meeting.

“I am absolutely working it and I am absolutely assured it will get worked out,” Stewart said. “I feel much better about it this afternoon.”

“I’m working with budget leaders to secure this funding,” Smith said. “I know there is support for the project. I’m optimistic that we can get it done.”

The memorial, being developed with an international $45 million fundraising effort and planning by the non-profit onePulse Foundation, is to the lost, destroyed, and damaged lives from the 2016 massacre at Pulse, the popular gay nightclub in Orlando where 49 people were killed and 58 were wounded by a crazed gunman, and much of Orlando was affected. At the time it was the deadliest single-day mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The memorial and museum also are being planned as a testament to the courage, love, and unity that emerged in the community in the tragedy’s aftermath, and as a warning about the dangers of intolerance and discrimination.

onePulse Foundation hopes to have the Pulse Memorial and Museum open in June, 2022.

Pulse, is now the site of a temporary memorial filled with pictures, mementos, and messages of love and unity, with the original building still in tact but shut and walled off It is in Stewart’s district, and she has been a strong advocate for the memorial.

Smith has been one of the leaders of the healing and remembrance movements from the beginning. Last year he offered an amendment to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act seeking $1 million, the same amount the bill for a memorial of the Parkland tragedy’s memorial. His measure was defeated, but received significant bipartisan support.

Smith said there should be parity between the memorial money offered in the wake of the horrific Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting of 2017 and for the one memorializing Pulse. He also noted the 9/11 memorial in New York City and the memorial to the bombing in Oklahoma City received millions of dollars in grants from their states.

Smith vowed he will never give up.

“I will never let them lose interest,” he said of his colleagues. “The impact of Pulse is still very real for a lot of people in the Orlando community and it certainly very real for me.”

The Orange County Commission approved up to $10 million to be donated for the memorial.

“While we will never bring back the 49 innocent victims whose lives were taken on June 12, 2016, or erase the pain that the horrific act brought to so many, the establishment of a permanent memorial at the site of the Pulse nightclub is an important part of our community healing process,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer offered on Wednesday. “We remain committed to supporting these efforts, led by the onePulse Foundation, and ensuring the creation of a permanent place for our community to remember, reflect and hope.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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