Danny McAuliffe, Author at Florida Politics

Danny McAuliffe

Democrats react to Parkland reforms, criticize lack of assault weapons ban

Gun-reform measures released by Gov. Rick Scott and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature are being hailed as the greatest proposed deviations from hard line pro-gun laws in the Sunshine State in recent history — but Democratic officials, groups and politicians have been quick to claim the proposals are inadequate.

The legislative initiatives released Friday are intended to address issues unearthed by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre. Scott and the Legislature have proposed banning the sale of bump stocks and raising the minimum age to 21 for the purchase of all guns, with some exceptions for military and law enforcement personnel.

Both plans have hefty price tags. The Legislature wants to allocate $263 million for school safety improvements and $102 million for mental health services; respectively, Scott wants $450 million and $50 million.

The Legislature is backing the idea of the “Marshal Program,” in which school faculty members are trained to carry firearms on campuses. Scott does not support the idea.

State leadership announced the measures in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz fatally shot 17 students and teachers with an assault rifle.

As expected, the Parkland-inspired proposals are not being lauded across party lines. At the crux of Democrats’ criticism is the absence of a proposed ban on assault weapons.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson:

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum: 

“The Governor’s proposal still falls well short on assault weapons, even though this is the time for a statewide ban and Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are demanding one,” Gillum’s campaign said in a written statement. “Republicans’ own polling shows a majority, including a majority of Florida gun owners, want a ban on these weapons of war.”

But, citing a Republican-commissioned poll that shows the majority of Floridians and state gun owners support a ban on assault weapons, the campaign criticized Scott for not attempting to halt assault rifle sales.

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

The proposals announced Friday were “too little, too late.”

“Investing in safer schools is long overdue — and must be prioritized and fully funded this year. … Raising the age for purchasing all firearms is long overdue — and must be passed this Legislative session,” Graham said in a statement. She also called for an assault weapons ban.

Gubernatorial candidate Phillip Levine:

Levine agreed with “making school safety a top priority in Florida,” along with providing for more intensive background checks, mental health screens and additional law enforcement resources at schools.

But, joining the battle cry of his Democratic colleagues, Levine ultimately criticized the Legislature and Scott for not banning assault rifles.

“The elephant in the room is still there: we must get assault rifles off the streets and away from our schools. Permanently,” Levine said in a prepared statement. “Freedom should not come with a warning label: ‘These guns may be harmful to children’s survival,’ but with a guarantee that these killing weapons remain on the battlefields, not in classrooms.”

Gubernatorial candidate Chris King:

“In 20 years of one-party rule, Florida’s leaders have utterly failed to take action to end the scourge of gun violence in our state and today’s proposals from Governor Scott and the GOP legislature are too little, too late. Governor Scott’s plan does nothing to ensure universal background checks and would not ban military-style assault weapons. Tallahassee has ignored our voices for far too long––their time to act was long before Parkland or Pulse. Now we must take up the cause ourselves and elect new leaders who offer fresh ideas, bold solutions.”

Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon:

“We can beef up mental health screenings, raise the age for gun purchases, and dream up other stopgap measures, but the threat to our children and our citizens will continue until we finally take bold action ban assault weapons designed for the battlefield from easy access in our communities. Without that, the voices of the students, and the will of the people, continue to be ignored.”

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz:

“These measures backed by the gun lobby are unacceptable. If leadership is truly willing to have a real and open discussion and debate on the merits of policies to save the lives of Floridians, then I am ready and fully committed to working hard to achieve a product that will keep our constituents safe. If this is the normal bait and switch that will leave Democrats shut-out of the “process” while they crow of bipartisanship, then I will call it like I see it; a sad attempt to cover their asses in the face of tragedy.”

State Rep. Shevrin Jones:

State Rep. Kionne McGhee:

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith:

State Rep. David Richardson:

Florida Democratic Party:

On the Legislature-backed proposal to train and arm school faculty, the FDP called it a measure “to keep the gun lobby happy and advance Richard Corcoran‘s political ambitions at the expense of the lives of our children.”

“The only people who think that putting guns in the hands of teachers is a good idea are Richard Corcoran and Donald Trump,” claimed FDP spokesman Kevin Donohoe. “Both Republicans and Democrats have agreed that arming teachers is dangerous and will make our schools more unsafe, endanger the lives of students and teachers, and do very little to prevent mass shootings.”

State Attorney General candidate Ryan Torrens:

“As America is enveloped in our crisis of gun violence, I am reminded of President Franklin Roosevelt in his First Inaugural Address when he said: ‘Our nation asks for action and action now!’

“Sadly, our legislature, backed by the NRA, voted against even bringing an assault weapons ban up for a vote. It is clear that the Florida GOP is going to keep putting the NRA and their own reelection before the safety of our children and our families.

“Not only is our legislature refusing to act, but in 2011, the legislature actually passed a law prohibiting local governments from passing reasonable gun ordinances to protect their children and families. This is absurd.”

State to require audits for 26 lobbying firms

The Joint Legislative Auditing Conference released on Thursday a list of 26 lobbying firms that were randomly selected for audits of their compensation reports.

The firms selected for legislative lobbying audits are: 

— The Mayernick Group LLC

— Gentry & Associates LLC

— Pathfinder Communications LLC

— Doster and Associates Inc.

— Damon Smith Consulting LLC

— Kenneth Wayne Lawson, O.D.

— W. Michael Goldie

— Littlejohn Mann & Associates

— Gomez Barker Associates Inc.

— Dunlap & Shipman, P.A.

— The Merchant Strategy, Inc.

— CS Consulting Group, LLC

— Michael Cusick and Associates

— Patsy Eccles & Associates

In the event that one of the firms cannot be audited (the state gives the example of a sole proprietor who has passed away), an alternate firm will be selected.

The alternate firms are: 

— Conforme Nappi, P.A.

— 850 Consulting Group LLC

— Southern Strategy Group

— Shutts & Bowen LLP

— Suskey Consulting, LLC

— Donald G. Ray & Associates

— RSR Strategies

— Corcoran & Johnston

— James Smith

— Community Bridges Inc

— PinPoint Results LLC

— Adams and Reese LLP

— Driver McAfee Peek & Hawthorne

— Adams St. Advocates

The firms selected for executive-branch lobbying audits are: 

— Andrew J. Liles

— Anna H. Upton, PL

— Impact GR

— Michael Bascom Consulting

— Clark Partington Hart Larry Bond & Stackhouse

— c6 Stategies

— Carlton Fields Jorden Burt PA

— Law Office of Todd Sumner

— Greenberg Traurig PA

— Sunshine State Consultants, LLC

— Corcoran & Johnston

— Horton & Associates LLC

The alternate firms are: 

— Mark Hendrickson

— The Rubin Group

— Igniting Florida, LLC

— RFJ Governmental Consultants

— Louis Betz & Associates Inc.

— Lester Abberger

— Erin L. Deady, P.A.

— Environmental Visions Achieved

— Littlejohn Mann & Associates

— Meenan PA

— Magnolia Strategies LLC

— GA MCKeown & Associates LLC

The audits will begin after the Legislative Session on March 15 and must be completed by June 30.

Each firm has the option to choose from the following auditors: Carr, Riggs & Ingram, LLC, Warren Averett, LLC, and Carroll and Company.

The audits first began in 2015 under a state law passed in 2005. The first report showed many firms over- and under-reported compensation totals. The audits continued in 2016 and 2017.

Southern Strategy Group, which was selected as an alternate legislative firm, was the second highest-earning firm in 2017. Greenburg Traurig was the fifth highest-earning firm in 2017 and is among the executive-branch firms chosen for an audit.

Bill Nelson slams Rick Scott for skipping town hall

Gov. Rick Scott’s absence from the CNN town hall on gun reform and his potential refusal to propose an assault weapons ban will not be forgotten by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — especially as the two likely will face each other for Nelson’s seat in the upcoming midterm elections.

On Thursday, Nelson spoke to reporters and criticized Scott for his association with the NRA and for not attending Wednesday night’s town hall. Nelson said he was at the state Capitol “articulating his position” to legislators on what should be done in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

When asked if he’d lent advice to Scott, who plans to release a legislative proposal on Friday that is widely expected to include mental health and school safety measures, Nelson said, “I was hoping Gov. Scott was going to be at the town hall meeting like Sen. [Marco] Rubio, so that we could start having a discussion.”

Scott’s official response for skipping the CNN town hall was that he’d “be in Tallahassee meeting with state leaders to work on ways to keep Florida students safe, including school safety improvements and keeping guns away from individuals struggling with mental illness.”

Nelson questioned Scott’s response, noting that the Governor attended a funeral in Broward County earlier on Wednesday.

“That doesn’t wash,” Nelson said.

Late in the evening on Wednesday, Scott met with several groups of Stoneman Douglas students in Tallahassee.

Nelson said Scott’s affiliation with the NRA and his related accolades are the reason why he predicts much of the legislative initiatives proposed on Friday will not include gun restrictions.

“The governor has an A-plus [NRA] rating,” Nelson said. “He’s a darling of the NRA, which means the gun manufacturers.”

Nelson preemptively attacked the concept of arming teachers with guns, a proposed policy solution that’s being floated at the state and national level.

He called it “a terrible idea” and questioned whether armed teachers would be able to halt a shooter equipped with an assault rifle.

Nelson lauded efforts to increase mental health and to provide more security for schools, but said they stop short of what he believes is necessary to prevent future mass shootings.

Nelson said the “root problems” can be fixed by ensuring criminal background checks take place every time a gun changes ownership and by banning assault weapons.

“I mean if you’re going to do something about school shootings — and just think about it, America is the only country on the face of the earth that there are constantly school massacres — if we’re going to do something about this we’ve got to get at the root problem and that is to take the assault rifles off the street,” Nelson said.

Scott’s record on guns is the target of a recent ad airing in four markets across the state. Given Nelson’s comments on Thursday, these attacks on pro-gun stances will persist should Scott opt to run against him.

Hookers and the House? Woman tells lawmakers their colleagues are ‘johns’

A House panel faced a shocking revelation Wednesday — that lawmakers may be soliciting prostitutes in the capital city.

Melissa Villar, who did not indicate she represented an organization, dropped a bomb on lawmakers when she said she is familiar with someone living in Tallahassee who operates a “trafficking ring” or “prostitution ring.”

That unnamed operator told Villar state representatives are frequent customers.

“She divulged to me that the majority of her clientele are members of the Florida House,” Villar told the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon.

Casting doubt on the claim, Villar said that the unidentified sex trafficker doesn’t know the difference between “Session and interim” and possibly mistook lobbyists for lawmakers.

But, pointing to electronic payment systems, Villar said it is likely that this operator knows the names of her clients.

“She was taking the credit card payment,” Villar noted. “So she knows who the people are.”

Villar then told lawmakers she forwarded what she knew to the “ethics commission.” A representative from the Florida Commission on Ethics said to Florida Politics there are currently no closed complaints filed by Villar, but a claim could be pending, making it exempt from public disclosure. The commission added that it did not have any documented correspondence with Villar.

The Florida House Ethics committee also said there were no public complaints from Villar.

Villar also explained to lawmakers that she reported the incident to law enforcement. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement told Florida Politics it had not received a related complaint.

A Facebook profile associated with Villar shows that she is the executive director of NORML Tallahassee.

According to its website, NORML seeks to “move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.” Her Facebook profile also shows that she used to be employed at the Florida House of Representatives.

One online news article shows Villar was quoted supporting a bill in the 2017 Session that sought to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. During her testimony on Wednesday, Villar sported a brooch that resembles a pot leaf.

Villar could not be immediately reached to provide more context to her testimony.

Her comments came as the committee considered a bill (HB 167) filed by Dover Republican Rep. Ross Spano to allow human trafficking victims to sue hotel owners and staff who are complicit in human trafficking operations.

Following her testimony, members did not address or publicly question Villar’s assertions. The committee ultimately forwarded the bill.

The jarring statements made by Villar coincide with a new era of awareness to the sexual extracurricular activities of the Legislature. A number of scandals involving lawmakers have come to light in the past year, leading some to resign.

In the case of former Sen. Jack Latvala, authorities have launched a criminal investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct.

It was unearthed late last year that someone had planted a camera on the sixth floor of the Tennyson condo, where legislators frequently stay during their annual stints in the capital city, presumably to monitor lawmakers’ late night endeavors.

The Miami Herald reported that in the 1960s and ’70s, lawmakers would be seen in mobile home parks on the outskirts of Tallahassee “where they enjoyed thick steaks, red wine and, legend has it, the company of women, courtesy of a trade group.”

Rick Scott, Parkland students talk policy behind closed doors

Facing the state’s head honcho, kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas shared their policy suggestions in the wake of the massacre at their school, and Gov. Rick Scott seemed to have listened, according to one student.

“It went better than I expected it was going to go,” Sofie Whitney, an 18-year-old senior at Stoneman Douglas, told reporters after meeting with Scott. “[Scott] definitely surprised us.”

The Governor set aside a two-hour period to speak with groups of students from Stoneman Douglas and Plantation Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book late Wednesday. The meetings were planned so that Scott heard different perspectives before finalizing a legislative proposal aimed at preventing another Parkland-like tragedy in the state.

Each meeting was carefully shielded from public view, forcing media to rely on students to relay what transpired during their intimate discussions with Scott.

Whitney said that her group initiated most of the policy conversations and that Scott would share his thoughts, which led to talks of compromise.

“Scott definitely responded with his ideas as well and we were trying to find a common ground,” Whitney said.

When asked to sum up the meeting, Whitney said it centered on discussions of keeping guns away from those who shouldn’t have them. Ideas, like providing for more thorough background checks and requiring the passage of a mental health exam prior to a gun purchase, were floated to Scott, Whitney said. She said the students in her group also discussed implementing longer waiting periods for gun purchases and limiting assault weapons sales to customers ages 21 plus — though it was hard to discern Scott’s response to the idea for an age restriction.

When asked if her group brought up banning assault weapon sales, Whitney said such discussion was omitted because there likely wasn’t “hope” for a ban given the House’s refusal to take up a similar measure on Tuesday.

“We had a feeling that [discussing a ban] wouldn’t be very effective,” Whitney said. 

Whitney indicated that she and her peers are eager to see Scott’s legislative proposal and whether it will reflect what was discussed in secrecy during the meetings.

“Scott was really receptive,” Whitney said. “But we won’t be sure of any of his actions until he releases his proposal on Friday.”

Whitney will head back to Broward County with her classmates Wednesday night. When the governor does release his proposal, there will be 400 miles of separation between the students and Scott, and only two weeks left in the Legislative Session. 

Parkland students to Legislature: We’ve had enough of your ‘thoughts and prayers’

Those who’ve survived the tragic shooting in Parkland don’t want to be consoled by lawmakers — they want action.

A number of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School spoke between the state House and Senate chambers on Wednesday, aggressively addressing state legislators in front of dozens of media outlets. The conference was concurrent with a rally that drew thousands of protesters at the Old Historic Capitol.

The students, corralled and organized by state Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, spoke of what they witnessed and experienced last Wednesday when Nikolas Cruz fatally shot 17 students and faculty at the high school.

Each speaker grieved and recounted the horrific aspects of that fateful day at Stoneman Douglas. Almost all expressed anger towards those in power and the need to prevent a similar incident from occurring again. The speakers floated potential fixes, including changing background check processes, restricting certain age groups from purchasing assault weapons and other gun control measures.

While young and new to political advocacy, the students seemed to be aware that many of their ideas do not stand a chance passing a Republican-controlled Legislature.

Jose Oliva told POLITICO earlier today that students who want gun control measures passed, such as a ban on assault weapons, likely will leave Tallahassee “disappointed,” because the Legislature will not pass such laws.

Delaney Tarr, a 17-year-old senior at Stoneman Douglas, spoke of her and her classmates’ mission and how frustrating their experience in Tallahassee has been.

“Coming here today as a teenager full of passion — a bit too much passion — was very disappointing,” Tarr said. “We’ve been to many rooms, we’ve spoken to only a few legislators and, try as they might, the most we’ve gotten out of them is ‘we’ll keep you in our thoughts, you are so strong and you are so powerful.'”

For Tarr and her peers, that message isn’t enough.

“We aren’t here to be patted on the back,” Tarr continued. She said they are here to encourage action on behalf of gun control measures, not to be comforted and “pushed into another room as [lawmakers] dance around our questions.”

“We want gun reform,” Tarr said. “We want common sense gun laws.”

She cited the House’s refusal to take up an assault weapons ban on the floor Tuesday, calling it “disappointing.”

Emphasizing the need for action, Tarr said, “We’ve had enough of ‘thoughts and prayers.’ We’ve had enough of ‘we’re in your consideration, we’re going to think about it, we’re going to tell you how we feel because we support you so much’ — because we know that’s not true.

“If you supported us you would’ve made a change long ago and you would be making change now.”

Alfonso Calderon, a 16-year-old junior, also acknowledged that the advocacy trip to Tallahassee and the planned march in Washington, D.C., might not be enough

“What we need is action,” Calderon said. “And we need it now more than ever.”

Calderon also said he is prepared to drop out of school and dedicate his entire time to advocating to end gun violence. He told Florida Politics that the move is being considered by other students as well.

Rick Scott to unveil Parkland-inspired proposal for Legislature

With just two weeks left in Session, Gov. Rick Scott will deliver to legislators a proposal on Friday that is expected to address a series of issues identified in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The announcement came after Scott held a public roundtable discussion, where he was debriefed on conclusions reached by law enforcement leaders, school administrators, teachers, mental health experts, and state agency heads who had met earlier on Tuesday to discuss school safety improvements and keeping guns away from individuals struggling with mental illness.

The specifics of the proposal are not known, but two priorities are clear: keeping guns away from the mentally ill and enhancing school safety.

“We need to significantly increase the funding for school safety,” Scott told reporters in recapping the meeting. “We need to significantly increase the funding for mental health.”

Omitted from the debriefing was discussion of an assault weapons ban, something favored by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and state Democrats.

But when asked if he’d consider stricter gun control measures, such as longer waiting periods for assault weapons or looking at regulations governing assault weapons, Scott said it wasn’t out of question.

“I’m going to look at everything,” Scott said. “Everything for me is on the table.”

Scott said he will continue to seek feedback leading up to his release of the proposal Friday. He has made it clear that there could be major changes to laws navigating the Baker Act and how the Department of Children and Families, law enforcement members and school districts work together with students who are mentally ill. Nikolas Cruz, the accused Parkland mass shooter, was investigated by DCF after cutting his arms on Snapchat and declaring his intent to purchase a gun.

Scott expressed concern that mental illness is not reflected on gun background checks, and for how someone who may have just been Baker Acted can purchase a gun with ease.

“How do they have the right to walk out and an hour later be able to buy a gun?” Scott told reporters. “If somebody has been Baker Acted because they are at risk of harming another person, then they shouldn’t be getting a gun right away.”

He acknowledged a challenge lies ahead to not disrupt the due process rights of gun owners, but said he’s confident there is a way keep those subject to harming others from being armed.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri spoke in depth about what he called the “Baker Act loophole.” He said because a person’s mental health record is not detectable in gun background checks, it makes the process a “criminal background check,” and nothing more.

“You could be Baker Acted 15 times in the last month, have 15 law enforcement contacts for domestic-related issues, tell a cop last night ‘I’m going to kill my wife,’ get Baker Acted, you’re out this morning and this afternoon you’re buying a gun at a gun store in the state of Florida,” Gualtieri said. “And there’s nothing we can do about it.”

It was acknowledged that some law enforcement officers simply sieze weapons from someone who seems dangerous or mentally ill, but that it’s not codified by law.

On the subject of enhanced school safety, there was talk of providing more school resource officers and preventing any gaps in their coverage of the school. Briefly, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd discussed a “Sentinel” program in which a select group of faculty at schools is trained to protect students during shootings.

“The schools are the only place where we gather children in a large group with no protection,” Judd said. He said this attracts active shooters who do not want to meet resistance. The Sentinel program would train volunteers who’ve cleared background checks through a process more rigorous than what’s required for law enforcement officers, Judd said.

Ideas for more active shooter drills at schools, along with single-point entries and metal detectors also were floated during the debriefing.

Still, the only concrete promise is that whatever is unveiled on Friday will be a focal point for the next two weeks.

Saying he’ll be meeting with legislators, Scott indicated he’ll act with ambition and urgency to ensure the contents of his proposal make it through the cumbersome legislative process.

“We have two weeks to go in this Legislative Session,” Scott said. “I want to make something happen.”

Graphic school shooting images, footage could soon be exempted from public records

In the wake of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, some lawmakers plan to exempt photos and videos of school shootings from public records laws.

The plan has yet to be codified into a bill, but legislators reached a verbal agreement on Tuesday at the final Senate Criminal Justice Committee meeting of the Legislative Session to attempt to tack the exemption onto an existing proposal, SB 1178.  

That bill, sponsored by Chair Randolph Bracy, an Orlando Democrat, as drafted would prevent visual or audio recordings of human killings from being obtained via Florida’s public records laws. Under current laws, members of the media and the general public can request access to a recorded killing if it is held by an agency unless it depicts the death of a law enforcement officer. 

Bracy’s sweeping exemption, however, was not favored by the committee and after being postponed twice before in earlier meetings, members failed the bill on an initial vote.

But then Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, motioned to reconsider the bill. Bracy then called for a recess. 

Upon returning, Bracy gave his word that an amendment would be drafted to “balance” the public’s right to obtaining records with a respect for the incidents that have “been happening across our country and across our state,” an allusion to mass shootings.

“We need to figure out a way to make sure that these photos and depictions are protected,” Bracy said.

Bracy later told Florida Politics that the amendment would “narrow” the public records exemptions provided in his bill to only apply to visual and audio recordings of school shootings. He acknowledged that the provision addresses an aspect of the recent mass shooting in Parkland.  

With Bracy’s promise, the bill cleared the committee unanimously. It now heads to Government Oversight and Accountability and later Rules — although Bracy said the same provision could likely be added onto existing legislation on the Senate floor.

Rick Scott will skip CNN town hall, workshop student safety instead

Gov. Rick Scott will not attend a CNN-hosted town hall discussion with students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, their family members and the surrounding community.

The reason? Scott’s staff said the governor will be busy in Tallahassee addressing the issue of student safety.

“With only three weeks left of our annual legislative session, Governor Rick Scott will be in Tallahassee meeting with state leaders to work on ways to keep Florida students safe, including school safety improvements and keeping guns away from individuals struggling with mental illness,” McKinley Lewis, Scott’s Deputy Communications Director, said in a statement provided to Florida Politics.

CNN announced the town hall in the wake of the tragic Parkland massacre to help “facilitate a discussion” between elected officials and those affected by the incident.

The event, “Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action,” will be moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper, who took to Twitter over the weekend to personally alert officials, like Scott, who were invited to the discussion.

U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, along with Democratic Florida U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, have accepted the invitation. President Donald Trump will not attend the town hall. It’s scheduled to air live on Wednesday at 9 p.m.

Scott’s planned absence from the event has drawn criticism, including from Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

In declining the request, Scott seemed to point to a sense of urgency in the state’s lawmaking process. Later on Monday, he followed through by announcing a series of planned workshops for law enforcement leaders, school administrators, teachers, mental health experts, and state agency heads to discuss school safety improvements and keeping guns away from individuals struggling with mental illness.

Those workshops will take place throughout Tuesday. Scott will hold a roundtable to discuss findings at the end of the day.

Scott, who said he’s spent the past week in the area surrounding Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said, “A tragedy like what occurred in Broward County must never happen again and swift action is needed now. I am bringing local and state leaders together to find solutions on how to prevent violence in our schools and keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill individuals. This is an urgent matter that we must address quickly.”

The meetings are closed to the public, but will be live-streamed on the Florida Channel. Viewers will be able to provide public input via a website.

Workshops will take place from 10 a.m. to noon and 2-4 p.m at the Florida Department of Education to focus on “school safety improvements and updating school security protocols and emergency plans.”

At the Florida Department of Children and Families, workshops will take place from 9-11 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. to focus on “ways to expand mental health services for Floridians, especially students, and improve coordination between state, local and private behavioral health partners.”

Potential safety improvements and an emphasis on keeping guns away from the mentally ill will be the focal points of workshops held from 10 a.m. to noon and 2-4 p.m. at the Florida Sheriffs Association.

Scott’s roundtable is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Capitol.

Florida-based GOP donor: Want cash? Support assault weapons ban

Al Hoffman Jr. is hoping the mantra ‘money talks’ holds true for elected Republicans.

The Florida-based political donor and businessman in an email told six top GOP officials — including Gov. Rick Scott and Jeb Bush — that he’d stem campaign contributions to candidates, and their related committees, who do not support a ban on assault weapons.

The email, according to the New York Times, included a promise from Hoffman to not fund future campaigns for Scott, who is expected to announce a U.S. Senate bid, or other Florida Republicans, unless they support the ban.

Hoffman, who championed fundraising efforts for George W. Bush‘s presidential campaigns and was appointed by Bush to serve as the ambassador to Portugal, wrote in the email he’d “not write another check unless they all support a ban on assault weapons. Enough is enough!”

In an interview with the Times, Hoffman said, “For how many years now have we been doing this — having these experiences of terrorism, mass killings — and how many years has it been that nothing’s been done?

“It’s the end of the road for me.”

Hoffman already has involved himself in the Florida gubernatorial race. According to the Florida Division of Elections, he donated $2,700 to Republican candidate Adam Putnam at the end of January.

Whether Hoffman’s threat will result in gun-restricting legislation is unknown — even he is doubtful.

He told the Times that he thought an assault weapons ban is still unlikely. He has donated millions to candidates and interests of the GOP, but said elected officials are too committed to the National Rifle Association to pass the ban.

Although one donor might pale in comparison to the influence of the NRA, Hoffman’s move could pick up traction with other like-minded GOP donors.

Another Florida-based donor, Peter Rummell, already is on board. He told the Times he would only donate to candidates who support an assault weapons ban.

He told Florida Politics that he supports the Second Amendment, but that changes should be made and the nation’s gun laws need reform.

“Now is the time for us to have a debate that is honest, thoughtful and complete, taking into account all the important issues about how we live practically under the Second Amendment, which I fully support,” Rummell said. “The discussion needs to end with real transformation and actionable items that bring about real reform, protections and change.”

Hoffman’s email isn’t the first time he’s advocated for gun control initiatives. In 2013, he penned a letter to then-House Speaker John Boehner urging for more gun control.

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