January 16, 2017

These are the gun law changes Florida lawmakers could take up in 2017

OT_402078_KEEL_6_flgov

@ByKristenMClark

Legislators have proposed several law changes for the upcoming 2017 session that would either expand or restrict gun ownership and possession.

None of the proposals have yet been vetted by lawmakers or are on the calendar to be heard in legislative committees, although at least a few are likely to be taken up. Companion bills typically need to be filed in both the House and the Senate in order for a proposal to have a chance at becoming law.

Find the full list of 2017 gun bills here. (Note: This list will be updated if and when more bills are filed.)

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RELATED COVERAGE:

-- What gun rights supporters want: Read here.

-- What gun safety advocates want: Read here.

-- How the NRA and Republicans control the debate in Florida: Read here.

Photo credit: Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

January 15, 2017

NRA, Republican leaders shape gun law debate in Tallahassee

Capitol@SteveBousquet

Marion Hammer’s phone rang as news bulletins reported that five tourists were shot to death at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The longtime Florida gun lobbyist said a friend told her that the Jan. 6 shootings probably ended any chance of the Legislature’s passing a law to allow licensed gun owners to carry weapons in airport common areas.

But Hammer said the shooting helped her cause, proving that more guns in places like airports were needed.

That rationale will find a lot of support from Republican legislators in the 2017 session.

Hammer has a powerful ally in House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, who said gun-free zones that leave people defenseless are dangerous.

“If law-abiding citizens could carry a gun to a baggage claim,” Corcoran said, “I think you’re going to see gun violence rapidly decline. So why don’t we do that for a change? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Full story here.

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RELATED COVERAGE:

-- What gun rights supporters want: Read here.

-- What gun safety advocates want: Read here.

-- What gun law changes are on the table this year: Read here.

Photo credit: Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau

January 14, 2017

Gun safety proponents: More regulations will make Florida safer from gun violence

Guh18 GunsBack NEW PPP@MichaelAuslen

Since the summer shooting that devastated Latin night at Pulse, an Orlando gay nightclub, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith has worn a rainbow-patterned ribbon on his lapel.

It’s a physical reminder of 49 lives lost seven months ago in the worst mass shooting this country has seen, an event that led Smith, who is gay and Hispanic, to focus on gun control in his first campaign for the Florida House of Representatives.

“I see a Florida, a safer Florida, where there are fewer guns because only the more responsible, law-abiding gun owners are allowed to possess those weapons and they can only possess certain kinds of weapons to protect themselves,” said Smith, a Democrat whose district is just five miles from Pulse.

Gun-control supporters — mostly Democrats — don’t have much clout in the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature. Still, they’re pushing new restrictions they say will make it harder for potentially dangerous people to obtain firearms.

They are quick to say they don’t want to take away people’s guns. But they do want an end to what Dania Beach Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne calls a “Swiss cheese” approach to gun regulations.

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RELATED COVERAGE:

-- What gun rights supporters want: Read here.

-- How the NRA and Republicans control the debate in Florida: Read here.

-- What gun law changes are on the table this year: Read here.

Photo credit: Miami Police detectives register guns collected from the public during a gun buy back event hosted by the department and the Rickia Isaac Foundation at Dorsey Park in Miami, December 17, 2016. Pedro Portal / El Nuevo Herald

Gun rights supporters: Less restrictions, more guns by the 'law-abiding' could be deterrent

Divided America Far From United@ByKristenMClark

Picture this different view of public life in Florida.

In a college lecture hall, the instructor is licensed to carry a gun and has a Glock holstered on her hip. In a public meeting at city hall, the mayor, also licensed, is carrying a sidearm. A resident — yes, licensed and openly armed — strolls into baggage claim at the airport to pick up visiting relatives.

These and other locations currently are dubbed “gun free” zones because state law prohibits concealed-carry permit-holders from carrying, and it’s that restriction that gun rights advocates say makes gun-free zones vulnerable to attack.

Within hours after Esteban Santiago shot up the Terminal 2 baggage claim at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Jan. 6, killing five and wounding six, gun-rights advocates offered a familiar refrain: Gun-free zones don’t work.

Proponents of Second Amendment rights say both the Fort Lauderdale shooting and the Pulse nightclub massacre last summer in Orlando are examples of why restrictions on permitted gun owners don’t help prevent tragedy — and why Florida’s gun laws should be opened up to afford more freedom for people to defend themselves.Because criminals are going to break the law regardless, they argue, the solution to less gun violence is more guns — and fewer restrictions — for “law abiding” residents, who might then deter potential shooters or intervene and stop them from doing more harm. 

“Here we go again. Another gun-free zone. Another place where a shooter can take lives and cause injury, and there’s nobody there armed to protect anybody or to stop the shooter,” said Marion Hammer, the NRA’s longtime Tallahassee lobbyist.

Full story here.

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RELATED COVERAGE:

-- What gun safety advocates want: Read here.

-- How the NRA and Republicans control the debate in Florida: Read here.

-- What gun law changes are on the table this year: Read here.

Photo credit: Gun-rights advocate, restaurant owner and mother of four sons, Lauren Boebert, wears her usual gun on her hip as she brushes the hair of Roman, 3, as the family gets ready to leave home for church in Rifle, Colo., on May 1, 2016. Brennan Linsley / AP

January 13, 2017

Recent mass shootings spark fresh debate over Florida gun laws

Guh18 GunsBack NEW PPP

@SteveBousquet @ByKristenMClark @MichaelAuslen

In the past seven months, mass shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport have brought renewed scrutiny to Florida’s gun laws. The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau examined two competing ideas to change those laws: One would ease access to guns in hopes that armed bystanders could prevent more tragedies. The other would restrict gun access, making it harder for would-be killers to obtain weapons. But in a state Capitol where guns are a divisive and sometimes politically toxic topic, dramatic change is almost certain to fail.

-- What gun rights supporters want: Read here.

-- What gun safety advocates want: Read here.

-- How the NRA and Republicans control the debate in Florida: Read here.

-- What gun law changes are on the table this year: Read here.

Photo credit: Miami Police detectives register guns collected from the public during a gun buy back event hosted by the department and the Rickia Isaac Foundation at Dorsey Park in Miami, December 17, 2016. Pedro Portal / El Nuevo Herald

Use of force in Florida's prisons continued to rise to record highs, stats show. Here's 2 reasons why

Use of Force graphicVia @Jknipebrown

Violence in Florida’s state prisons continues to escalate as the use of force by corrections officers soared to an eight-year high in 2015-2016, newly released state figures show.

Use of force topped 7,300 incidents in the fiscal year ending June 30, the highest number of incidents since 2007-08. Inmate deaths in calendar year 2016 also rose slightly — from 354 to 366 — and remain at an all-time high. Murders and inmate-on-inmate assaults have more than doubled in the past six years, state records reveal.

Julie Jones, who took charge of the beleaguered prison system two years ago this month, said the proliferation of inmate gangs and the fact that nearly half of the 

Violence in Florida’s state prisons continues to escalate as the use of force by corrections officers soared to an eight-year high in 2015-2016, newly released state figures show.

Use of force topped 7,300 incidents in the fiscal year ending June 30, the highest number of incidents since 2007-08. Inmate deaths in calendar year 2016 also rose slightly — from 354 to 366 — and remain at an all-time high. Murders and inmate-on-inmate assaults have more than doubled in the past six years, state records reveal.

ulie Jones, who took charge of the beleaguered prison system two years ago this month, said the proliferation of inmate gangs and the fact that nearly half of the state’s corrections officers have less than two years of experience contributed to the uptick in violence.

 “I have inexperienced officers supervising inexperienced officers — plus a 41 percent increase in the gang population,” Jones said.

The department also continues to struggle with how to house a growing number of inmates with mental illness — and how to better train officers to deal with them.

“Mentally ill inmates receive more disciplinary reports, more use of force, more cell extractions and more mental health emergencies,” Jones said.

In the past decade and a half, the number of inmates with mental illness has risen 157 percent, she said. That spike has coincided with the closing of hospitals and other therapeutic facilities for the mentally ill.

The agency has been bitterly criticized by human rights groups and inmate families who allege that prisoners with mental illnesses are often abused, assaulted, neglected and even killed in the prison system.

The institutions with the most use-of-force cases are Union Correctional, Lake Correctional, Santa Rosa, Suwannee and Florida State Prison. With the exception of Florida State Prison, the other facilities all house units that treat inmates with mental illnesses.

Read more here.

 

January 12, 2017

Galvano proposes sweeping gaming expansion: 'What I want to avoid is death by 1000 cuts'

Slots MiamiFlorida would become the nation’s slot machine capital under a sweeping rewrite of the state’s gaming laws filed Thursday that would give Miami-Dade and Broward each an additional slots venue, the Seminole Tribe seven full-scale casinos, and horse and dog tracks in at least eight counties new slots parlors.

The proposal by Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, would broadly expand gaming in Florida by not only providing an opening for Genting Group, the Malaysian company, to build its long-sought resorts casino in Miami, it would also serve to prop up the declining horse and dog racing and jai alai industries by allowing them to breathe life into their operations with slot machines. For the newest gaming option, fantasy sports, the state would impose regulations, and require a permit to operate.

“It is a sincere effort to try to address these issues in a comprehensive way and balance private industry with maximizing revenues from the Seminole Tribe,” Galvano told the Herald/Times. But, he added, the 112-page bill should also be seen as the state’s opening offer.

“It is also incumbent on the Seminole Tribe to negotiate back toward us,’’ he said. “It’s a much better process to be addressing all the issues comprehensively by putting the state’s position out there and then having the Tribe respond. What I want to avoid is death by 1,000 cuts.”

Galvano, who last week became president of the National Conference of Legislators from Gaming States, said that in the past legislators have attempted to negotiate a comprehensive proposal only to have it get bogged down in “little industry fixes” as the competitive parimutuel industry struggled to compete with the Tribe’s growing gaming empire.

Continue reading "Galvano proposes sweeping gaming expansion: 'What I want to avoid is death by 1000 cuts'" »

Gov. Rick Scott helps Tallahassee lobbying firm mark a milestone

It began on a Saturday afternoon in 1967 at a delicatessen in Miami Beach. At Wolfie's, legend has it.

Three South Florida lawyers -- Mel Greenberg, Larry Hoffman and Bob Traurig -- met and formed the law and lobbying firm known today as Greenberg Traurig, which claims to have about 2,000 lawyers in 38 cities in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

To mark the firm's first 50 years, Greenberg invited a few hundred friends to the Governor's Club for a reception Thursday night. The event also noted that GT first established a foothold in Tallahassee 25 years ago by joining forces with the 14-member law firm of Roberts, Baggett, LaFace & Richard.

FullSizeRender(8)"Tallahassee was our first foreign acquisition," joked the firm's senior chairman, Cesar Alvarez, in a celebratory moment with lawyer-lobbyist Fred Baggett, who runs the Tallahassee office (Baggett and Alvarez are at left).

Their clients include the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Florida Hospital Association and the statewide association of court clerks, several of whom were at the party, including Ken Burke of Pinellas, Karen Rushing of Sarasota and Carolyn Timmann of Martin. The elected clerks tangle every year with the Legislature over court fines, fees and other revenues needed to pay for their day-to-day operations.

Gov. Rick Scott stopped by to say a few words and naturally talked about those 2,000 jobs. "You probably knew what I ran on in 2010. I ran on jobs," Scott said to laughter. "I think, what, you have 2,000 lawyers now? Congratulations on all the jobs. I love jobs."

 

Koch brothers company argues against Gov. Rick Scott's job incentive programs

@JeremySWallace

The uphill battle Gov. Rick Scott faces in getting $85 million of job incentive funds approved by a reluctant Florida Legislature was hard to miss this week.

While new Enterprise Florida CEO and President Chris Hart IV on Wednesday afternoon made his for the Legislature to revive job incentives to lure businesses to Florida to create jobs, he had to do so while sitting next to a pair of ardent opponents, including one with ties to the Koch Industries.

Fatima Perez, regional manager of state government affairs for Koch Companies Public Sector, while testifying before the House Careers and Competition subcommittee, praised Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran for his opposition to giving tax incentives to private companies to spur jobs.

“I would tell you that Koch fully supports continued legislative efforts to end corporate welfare programs whether they come in the form of subsidies, mandates, or tax incentives among others,” Perez said.

Moments later Florida State University economist Shawn Kantor testified that incentive programs like what Scott has sought funding for are inherently unfair because they award some businesses over others.

“I’m not convinced they provide any benefit at all to the economy,” Kantor said.

It was after that, Hart, who has been on the job for just over a week, made his pitch to 15-member subcommittee, saying the incentive money does help Florida draw businesses to the state. Last year, the House rejected Scott’s request for $250 million to support that program and gave him nothing. This year, Scott has asked for $85 million.

The subcommittee’s chairman Rep. Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello, said he wanted Koch Companies to testify to make sure the subcommittee heard more than just support for the incentive programs.

“You can’t have a one-sided panel that is all for them,” Beshears said. “Here you have a huge employer that’s saying we don’t need corporate incentives to come to Florida.”
 
Beshears said a better use of state funding might be to invest in infrastructure and education - items businesses often list as top draws to relocate.

January 11, 2017

Gov. Scott to name Justin Senior to lead health care agency

@MichaelAuslen and @stevebousquet

Gov. Rick Scott will name Justin Senior the secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, his office confirmed Wednesday.

Senior, 45, has been serving in the job as interim secretary since October, when the previous secretary, Liz Dudek, left the agency. He earns $142,000 a year.

As secretary, Senior will oversee one of the state’s largest budgets and the department that runs Florida’s Medicaid program. He’ll face confirmation from the state Senate, but the Republican-controlled chamber almost never rejects appointees of the Republican governor.

Senior has been on staff at AHCA since 2007. He figured prominently in the 2015 debate over Medicaid expansion, then serving as deputy secretary of the Medicaid division.

After the state’s program to reimburse hospitals for serving low-income uninsured patients was set to expire, Senior was part of the negotiation team that ensured continued — though decreased — federal funding.

The agency will continue to be a top newsmaker in Florida as federal officials in Donald Trump's administration and the new Congress consider dismantling the Affordable Care Act and revamping health care for low-income people.