August 10, 2017

Proposal to allow guns at courthouses will be back in 2018

1st dca - June 7  2016

@ByKristenMClark

Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube is reviving one of the less controversial of his gun bills from last session, which would let concealed-weapons permit-holders carry their firearms into Florida courthouses and store the weapons temporarily with building security.

Steube on Thursday filed a bill for the 2018 session (SB 134) that puts that same proposal back on the table. It has a viable chance, if this spring was any indication.

The measure nearly cleared the Legislature during the final week of the 2017 session, when House Republicans abruptly moved to rush his bill to the floor even though the chamber had not yet considered any such proposal. (Steube’s measure had passed the Senate by a 19-15 vote just a couple days prior, after being vetted and approved by three Senate committees, but no companion measure existed in the House.)

But the House backtracked the next day after trading with Democrats to ensure a priority of Senate leadership would be voted out instead. Steube’s bill died as a result, although it likely had the votes to pass.

Steube could not be reached for comment Thursday morning, so it’s not yet clear whether a House version will be offered in 2018. Lawmakers are just beginning to file bills for the next session.

Steube has argued the so-called “courthouse carry” measure would particularly help attorneys to defend themselves, if needed, while entering and leaving courthouses because current law forces visitors to leave their firearms in their vehicles.

The concept drew relatively little opposition compared to other, more polarizing gun bills the Legislature debates annually. However, the plan would impose an unknown — and likely unfunded — cost on local and state courts because officials would have to install lockers or other secure storage for which to temporarily house visitors’ firearms.

Steube, a staunch advocate of Second Amendment rights, is also the architect of more divisive gun proposals that are likely to resurface in 2018, such as “campus carry” — which would let concealed-carry permit-holders carry guns on public college and university campuses. Nearly 1.8 million people have concealed-weapons permits in Florida.

The 2018 session begins in January, but legislative committee weeks — when lawmakers begin to hear bills — start in September.

Photo credit: Herald/Times file

July 18, 2017

Putnam: 'There is absolutely a pathway for Florida to get to a form of open carry'

Putnam 0718

@ByKristenMClark

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a top Republican contender for governor next year, said he would support proposed changes in Florida law to let "law-abiding gun owners" carry firearms on college and university campuses and openly in public places.

Conservative lawmakers in the Florida Legislature have pushed for both proposals, but in the past two years, the measures died in the Senate where moderate Miami-Dade Republicans used their influence to halt the bills. The pieces of legislation -- strongly supported by the National Rifle Association -- are likely to return in the 2018 session, and Putnam told reporters Tuesday the concepts have his endorsement.

"There is absolutely a pathway for Florida to get to a form of open carry," said Putnam, the lone Republican gubernatorial candidate to date.

"We have a track record in Florida of law-abiding citizens who submit their fingerprints, undergo a background check and lawfully exercise their 2nd Amendment rights," Putnam said in reference to Florida's process of obtaining a concealed-weapons permit. "Continuing to expand their opportunities to exercise those 2nd Amendment rights is something I support."

Full story here.

Photo credit: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor, speaks at a press conference Tuesday at the Florida National Guard Armory in Tallahassee. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times

May 06, 2017

In final session votes, lawmakers trade 'Stand Your Ground' for religious liberties in schools

Stand Your GroundBy Jim Turner
News Service of Florida

A change to the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law is heading to Gov. Rick Scott after the Senate agreed late Friday to go along with a House proposal.

The House and Senate both wanted to change the law but had clashed on a legal issue in the bill (SB 128).

But with time running out in the legislative session Friday, the Senate voted 22-14 — with Tallahassee Democrat Bill Montford joining Republicans in support — to accept the House proposal.

The move came in exchange for getting the House to accept the Senate’s more far-reaching language on a separate measure (SB 436) dealing with religious expression in public schools.

“I thought that it was a reasonable resolution to both matters, and they’re both constitutional issues,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who sponsored the “stand your ground” bill. “And we wrapped it all up in a bow, and we resolved them both in a satisfactory manner.”

More here.

Photo credit: AP

May 03, 2017

Dems' guarantee of swift vote on water bill killed Republicans' last-minute gun bill

Cruz_janet apday 013117 (4)

@ByKristenMClark

House Republicans quietly agreed Tuesday to pull from the floor a gun bill not yet considered at all by the chamber, after trading with Democrats to ensure a priority of the Senate president — also not previously vetted by the House — would be voted out that same day.

It’s a prime example of the type of deal-making and horse-trading that’s commonplace in the Florida Legislature during the final days of session.

Had SB 616 been heard on the House floor Tuesday as planned, the Republican-led chamber likely would have easily approved it on Wednesday. But instead, Democrats were able to use the power of their 41-member caucus — something they can’t often do — to convince House Speaker Richard Corcoran not to hear the bill, after all.

“Today, you saw the power of the Democrats,” House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, of Tampa, said. “It was a good day, a very good day.”

More here.

Photo credit: AP

May 01, 2017

Steube's courthouse gun bill goes immediately to House floor -- with no vetting there

Richard Corcoran Jose Oliva

@ByKristenMClark

In an extremely rare move, House leaders are rushing a gun bill that none of their members have considered to the floor during the final week of session.

Lawmakers in the House will take up SB 616 on Tuesday — a Senate-approved proposal that would allow concealed weapons permit-holders to store their guns with security while visiting state courthouses.

MORE: “Visitors’ guns could be secured in Florida courthouses”

The Rules & Policy Committee, chaired by Miami Lakes Republican Rep. Jose Oliva, put the bill on the daily floor calendar after senators passed it on Friday.

Because the bill did not have a House companion, it’s brand new to lawmakers in that chamber, and they won’t have a chance to first vet it in a policy committee.

The move is highly unusual and also deprives members of the public a chance to address their representatives at a public meeting before the floor vote.

More here.

Photo credit: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, talks with House Rules & Policy chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes. Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times

April 25, 2017

Gun bill affecting Florida courthouses passes final committee, goes to Senate floor

Stand Your Ground (2)@ByKristenMClark

A proposed law that would let 1.7 million conceal-carry permit-holders temporarily store their guns with security while visiting Florida's courthouses is on its way to the Senate floor.

SB 616 from Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube passed its final committee Tuesday afternoon. Members of the Rules Committee endorsed the relatively non-controversial measure -- with at least a couple Democrats opposed -- after offering no discussion or debate.

More details here.

Photo credit: AP

April 17, 2017

No further hearings on gun bills in Senate Judiciary after all

Stand Your Ground (2)@ByKristenMClark

Earlier this month, Senate Judiciary chairman Greg Steube had told the Herald/Times he wasn’t giving up on holding a hearing for some of his more controversial gun bills this year, which proposed to eliminate some “gun-free” zones in Florida.

But it appears the Sarasota Republican is backing off.

His committee will meet for the final time on Wednesday and, while it’s a packed agenda, there are no gun bills slated to be heard. (Here’s the agenda.)

Full details here

Photo credit: Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota. AP

April 10, 2017

Most gun bills have stalled in the Legislature. Many say Anitere Flores is the reason why.

Anitere Flores_ap

@ByKristenMClark

When Anitere Flores declared, unprompted, a month ago there were a lot of controversial gun-rights measures she wouldn’t support this year, the Miami Republican state senator truly set the tone for the Legislature’s gun debate in 2017.

With the session half over, only a handful of the two dozen pieces of gun-related legislation proposed this year have been considered at all, and of those, only a couple have a viable path at actually becoming law.

The House approved three such bills this week — two of which could likely be enacted this year, including highly divisive changes to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law — but lawmakers in both chambers and from both parties predict those measures will be the only ones on the table for this session.

Several attribute Flores — who is No. 2 in the Senate behind President Joe Negron, R-Stuart — as the reason.

“I think the members — not just myself, but some others — we’re a little gun-bill fatigued,” Flores told the Herald/Times in late March.

Full story here.

Photo credit: Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami. Steve Cannon / AP

April 06, 2017

House approves "Stand Your Ground" shift, but it's different than the Senate

Momsdemand 040517

@ByKristenMClark

Criminal defendants in Florida who are charged with a wide array of violent acts — including murder, assault and domestic violence — could soon have an easier go at claiming they were justified to act in self-defense, legally stood their ground and don’t deserve to be prosecuted.

After failing to pass a single committee in the House last session, a controversial NRA-backed proposal that would shift the burden of proof to prosecutors during pretrial hearings for “Stand Your Ground” cases is on the verge of becoming law this spring.

Despite vehement objections from state attorneys, gun-control advocates and the entire Democratic caucus, the Republican-led Florida House on Wednesday passed SB 128 — on a 74-39 party-line vote — after representatives made changes from the version the Senate approved last month.

Floor debate lasted for nearly 90 minutes, as several Democrats spoke at length to warn of increased violence and other “irreversible and even deadly” consequences they say the legislation will cause.

“Flipping the burden of proof will do nothing more than increase the carnage that has been inflicted on our communities,” Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Bobby DuBose said.

Full story here.

Photo credit: More than a dozen volunteers with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America watch state House members debate proposed changes to Florida’s “stand your ground” law on April 5, 2017. The gun-control advocacy group opposes the legislation, SB 128. Kristen M. Clark / Herald/Times

March 16, 2017

Some religious schools could be allowed to have guns

Florida Legislature (2)
@ByKristenMClark

Private schools with a religious institution on-site could decide for themselves if they want to allow armed security or concealed guns on their property, under a proposal that got preliminary approval from a House subcommittee on Wednesday.

The measure (HB 849) from Polk County Republican Rep. Neil Combee would carve out certain religious private schools from the Florida law that prohibits anyone except law enforcement officers from carrying guns in K-12 schools and colleges and universities, regardless of whether those schools are public or private.

Combee said houses of worship — such as churches, mosques or synagogues — that also have a daycare or school on their property cannot have armed security, because doing so would violate the state’s ban on guns in schools and certain other “gun-free” zones. 

More here.

Photo credit: Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk County, presents a concealed weapons bill to the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Tallahassee, Fla. Steve Cannon / AP