April 29, 2013

Gun rights concerns create new hurdle for medmal bill

A Senate priority bill to limit the liability of Florida doctors ran into trouble in the House on Monday when opponents suggested that it could be used by insurance companies who represent the doctors to create a private registry of gun owners. 

The bill, HB 827, would deal with what are known as “ex parte communications” in malpractice cases and would allow lawyers for doctors hit with a malpractice claim to interview any other doctor about a patient’s health record in private.

Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, believes that the provision could open the door to lawyers asking doctors about the gun-toting habits of their patients and, over time, use that information to build a database of gun owners who could be charged higher insurance rates.

Grant filed an amendment Monday to prohibit doctors from revealing any information about a patient’s gun ownership, as well as any history of child abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, mental health and reproductive history unless the patient’s lawyer is present.

It was enough to threaten the provisions of the bill so House leaders postponed the high profile debate.

“Given some of the concerns with physicians keeping records of firearms, I don’t think they should be in the hands of an insurance company without a lawyer or claimant being present,’’ Grant said.

He suggested that absent his amendment, insurance companies will attempt to plumb the doctors’ interviews with patients to capture information and raise premium rates for people and businesses who carry guns. 

“If insurance truly is the calculation of risk against profit-- meaning all of these risk factor make it more or less likely that a claim is going to happen -- is it more likely that bodily injury could happen in a house that has guns? Absolutely,’’ he said.

But supporters of the bill said the last-minute claims had nothing to do with medical malpractice and were a last-ditch effort to scuttle the bill. The Senate has already passed the provision as part of a broader bill, SB 1792, that would also place additional restrictions on expert witnesses in lawsuits.

“The intent of the sponsors of those amendments was to bounce the bill then turmoil generally ensues,’’ said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, the House sponsor.

The Senate plan is a top priority of his father, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, but it is vigorously opposed by the Florida Justice Association, whose lobbying team includes Grant’s father, former state senator John Grant.

“Matt Gaetz and I are going toe-to-toe,’’ said Grant, the son. “His dad’s number two priority is this bill and my dad lobbies for the FJA so I’m sure people will talk about it.”

Both Grant and Gaetz deny they are working on behalf of their fathers.

Grant said that he and his dad “don’t discuss bills that he lobbies….We keep a very bright line in between it.” 

Gaetz  said he has filed bills to limit doctor’s liability on medical malpractice for years. “My dad and I have both fought for medical malpractice litigation reform during our tenure in the legislature,’’ he said.

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who is pursuing the bill said he considers the last-minute attempt to use gun-owners to sabotage the bill a dirty trick.

“I much prefer to get stabbed in the chest than in the back,’’ he said. “Nobody wants to have their finger prints on things.”

He said he will propose an amendment to appease the concerns of the National Rifle Association that gun owners are being charged higher rates by insurance companies.

“We would like to make sure that gun ownership is not part of the underwriting criteria and these insurance companies don’t use gun ownership to underwrite policies,’’ he said. 

April 18, 2013

Bloomberg gun group bashes Marco Rubio on guns, "turning his back on the overwhelming majority of Florida voters."

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group founded and funded in good measure by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is holding a protest press conference today in Doral to draw attention to Sen. Marco Rubio's no vote yesterday on expanded background checks for gun buyers.

Before the vote, the group already announced a small ad buy in the Tampa and Orlando that accuses Rubio of making Florida "less safe" because his opposition to more background checks would allow "criminals and the mentally ill" to more easily get guns.

The press release for today's press conference is below the ad:

Continue reading "Bloomberg gun group bashes Marco Rubio on guns, "turning his back on the overwhelming majority of Florida voters."" »

April 17, 2013

After gun bill falters in Congress, Fla. Legislature sends 'Hands off our guns' memorial to Obama

Though gun control efforts in the U.S. Senate appear to stall Wednesday, the Florida Legislature is sending a message to Washington just in case: Hands off our guns.

In a 81-36 vote, the Legislature passed House Memorial 545, which warns federal officials not to infringe on the rights of gun owners.

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes,”  said bill sponsor Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, quoting a 19th century essay by Cesare Beccaria. “Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants.”

When a Democratic lawmaker pointed out that the Manchin-Toomey compromise on expanded background checks failed in the U.S. Senate, some lawmakers burst into applause in the chamber. Combee’s bill was co-sponsored by 57 other House members.

Combee said he still wanted the letter to be sent to Washington just in case the federal government considers gun control in the future.

One Representative shouted out “Let liberty ring!” before making the sound of loading a gun and asking his colleagues to support the bill. It passed in a lopsided vote that broke down mostly along party lines.

Democrats did not speak much on the bill (the agenda for the day was quite long and the House had been debating for six hours by the time the memorial was heard).

One Democrat did get a gun bill passed shortly after the memorial vote.

A bill to require expanded gun restrictions for some mentally ill people passed the House 117-1. It was sponsored by Rep. Barbara Watson (D-Miami Gardens) and supported by the National Rifle Association. It was a small victory for gun control advocates, who have filed several gun bills this year with little success in the Legislature.    

April 04, 2013

Miami Senator calls on Scott to stop flow of 'armor piercing' bullets

 Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, said armor-piercing bullets have become ubiquitous in his district and is asking Gov. Rick Scott to do something about it.

In a letter to Scott’s office Thursday, Bullard called on Scott to begin an investigation into the flow of deadly bullets into South Florida, calling them "military-grade" and saying his constituents are living in "open war zones."

“As night falls in many of these communities, families gather before twilight not to feast, but to fear,” he wrote. “They lock themselves in to lock out those who prey the streets with high powered weapons that pierce a home’s walls as effortlessly as they pierce a child’s body.”

Bullard also lamented the fact that several gun control bills are languishing in the Florida Legislature, which has been reluctant to entertain the gun debate.

Here’s Bullard’s letter to Scott:

Continue reading "Miami Senator calls on Scott to stop flow of 'armor piercing' bullets" »

March 21, 2013

Poll: Voters in the ‘Gunshine State’ want tougher gun laws, and Hillary

Florida voters support universal background checks for gun purchases, other gun control laws and Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.

The poll, released Thursday, found that 91 percent of Florida voters support universal background checks for all gun purchases.

“The idea of requiring background checks on those who want to buy guns has overwhelming support, 91 - 8 percent, in a country where getting a majority to agree on anything is often difficult,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Floridians also support Hillary Clinton more than their homegrown political stars, Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush. In a head-to-head matchup, Clinton leads Bush 51 to 40 percent and outpolls Rubio 52 to 41 percent.

By a 51-44 percent margin, Florida voters support stricter gun control laws in the state, with majorities of voters backing an assault weapons ban and a ban on high capacity magazines.

Florida’s results track many of the results found by pollsters in other states, despite the fact that the Sunshine State is one of the most gun-friendly in the country. In December, Florida surpassed 1 million concealed carry permits, a number that leads the nation.

Those who own guns have very different opinions about gun control, with 61 percent opposed to stricter gun laws and 57 percent opposing an assault weapons ban. Still, gun owners support universal background checks by an 88-11 percent margin. The Florida Legislature has mostly avoided the gun debate this year, as several gun control bills have languished after being filed. 

Below are a few more results from the poll:

Continue reading "Poll: Voters in the ‘Gunshine State’ want tougher gun laws, and Hillary" »

March 06, 2013

Universal gun background check bill filed, sponsor admits its a tough sell

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, introduced the “Universal Background Check Act” on Wednesday, filing a gun control bill that requires virtually all sales of firearms to be conducted through licensed dealers.

The bill would require non-licensed individuals that want to sell or “transfer” a gun to do so through a licensed dealer. The gun control bill faces long odds in Florida’s gun-friendly, Republican-dominated Legislature, something Sachs readily acknowledged.

“I am not so sold on the idea that this bill is going to pass, “ said Sachs. “What I am looking forward to, and I am furious about his as so many Floridians are, let’s have the discussion. Let’s bring everyone to the table and let’s have this discussion.”

Licensed dealers are required to conduct background checks prior to selling firearms but so-called "loopholes” in the law allow some gun sales to occur without a background check, something that Congress and the White House are considering addressing.

Continue reading "Universal gun background check bill filed, sponsor admits its a tough sell" »

March 04, 2013

Steve Crisafulli officially chosen as House Speaker for 2014

Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, was officially appointed as the incoming Republican Leader of the Florida House of Representatives for 2014 on Monday.

If, as expected, Republicans etain their majority in the 120-member House in 2014, Crisafulli will be the state’s next House Speaker, occupying one of the most powerful positions in state government.

“It is an honor for me to be a small part of this ceremony, and a special day for a very close friend,” said current House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Crisafulli was chosen for the post a week after last year’s election, when designated Speaker-in-waiting Rep. Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary) was defeated in a shocking upset.

As speaker-designate, Crisafulli will play a major role raising money and getting Republicans elected in 2014.

“No one who’s blessed with this opportunity gets here on his own,” said Crisafulli, in a speech where he thanked a slew of people and got emotional at times.

Continue reading "Steve Crisafulli officially chosen as House Speaker for 2014" »

February 22, 2013

Stand Your Ground task force: It's a good law

A 19-member task force commissioned by Gov. Rick Scott to review Florida’s Stand Your Ground law has put out its final report, largely voicing its support for the law.

The task force made a handful of recommendations for the Legislature, but began the report by stating that, at its core, the self-defense law is fine as it is.

“All persons who are conducting themselves in a lawful manner have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be,” the report reads.

The controversial law grants immunity to people who use force, including deadly force, in response to a perceived threat of bodily harm. It was thrust into the spotlight last year after Miami Gardens teenager Trayvon Martin was shot to death in Sanford by a man who later claimed self-defense under Stand Your Ground. The shooter, neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, was initially not charged, but now awaits trial on second-degree murder charges.

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll chaired the task force, which held statewide hearings and consisted of two lawmakers who drafted the Stand Your Ground law and others who voted for it. Police, lawyers and neighborhood watch volunteers were also appointed. Critics blasted the group's makeup from the outset, predicting that it would not push for any significant changes to the law.

The recommendations the group did come up with include reconsidering the state’s 10-20-Life law, tightening standards for neighborhood watch groups and commissioning a study to look into issues of racial disparities and unintended consequences of Stand Your Ground.

The task force also urged the Legislature to consider whether Stand Your Ground should apply when an innocent bystander is caught in the crossfire and to clarify whether or not the law’s immunity provision prohibits police from detaining and questioning a shooter.

Two task force members -- Miami-Dade State attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Tallahassee-based pastor Rev. R.B. Holmes -- each submitted letters indicating they wished the group had pushed for more significant changes.

“I have also seen not only from the experiences in my Office, but from the testimony of our citizens and experts who came before our Task Force, that the law has had some consequences which I believe were unintended,” Fernandez-Rundle wrote in a letter attached to the report. She said the law’s “immunity” provision should be scrapped.

Continue reading "Stand Your Ground task force: It's a good law" »

January 20, 2013

High prices, Obama-noia at Miami gun show

The Miami gun-show line stretched 200 people long. Many blamed President Barack Obama.

This is what the president’s gun-control talk has wrought: long waits to get into gun shows, higher firearm and ammunition prices and more paranoia.

The word “Obama” was frequently mumbled, muttered, hissed, cursed at Saturday’s Southern Classic Gun and Knife Show.

“Obama” was a catch-all word, a gun-rights shibboleth of sorts, a no-longer-shocking swear, a conversation starter.

To Calvin Hudson, a Miami Gardens resident bargain-hunting at the Miami-Dade fairgrounds firearms bazaar, the Obama-blaming was a sign people were being fooled into paying more in a firearms market panic.

“The industry is getting people all scared of Obama so they can kill us with some of these prices,” Hudson said.

Continue reading "High prices, Obama-noia at Miami gun show" »

Tax breaks flow to gun manufacturers, violent films and games

What do violent video games, gory movies and high-powered assault weapons have in common?

They have all been blamed for tragic mass shootings, including last month’s at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — and are all subsidized by Florida taxpayers.

With Florida’s tax code more business-friendly in recent years, economic incentives and tax breaks have flowed to companies and industries currently under fire for their roles in America’s gun violence.

Meanwhile, the state has cut funding for mental healthcare and school safety programs, two areas at the forefront of the national gun-control debate.

While it has become more difficult and expensive to access mental healthcare in Florida, it is getting easier and cheaper to obtain high-powered weapons.

Read more here

WHO GETS WHAT

 

Guns  
Colt Manufacturing $1.6 million subsidy
Adams Arms $208,8000
Kel Tec CNC $14,675
Violent movies/TV  
Pain & Gain $4.2 million
Parker $424,820
I am Number 4 Amount unknown
Spring Breakers $814,695
Burn Notice $11.4 million (2011/12)
Alguien te Mira $1.1 million
Video games  
Electronic Arts (Medal of Honor, other games) $9.1 million
Digital Domain (Assassin’s Creed, Halo) $135 million
n-Space (Call of Duty 3: Modern Warfare) $126,206
Mental health funding vetoes  
Seminole Behavioral Health $350.000
345 8 Pinellas Receiving Facility $250,000
Baptist Health Care Lakeview Center $1.5 million
Manatee Glens County Crisis Stabilization $750,000
Indigent Psychiatric Medication Program $500,000