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.

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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.

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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.

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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



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

January 18, 2013

Video: Marco Rubio on guns, immigration and why his plan isn't 'amnesty'

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's latest immigration plan looks a lot like a President Obama plan, which looked a lot like a President George W. Bush plan. So while he whacks the president on guns in the video below, Rubio gives some measure of praise to the president for his position on legalizing the status of many illegal immigrants.

Rubio said his plan isn't "amnesty," though, because people would have to pay a penalty, back taxes and couldn't get welfare or many social services if they tried to have their status legalized.

"I define amnesty as a special pathway to citizenship. Our plan is not that," Rubio said.

January 10, 2013

Gov. Scott is a no-show on call with other govs and president over guns

Vice President Joe Biden, heading up White House talks on gun control, held a conference call with the nation's governors yesterday, including some who have been sharply critical of the president. Gov. Rick Scott, who was traveling the state Wednesday, did not participate.

"During the calls, the vice president listened to the unique perspectives of all the participants and solicited their ideas and input on how to curb gun violence in this country," the White House said. "The vice president reiterated the administration’s commitment to this urgent issue, and stressed that the problem requires immediate action."

Scott's office today confirmed he was invited but pointed to his busy schedule, which took him to Jacksonville for a Vistakon-Johnson and Johnson Vision Care news conference then a Parametric Solutions jobs announcement in Jupiter.

Though all governors were invited, Scott was not the only no-show. A list of participants below.

Scott has generally dodged questions on the gun debate following the Connecticut school shootings. Tweeted AP reporter Gary Fineout yesterday: "During Jax TV spot @FLGovScott ducks questions on whether to ban assault weapons. Says there will be 'conversation' about guns in 13 session."

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January 09, 2013

Florida gave subsidy to gun maker as part of job creation package

Bloomberg's Mike Bender reports today on tax breaks dished to gun manufacturers, raising questions about the $1.6 million tax subsidy given to Colt on Florida. An excerpt:

In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott hailed an incentive for the West Hartford, Connecticut-based Colt Manufacturing Co. in 2011 saying it showed the state was “a defender of our right to bear arms.” The deal, for 63 jobs, was worth about $1.66 million in state and local incentives, according to Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm. The agreement penalizes the company $50,000 if it doesn’t produce all the jobs.

Frank Attkisson, a commissioner in Osceola County, which provided incentives, said it was a “sweetheart deal” for Colt and that the county would put tougher controls on future subsidies.

Florida state Senator Nancy Detert, the Republican chairwoman of the Commerce Committee, said she’s crafting legislation to make it more difficult to provide incentives for companies that don’t specialize in science and technology. She said she doesn’t want Florida to be known for gun manufacturing.

“We need to be a lot more careful and decide what kind of state we envision,” Detert said.

January 03, 2013

Gun interest soars in Florida as 800k people request required background checks

Nearly 800,000 people requested background checks so they could buy guns in Florida in 2012 — far more than in any recent year.

Statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show 797,970 background checks were requested last year — nearly 200,000 more than were requested in 2011 and more than double the number for 2004, the earliest year for which statistics were provided.

The numbers were already higher than usual in the first 10 months of 2012, but surged after President Barack Obama won re-election in November and skyrocketed in the days after the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults.

The dramatic spike is likely fueled by fear that greater gun control laws may be passed after the Connecticut shooting.

"I don't think it has anything to do with the national tragedy. It's not the direct cause," said Marion Hammer, the chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association in Florida. "The direct cause is when politicians call for gun bans, that creates fear."

-- Aaron Sharockman

December 21, 2012

Fasano asks Scott to put resource officers in schools

State Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, is urging Gov. Rick Scott to provide funding for school resource officers his budget in light of the Connecticut school massacre a week ago. 

Scott will release his proposed budget in the New Year and, in an interview on NewsMax on Thursday, he said he is open to allowing teachers to carry weapons.  Download Fasano letter on resource officers

"Although there are no guarantees, it is quite possible that the mere presence of a law enforcement officer on campus may be enough of a deterrent to curb or totally prevent school-based violence,'' Fasano wrote. "While this no doubt will be an expensive proposition, no price tag can be placed on the lives of the precious children our public schools are entrusted with each and every day of the school year."

Fasano's request comes after a parade of similar requests from across the state. David Golt, chief of Broward School's Special Investigative Unit, has called for funding for more resource officers. 

Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell and the county superintendent of schools made a similar request of the governor, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. Earlier in the week, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs proposed adding armed deputies at Central Florida elementary schools.

Others are calling for arming teachers with weaponry. Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said teachers and principals should be allowed to carry guns. Baxley, an ardent guns rights advocate, is one of the authors of the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law. 

Meanwhile, Scott has urged all local school officials to review their security plans but he has been reluctant to outline details or suggest additional funding for the effort. 

Scott spokesman John Tupps said Friday the governor remains open to all ideas.

"Gov. Scott agrees that school safety is an important issue for Florida families,'' Tupps said in a statement. "As he finalizes his budget recommendations, he looks forward to working with legislators and others on their ideas.


December 20, 2012

NRA: Charlie Crist a hunter? Maybe for political office, not deer

Picture 13As he postures to run against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, newly minted Democrat and former Gov. Charlie Crist no longer wholeheartedly backs the NRA's agenda.

So Crist will no longer get the backing of the NRA.

Asked about Crist's gun flip flop yesterday, the NRA's Florida lobbyist and chief Marion Hammer took rhetorical aim.

"Are you surprised?" she said in an email to The Herald. "I'm not surprised that Charlie Crist is now joining the gun ban chant of anti-gun Democrats. Recently, Charlie Crist has been systematically turning his back on many things in which he has claimed to believe. He currently claims to be a deer hunter. I suspect that the only thing he has actually ever hunted is political office."

Crist was quite good at that, winning three statewide posts and only losing two statewide Senate races: a longshot 1998 bid against incumbent Bob Graham and the once-surprising 2010 loss to Marco Rubio.

The NRA backed Crist over Rubio.

But other events, the economy and the highly conservative electorate that year, overtook the governor. But for the events leading up to the Rubio loss, Crist had a sixth sense for perfectly positioning himself. So, in that regard, his shifted tone on guns is little surprise as he tries to boost his Democratic bonafides. Chances are, most gun voters are conservative and wouldn't have voted for the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Crist. 

Crist needs to appeal to liberals now, and reversing course on guns is just another star turn as he prepares to challenge Scott, who's now an easy pick for the NRA. Hammer said she doesn't regret backing Crist.

"At the time, he was steadfast in his support of the rights of law-abiding gun owners. We remain loyal to our supporters," she said. "If our supporters abandon the Second Amendment for political posturing or political gain, it's a whole new day."

Until now, Crist had a sterling NRA rating on guns while he was governor. But his actual firearm aim isn't so good. At least it wasn't in 2009, when Crist took a trip to the Tallahassee-area Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center with the namesake and his dad, media mogul Ted Turner (picture left). Crist was better with a bow and arrow than a 20-gauge shotgun. Like many people unfamiliar with target shooting clay pigeons, Crist didn't follow through on his shot.

In other Florida gun news, the state sometime yesterday issued its 1 millionth active concealed-weapon permit. We probably would have heard far more about the permits had the recent shooting taken place in Florida than Connecticut, which has far more restrictive laws than the Gunshine State (more about that here).