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January 09, 2017

Andrew Gillum calls for moratorium on deregulating gun control in Florida

Andrew Gillum

@ByKristenMClark

Tallahassee Mayor (and potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Gillum said Monday that the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando back in June and Friday's shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport should be wake-up calls for Florida's lawmakers.

As the Legislature prepares to vet several bills in the 2017 session that would expand gun-owners' rights, Gillum is calling for a moratorium on "all gun deregulation bills until we find a solution to protect our communities."

RELATED: "Bloodbath shows why guns should be allowed in airports, lawmakers say"

"In light of back-to-back mass shootings in less than a year and the daily pain that gun violence inflicts on our cities, it is clear that attempts to weaken our gun safety laws have failed to keep Floridians safe," Gillum said in a statement provided to the Herald/Times. "No mother or grandmother should fear walking into an airport. No father, son, or daughter should lose their life for meeting those they love for a night out. No parent should lose sleep wondering if a stray bullet will take their baby that day."

"It is time to bring commonsense back to the Capitol by ending the attack on gun safety and passing reform measures that protect our families from harm," Gillum added. "Our prayers for the victims and their families should be matched by our vigorous actions to keep families safe from repeated incidents of gun violence."

Florida's Republican-led Legislature is unlikely to heed the call from Gillum and other gun-control advocates. Many members of legislative leadership are strident supporters of Second Amendment rights.

In the wake of Friday's shooting in Fort Lauderdale, two conservative Republican lawmakers -- Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia -- who had previously been proposing to lift the ban on concealed weapons in airport terminals doubled down on their proposal.

While their bills would not have prevented Esteban Santiago from killing five people and wounding six others, they argue that allowing Florida's 1.7 million concealed weapons permit-holders to carry in airport terminals could have, perhaps, given bystanders a chance to defend themselves.

RELATED: "Airport shooter had mental health problems but no apparent ties to terrorism"

Legislative committees begin meeting this week to start vetting bills filed for the upcoming 2017 session, which begins in March. Gun legislation is not scheduled to be heard this week. 

Gillum's name is among a handful of Democrats who are said to be considering a run for governor next year. He's been outspoken lately against the gun lobby, including the NRA. The First District Court of Appeals is hearing oral arguments on Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by gun rights groups, who sued Gillum and other Tallahassee officials after they failed in 2014 to repeal a ban on guns in a city park.

Photo credit: City of Tallahassee

As Florida again poised to consider campus-carry, Texas offers recent example

Ut austin guns on campus

@ByKristenMClark

As Florida lawmakers prepare to grapple again — for the third year in a row — with whether to allow concealed guns on public college and university campuses, another state has recent experience with this polarizing debate.

Conservative lawmakers in Texas also took several years before ultimately approving guns on their state’s campuses two years ago. They, too, faced resistance from many university presidents and attracted both praise and outrage from residents, as Florida lawmakers are starting to experience again this year.

Texas’ law took effect only five months ago on Aug. 1, making the state the eighth — and most recent — to allow concealed guns on public higher ed campuses. Twenty-three other states leave the policy up to individual colleges and universities, while 19 states, including Florida, have essentially a full ban.

When Texas’ law was implemented this summer, “the reaction was varied,” said David Daniel, deputy chancellor of the University of Texas System, which has 14 institutions including U-T Dallas where Daniel was president until 2015.

“On some campuses, there was a very high level of angst, tension and it was a distraction from the core work of the university,” Daniel said, whereas in “a small area with predominantly ranching communities where people are comfortable carrying firearms in a routine manner, it could be not a big deal.”

Texas has around 40 public universities, while Florida has 12. Florida has more active concealed weapons permits: 1.7 million compared to Texas’ nearly 1.2 million, as of Dec. 31.

After five months under the law, “we have been fortunate that there hasn’t been any major issues that have ratcheted up the level of concern,” said Chris Meyer, associate vice president for safety and security at Texas A&M University. “Campus has relaxed from the very tense state it was in. We’re much closer to being back to normal.”

Read more.

Photo credit: University of Texas at Austin anthropology professor Pauline Strong posts a sign prohibiting guns at her office on the first day of the new campus-carry law Monday, Aug. 1, 2016.  Jay Janner / AP

Lopez-Cantera backs Ingoglia's Florida GOP reelection bid

@PatriciaMazzei

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on Monday endorsed Blaise Ingoglia's reelection bid as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, taking sides with the man who four years ago defeated Gov. Rick Scott's pick to head the state GOP.

"During the last three years I have traveled tens of thousands of miles across our wonderful state and have had the pleasure of spending time with so many dedicated members of our party," Lopez-Cantera said in a statement that also noted Florida Republicans' success in the November election.

"More times and in more counties than I can remember, our chairman Blaise Ingoglia was there too. As a former State Committeeman for Miami-Dade I can't tell you how much I appreciate a chairman who travels the state spending time at local REC events all the while seeking input on building up our local parties, meeting with our grassroots leaders and then putting those ideas into action."

In a statement of his own, Ingoglia thanked Lopez-Cantera: "We are blessed to have him as a member of our Republican Party and I am grateful for his support and friendship."

Scott has stayed out of the RPOF race among Ingoglia, an Hernando County state representative; Sarasota Republican Christian Ziegler and Lafayette County Alan Levy

In 2013, Ingoglia ousted then-Chairwoman Leslie Dougher, Scott's pick to remain in the job. The relationship between the RPOF and Scott has never mended; the governor is hosting his own ball during President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration, an event usually organized by the state party.

But Ingoglia has secured endorsements from big-name Republicans across the state, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and a group of members of Congress. Lopez-Cantera also broke with Scott when he endorsed and campaigned for Rubio during the Republican Senate primary last summer -- and was sidelined by the governor's office as a result.

The party election will take place Saturday in Orlando.

January 08, 2017

Some Florida lawmakers have wanted to allow concealed guns in airport terminals

@ByKristenMClark

Two conservative Republican lawmakers who want to lift Florida’s ban on concealed weapons in airport terminals say Friday’s shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport strengthens the need for their proposal.

Weeks before Esteban Santiago opened fire on Friday in a baggage-claim area, killing five people and injuring six others, state Sen. Greg Steube and state Rep. Jake Raburn had filed bills in the Florida Legislature that would allow the 1.7 million people with concealed weapons permits in the state to carry their guns in airport passenger terminals.

Raburn, R-Lithia, said Saturday that the proposal wasn’t inspired by any particular incident but is a matter of allowing “lawfully abiding citizens” to protect themselves, even if it’s simply while picking up loved ones from the airport.

Raburn told the Herald/Times “it’s hard to say” if his bill, if in place now, would have made a difference on Friday. He said 44 states already allow guns in airport terminals.

“There’s always the potential — if it were allowed and there were someone in that area that had a concealed weapon — that it could have gone differently,” Raburn said. “I’m not going to say that it would have, because my understanding is we’re talking about a span of time that’s less than a minute. It may not have changed anything.”

More here.

January 07, 2017

With federal charges, Fort Lauderdale airport shooter faces death penalty

Fl-airport-shooter-esteban-santiago-20170106-002@PatriciaMazzei @DavidOvalle305 @jayhweaver

On Nov. 7, Esteban Santiago parked at an FBI office in Anchorage, Alaska — leaving his newborn son and his gun in the car — and told agents the CIA was trying to control his mind, pushing him to watch Islamic State terrorist videos.

The feds called local police, who took Santiago into custody and sent him to get a psychiatric evaluation. Santiago’s girlfriend picked up the baby. The cops took the gun — and a loaded magazine Santiago carried on him.

He got the gun back 31 days later. Twenty-nine days after that, one-way plane ticket in hand, Santiago hopped on a flight that brought him to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. He picked up a Walther 9mm gun he’d checked in as luggage, loaded it in a men’s room stall, and shot 11 people, five of them to death.

Santiago “shot the first people he encountered,” he told investigators who interrogated him. He emptied the two magazines, firing 10-15 bullets, “aiming at his victims’ heads.”

On Saturday, Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer charged Santiago, 26, with committing an act of violence in an airport, using a firearm to commit the crime, and causing the death of a person — three federal offenses punishable by death. His first federal court appearance was set for 11 a.m. Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia O. Valle.

More here.

FLL passengers flag down Florida Gov. Rick Scott to help find missing bags after shooting

Mackey and oliphant
via @NickNehamas

In the wake of the mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale’s airport, authorities have an unusual problem: More than 20,000 pieces of luggage were abandoned on the scene, with passengers desperate to retrieve the bags.

On Saturday morning, Gov. Rick Scott did his best to find four of them.

Passengers Ronald Mackey and Charod Oliphant of Maryland saw the governor walking through Terminal 2 and approached him Saturday morning.

“I just explained to the governor my frustration with the process of finding my bag,” said Mackey, who flew to Fort Lauderdale yesterday for a Caribbean cruise.

Mackey said he got the run-around from Delta representatives about their four bags, which were filled with warm-weather clothes for their trip — until he handed the phone to the governor.

“They told me it was a crime scene and it would be at least three or four days before they release our bags,” Mackey said.

After speaking with Scott, a Delta rep said she would arrange to have the bags sent to Aruba, their first port of call — and would approve an allowance for them to buy toiletries and undergarments.

“I think they would have done that anyway,” Oliphant said, “but [talking with the governor] gave them more incentive.”

More here.

January 06, 2017

Obama, Trump offer thoughts on Fort Lauderdale airport shooting

Airport Shooting Florida (14)

@PatriciaMazzei

President Barack Obama offered condolences Friday for the deadly shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, speaking by phone to Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief.

The rampage left five people dead and eight wounded. The suspect, 26-year-old Army vet Esteban Santiago of Alaska, is in custody, according to law enforcement.

The president "extended his sincere condolences to the families and other loved ones of those killed and noted that his thoughts and prayers are with the wounded," according to Ned Price, a National Security Council spokesman. "He added that federal authorities will continue to assist the ongoing investigation into this horrific shooting."

Obama plans to travel to Jacksonville on Saturday for a private wedding.

Earlier Friday, President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence also reached out to Scott to discuss the rampage, the governor said. Both offered to help however they could, according to Scott, and spoke several times throughout the afternoon. Trump had tweeted about the shooting shortly after it took place.

"The hearts of every American are in Fort Lauderdale tonight," Pence told reporters outside Trump Tower in New York. "The president-elect and I send our prayers and our thoughts to the victims of this attack, their families, to the courageous first responders and to all the citizens of the Fort Lauderdale area."

Scott, who was in Naples, promptly flew into Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport and offered nationally televised news conferences at FLL and Broward Health Medical Center, one of the area hospitals treating the wounded.

One of Florida's two U.S. senators, Democrat Bill Nelson, played a key role in unmasking the suspect: He was the first official to publicly name Santiago, in a live MSNBC interview. Nelson also divulged Santiago was found with a military ID.

"We don't yet know the motive behind today's shooting," he later said in a statement.

His Republican counterpart, Sen. Marco Rubio, reacted with shock and sadness, as did other local members of Congress, who were repeatedly in touch with federal and local authorities.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat whose district includes the airport, told the Miami Herald she plans to ask Transportation Security Administration and Homeland Security leaders in Washington to address the security questions raised by Santiago's suspected actions.

"The security of the baggage-claim area, whether passengers should be able to check their firearms," she said. "You want to make sure you have the most security possible while leaving people with the most freedom of movement possible."
 
Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

Gov. Scott going to Fort Lauderdale following reports of airport shooting

@MichaelAuslen

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is on his way to Broward County, where the sheriff's office says multiple people were killed this afternoon at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport after shots were fired there.

In a statement released at 1:45 p.m. Friday, Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said:

"We have initial reports of a shooting at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. At this time, state law enforcement do not have confirmed information on fatalities, injuries or motive. Governor Scott is currently traveling to Fort Lauderdale to be briefed by law enforcement.  We will continue to provide details as we receive them."

Scott is likely traveling from Fort Myers, where he was scheduled for a "terrorism prevention event" at noon, or his home in Naples.

In a tweet, President-elect Donald Trump said he spoke with Scott about the shooting Friday afternoon.

Tenured Miami Dade College professor tweets about impeaching Obama, 'the Kenyan'

EdCalleProfile0625 a epf (2)
via @KyraGurney

Ed Calle may not be a household name, but he is well-known in the music industry as a gifted saxophonist who has played alongside everyone from Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan to pop stars Rihanna and Shakira. The Latin Grammy winner and five-time Grammy nominee is also a professor at Miami Dade College, where he teaches music business and production.

But on Sunday, a tweet from Calle struck a sour note, unleashing a Twitter storm and calls for MDC to fire the tenured professor.

In response to a tweet from a political activist about impeaching President-elect Donald Trump, Calle tweeted: “Yeah, right. Let’s work on impeaching the Kenyan first.”

Dozens of people expressed outrage at Calle’s suggestion that President Barack Obama was not from the United States, tweeting to Calle and MDC that he should be sacked. The thoroughly debunked allegation has been espoused by so-called “birthers,” including Trump himself until he finally dropped it during the presidential campaign in September.

Calle subsequently deleted his Twitter account, but he posted a letter on his website under the heading “Response to Twitter Mob” in which he defended his right to free speech and argued that Obama’s birth certificate was fake.

More here.

Photo credit: Patrick Farrell, Miami Herald staff

Is government lobbying government a necessity or a waste of tax dollars?

@stevebousquet and @MichaelAuslen

OT_351116_KEEL_FLGOV_7
Three decades ago, lobbyist Ron Book persuaded a public hospital to pay him to protect its interests in a faraway Capitol, just as private businesses do.

Book still represents the South Broward Hospital District, and he earns more than $1 million a year lobbying for nearly three dozen local governments, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Pinellas counties — all paid by local taxpayers in Florida.

"It's just a necessity to make sure that taxpayers are properly represented," Book says. "We're smart enough to understand the system."

Cities, counties, colleges, school districts, sheriffs, airports and seaports all pay lobbyists to help them fight for state money, protect home rule powers and fend off political interference in Tallahassee.

But what local officials call a necessity, the new House speaker, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, calls wasteful. He says taxpayers should not have to pay so that one group of politicians can talk to another, using well-connected lobbyists as intermediaries.

"It's a disgrace that taxpayer dollars are used to hire lobbyists when we elect people to represent them," Corcoran says. "The state doesn't do it, and neither should the locals."

He says private companies can hire all the lobbyists they want with private money but government, paid for with taxes, is different.

Government spending on lobbying is far exceeded by what private industries spend.

In addition to his public clients, Book last year earned another $4.5 million, or nearly three times as much, from a long roster of clients that includes AT&T, AutoNation, Florida Power & Light and the NBA's Miami Heat.

That total is a low estimate, and is based on lobbyists' fee disclosure reports filed with the state in which income is listed in wide ranges.

But lobbying paid for by taxpayers is an easy target for Corcoran, a conservative firebrand who two years ago launched a populist crusade against "Gucci-loafing, shoe-wearing special interests" in a pitched debate over health care expansion.

Corcoran tried in November to outlaw taxpayer-funded lobbying as part of his broader strategy against business as usual in the Capitol.

Read the full story here.

Photo: Lobbyist Ron Book checks his phone in the state Capitol as Joe Negron, R-Stuart, now the Senate president, discusses a bill. (Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times)