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March 01, 2018

Rubio downplays gun limits, stresses school safety and mental health in Senate speech

Marco Rubio 3

@alextdaugherty @newsbysmiley

In a response on the Senate floor Thursday to the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history, Sen. Marco Rubio argued that local law enforcement and school officials could have prevented the massacre in Parkland and urged Congress to pass narrowly tailored bills on school safety and mental health that have support from both parties.

But the Florida Republican barely mentioned guns.

Rubio stopped short of endorsing a bill that would raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm, instead urging Congress to quickly pass bills related to mental health, school safety and the background check system.

“I will continue to explore additional reforms involving age limits and potentially magazine capacity,” Rubio said, adding that those ideas do not enjoy enough bipartisan support to pass right now. Last week at a CNN townhall meeting televised nationally, Rubio said he would “support a law” that prevents 18-year-olds from legally purchasing guns.

Rubio criticized the response of law enforcement and school officials during his speech, arguing enough safeguards were in place before the shooting to prevent it.

“I actually believe this attack could have and should have been prevented if current law had been enforced,” Rubio said.

The bills Rubio endorsed include the Stop School Violence Act, which was introduced in the House before the shooting by Florida Republican Rep. John Rutherford. The bill, which reauthorizes federal funding for the Secure Our Schools grant program, has the support of Democrats like Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Parkland in Washington.

Read more here.

February 28, 2018

Environmental group downgrades Carlos Curbelo’s climate change record

0445 IMPAC Immigration Summ

@alextdaugherty

Carlos Curbelo’s climate-change record took a step down in 2017 in the eyes of one influential environmental group, as the Miami Republican gears up for a reelection bid in a Miami-to-Key West district that is still recovering from Hurricane Irma and dealing with the effects of sea level rise.

The League of Conservation Voters released its 2017 scorecard on Tuesday, and Curbelo, who had the best score among House Republicans currently in Congress on the 2016 scorecard, now ranks tied for 13th among House Republicans. Curbelo had a 53 percent rating for his votes during 2016, and now has a 23 percent rating for his votes last year.

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” Curbelo said when asked about his rating. “I don’t follow NRA ratings, chamber ratings, League of Conservation Voters ratings. I just try to do the right thing on every vote and I usually end up finding out about my scores later come campaign season.”

Part of Curbelo’s drop can be attributed to Hurricane Irma, as he missed a series of votes while dealing with the hurricane in September. The eight missed votes due to the hurricane count against him on the LCV’s scorecard.

But even if he received a 100 percent score on his missed votes Curbelo would still have a 49 percent rating, which is lower than his 2016 mark. The downgrade comes after a year in which Curbelo expressed pro-environment positions, like opposing President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, while also voting for bills like the Republican tax plan that included a measure allowing oil exploration in a portion of Alaska’s North Slope.

Curbelo’s office said he would have voted for the LCV-favored position on six of the nine votes he missed in 2017, meaning his rating would have been 40 percent instead of 23 percent.

The LCV said it would like to see more legislative work from Curbelo’s Climate Solutions Caucus, a group founded by Curbelo and Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, that is comprised of lawmakers from both parties who are concerned about the impacts of climate change.

“Environmental votes weren’t always as partisan as they’ve become today,” LCV press secretary Alyssa Roberts said. “We would love to see higher scores from Republicans, and appreciate the Climate Solutions Caucus as a step to build bipartisan support, but the urgency of the climate crisis requires action, not just talk.”

Curbelo said the LCV is a partisan organization whose primary concern is getting Democrats to Washington, and that scorecards like theirs are “all subjective... designed to yield a certain score.”

Read more here.

Putnam breaks silence on gun bill: Opposes using weapons fees for trauma victims

Adam Putnam APFlorida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam broke his silence Wednesday on the proposed school safety legislation moving through the Florida House and Senate.

In a statement, he opposed the Senate plan, SB 7026, to direct $10 million collected from concealed weapons license fees to reimburse designated trauma centers for treatment of mass shooting victims.

“I oppose taxing law-abiding concealed weapon licenses for atrocities carried out by criminals'' he said in the statement. "If anyone should be taxed for those heinous acts, it should be criminals. The monster who murdered 17 people in Parkland wasn’t even eligible to have a concealed weapon license.”

Why two GOP House members broke away on gun vote

Two Republicans in the Florida House voted no Tuesday on a package of gun proposals, including a three-day wait for gun purchases and raising the age to buy any firearm from 18 to 21 .

It's unusual for House GOP members to buck Speaker Richard Corcoran on a leadership priority, but Reps. Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill and Clay Ingram of Pensacola say they can't support what they call a weakening of Second Amendment rights.

They sided with four Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee in opposing the bill, which passed by a 23-6 vote. Seventeen other Republican House members voted yes.

"What I disagreed with was raising the age to purchase a gun to 21," said Ingoglia. "I don't believe we should limit the ability of single moms and young families to protect themselves."

Ingoglia is also chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, and will lead the Florida GOP through a very unpredictable 2018 election cycle that may be greatly affected by public opinion about access to guns as a result of the massacre in Parkland.

He said his vote was on the merits of the issue, not about party politics.

Ingram also said it's wrong to block 18-year-olds from buying guns.

"I've seen so many cases of people defending themselves from rapes and other crimes with a firearm and some of those people are between 18 and 21," Ingram said. "To put those people out of being able to defend themselves, that bothers me."

"Obviously," Ingram said, "this was a vote that I agonized over more than any other."

Both Republicans say they strongly support more school safety and mental health treatment. The bill they opposed has $400 million for those and other programs, including $67 million to train teachers to be armed.

Ingoglia has pushed for more mental health money for the Hernando County school district.

Ingoglia is running for re-election and faces a challenge in the Republican primary from former Rep. Jeff Stabins. Ingram is term-limited and cannot run for the House again.

Poll: Florida voters strongly favor restoring felons' voting rights

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that Florida voters overwhelmingly support restoring the voting rights of convicted felons, an issue that will be on the November ballot.

The survey shows that 67 percent favor the idea and 27 percent oppose it. The statewide poll was conducted Feb. 23-26 and has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.

"Every single party, gender, education, age and racial group supports this idea," Quinnipiac said in a release.

In another sign of widespread support for the issue, nearly all voters have already made up their minds, more than eight months before the election. Only 6 percent of voters surveyed said they didn't know or had no opinion about the issue.

Here is how Quinnipiac framed the question in its poll: "Do you support or oppose restoring voting rights to individuals who have committed a felony other than murder or sexual offense and completed their sentences?"

The restoration of felons' voting rights will appear as Amendment 4 on the general election ballot.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee recently struck down Florida's vote restoration system as unconstitutional.

Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected Cabinet members, all of whom are Republicans, changed the system, known as executive clemency, in 2011 to require all convicted felons to wait at least five years after completing their sentences before they can apply for the restoration of their rights.

About 6 million people in the U.S. have been permanently stripped of their voting rights because of a felony conviction. About 1.5 million of them, or one-fourth of the total, are in Florida.

State senator says he's getting threats over gun bills, has police outside his house

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State Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point

State Sen. Gary Farmer said Wednesday that he's had a police car parked outside his home in Broward County for the last week after getting threats from gun supporters who don't like his ideas limiting access to guns.

"I had a marked police officer, car, at my house the past week and it's still there because of some threatening messages we received in my office," said Farmer, a Democrat who has proposed various gun restrictions, including a ban on assault rifles, since the Parkland school shooting. "I don't really want to go into details publicly, because my family's safety is involved."

Farmer said he's been getting calls and emails from gun supporters, including from the National Rifle Association.

Here's his full quote:

"Oh, we've been hearing from the NRA, absolutely. Some have been supportive of our ideas. Many watch too much of the Tucker Carlson show, and other shows like it. I joke about it so that I don't get more concerned, because I had a marked police officer, car, at my house the past week and it's still there because of some threatening messages we received in my office."

When asked for details on the threats, he said, "Threats that I'm extreme in my views on gun safety legislation. I don't really want to go into details publicly, because my family's safety is involved."

Brian Mast signs on to bill that allows federal gun violence research

Brian mast

@alextdaugherty

Treasure Coast Republican Rep. Brian Mast made waves when he argued that the AR-15 should be banned in a New York Times op-ed last week, and now he's signing on to a bill that would repeal a ban on federal gun violence research. 

Winter Park Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy's office said Wednesday that Mast will sign on to her bill that repeals the Dickey amendment, a statute that repeals federal funding for gun violence research. Mast joins Miami Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Republicans who signed on to the bill after the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history in Parkland, Florida.    

"I'm proud of the bipartisan support my bill to repeal the Dickey Amendment has received from members of our Florida congressional delegation," Murphy said in a statement. "Florida has been deeply affected by gun violence for years, and, at minimum, this issue deserves objective facts and honest debate about how to keep our families safe." 

Mast, who lost both of his legs while serving as a bomb technician in Afghanistan, has signed on to a host of gun control bills since the Parkland shooting and called on an immediate, temporary ban on weapons like the AR-15 until Congress takes long-term action. The House of Representatives didn't vote on any gun bills this week, and the U.S. Senate is unlikely to do so. 

"I am committed to working with anyone—Republicans and Democrats—who is willing to do the hard, bipartisan problem solving needed to come up with a definition that can keep communities safe, while also not casting law-abiding recreational gun owners as criminals," Mast said in a statement. "While that discussion happens, I am asking the President to implement an immediate pause on the sale of AR-15 weapons so not one more person dies as a result of being shot with an AR-15 while Congress determines the best way to define assault weapons. I am also calling on Congressional leadership to vote immediately on already written bipartisan legislation to increase school safety, address the role of mental illness and prevent gun violence." 

Mast, who is in his first term, faces a competitive reelection bid in a Treasure Coast district that has switched hands between Democrats and Republicans in recent years. 

Update 12:30pm

The White House says Mast and Murphy, along with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, will attend a meeting between lawmakers and President Donald Trump today to discuss school safety and the Parkland shooting. 

Another poll shows Floridians support a ban on assault rifles

 

@NewsbySmiley

Yet another poll has found that a ban on the sale of assault weapons -- something a majority of Florida lawmakers are unwilling to consider -- is supported by most Floridians.

Nearly 70 percent of people in the state want to see a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons and support stricter gun laws, according to a poll conducted by Florida Atlantic University's Business and Economics Polling Initiative. More than 87 percent support universal background checks and nearly 78 percent support raising the minimum age to buy a rifle.

More than two-thirds, however, oppose arming teachers, something lawmakers are considering.

The poll, an online and automated-phone query of 800 people conducted Feb. 23 to Feb. 25, was released Wednesday, two weeks after a teenager killed 17 and wounded 15 more with an AR-15-style rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. It's the latest look at how voters feel about guns in the wake of the shooting, and how that compares to legislation moving in Tallahassee, where lawmakers in both the House and Senate are considering proposasl to train and arm select school faculty but have voted against a push by Democrats to ban the sale of assault-style rifles.

A poll released last week by Senate Republicans also showed voters support an assault weapons ban.

The findings also come six months before primary elections for U.S. Senate, governor, and a slew of other state and local offices. They show that Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla., holds a 2-point lead over Gov. Rick Scott, who is considering a challenge. They also show that a majority of Floridians, including a majority of registered Republicans, disapprove of President Donald Trump's reaction to the Parkland shooting.

  “Gun control may turn out to be a pivotal issue in the midterm elections and could well be the difference in a close race for the Senate between Rick Scott and Bill Nelson,” Kevin Wagner, a political science professor and research fellow of the Initiative, said in a statement. “While large majorities of Floridians support background checks and an increase in the age requirement, it is not at all clear that there is sufficient support for these measures in the Florida legislature. As we are already late in the session, it will take a serious push by Gov. Scott to pass any of these reforms this year.”

Close to 38 percent of those queried in the poll iidentified as Democrats, and slightly more than 35 percent identified as Republicans. Some 41 percent said they own a gun.

Generator rule for nursing homes move forward, but rules for assisted living facilities stall

Nursing home

@elizabethrkoh

Proposed requirements for nursing homes to have backup generators after Hurricane Irma sailed through a House committee Tuesday — but similar requirements for assisted living facilities have stalled over how much they would cost.

The two rules, which call for long-term care facilities to have backup power sources that could continue to maintain cooling systems in the event of an outage, were pushed by Gov. Rick Scott after a dozen residents died of overheating at a Broward County nursing home after Hurricane Irma. Though the House Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously to introduce legislation that would ratify the rule for nursing homes, it held back the second rule — both issued by the state Agency for Health Care Administration — that would set similar requirements for assisted living facilities.

Committee chair Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park, said he remained concerned about mandating such a cost on assisted living facilities, many of which are smaller businesses. "Nursing homes will be reimbursed with the Medicaid system, but there's extreme fiscal impact to doing that" for assisted living facilities, he said.

Both the proposed nursing home and assisted living facilities rules call for facilities to obtain portable backup power sources like generators, capable of providing 30 square feet of cool space for each resident, and up to 72 hours of fuel on site. Smaller assisted living facilities with less than 17 beds would only be required to keep at least 48 hours of fuel on site. Nursing homes would be required to have equipment that could maintain safe indoor air temperatures for 96 hours after an outage, and set the ambient temperature at 81 degrees.

Because the rules would call for more than $1 million over five years, they need to be ratified by the legislature to go into effect. A staff analysis estimated nursing homes will have to spend more than $121 million over the first five years to comply with the rule, though about $66 million could come from Medicaid. The proposed assisted living facilities rules, which would affect about 3,000 facilities, would cost about $243 million.

Scott had proposed more stringent rules shortly after the deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, including requirements that generators be installed permanently and that there be 50 square feet of cool space per resident. But after months of legal challenges, the administration and the long-term care industry agreed to modified rules that relaxed some of those requirements.

Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis said hundreds of nursing homes and assisted living facilities had already agreed to abide by the rule, and that for the latter, the governor's office is "continuing to work with the Florida Legislature to make sure this gets done.”

If the assisted living facilities rule does not pass, it's unclear what might happen next to the generator requirements Scott has called for, said Tom Parker of the Florida Health Care Association, a long-term care industry group. "We're in a position where the [original] emergency rule may be back on the table" though it has been challenged, he said.

Justin Senior, the secretary for the Agency for Health Care Administration, said the agency is still working with lawmakers on ways to mitigate costs for assisted living facilities before the legislative session ends in a week and a half. He added that for smaller facilities with just a few residents, sufficient generators could be purchased at a typical hardware store and paired with a window unit to satisfy the rule.

If passed, the rules would require facilities to comply by June 1, the start of this year's hurricane season.

Photo: Miami Herald

Legislators say they'll have a budget by Tuesday

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House Appropriations chairman Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, and Senate Appropriations chairman Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island.

Florida lawmakers said Tuesday night that they'll have the state budget settled within a week, despite fundamental disagreements between the House and Senate about how to fund a variety of issues.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said the school shooting in Parkland nearly two weeks ago "changed everything" in the Legislature this year.

"We're all grieving. It's a solemn time," Bradley said. "And Chair (Carlos) Trujillo said it best: This is not the time for name-calling or petty politics. This is the time for us to come together for the greater good and the safety of the children come first."

State Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, said to expect a balanced budget by Tuesday morning. If so, the Legislature should end on time this year, with no extended session.

But both houses of the legislature are facing fundamental differences on how to fund the opioid crisis, universities, schools and how to spend millions in affordable housing money. Bradley and Trujillo said many of those have already been worked out.

"Post-Parkland, talking to the senators, talking to the House, I think that everyone's in a position where there are things much bigger than us," Trujillo said.