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Hardening Schools. What Does it Mean?

February 28th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

There has been a lot of talk about hardening our schools in the State Capitol since the Parkland shooting two weeks ago, but as Mike Vasilinda found out, hardening means different things to different people.

No one gets into the Capitol without a swipe card.

Or going through a metal detector manned by armed police,

State Representative Joe Grueters (R-Sarasota):

 

“There’s no question this building is secure, and every child in every school should feel secure.”

It’s a fact not lost on Andrew Pollack, a parents who lost a daughter in Parkland.

 

“No one’s worried someone’s coming through that door with a gun” said Pollack as he spoke before the House Appropriations Committee as at least 8 Sargent at Arms personnel looked on.

The buzzwords for the future: “Hardening schools”. But what does it mean?

Sen. Bill Montford is a former School Superintendent

 

“Superintendents, principles, teachers are experts at this if you will, and they can not tell you exactly what it means to harden a school” Montford told us.

Experts say it could be a live video feed to police who can trigger gates to shut down hallway access, or Panic Buttons, or other security enhancements.

Sheriff Grady Judd.

“Sometimes it’s as easy as closing and locking a door” says Judd, who favors training and arming volunteer teachers and administrators.

When FSU Shooter Myron May wounded three people in 2014, he was kept from doing more damage by a simple swipe card. Security video shows May approaching a turn style, then turning away when he couldn’t easily enter.

FSU Police Chief David Perry told us a year later the turn style saved lives.

 

“So without that turn style system, our shooter walks right in the library, he finds a comfortable quite place, and then he takes out his weapon and he starts shooting” says Perry.

When we asked about swipe cards for schools, we were told very simply, that’s going to be up to each individual district.

For now, attention at the Capitol is on arming teachers or banning assault style rifles. Little is being said about the specifics on how schools will be hardened.

Lawmakers are budgeting 400 million dollars for school safety. Most of it will be spent hiring new school resource officers.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

ACLU Suing State Rep over Social Media Blocking

February 28th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

A constituent of a Gainesville state legislator has enlisted the ACLU to sue the lawmaker over being blocked from his social media sites. The ACLU says Morgan Attwood was blocked after asking State Representative Chuck Clemmons why he voted against hearing a ban on assault rifles. Clemons told us it never happened, but taxpayers will end up paying his legal fees.

“No one from the state monitors, or has any control, or passwords to either of those accounts. Its my personal accounts, so the Dilemma their in is they had to sue me in my capacity as a State Representative which brings with it the defense of Adam Tanenbaum, the best trial attorney in the state” says Clemons

Q:”So you weren’t trying to block this guy because he disagreed with your stance on assault rifles?”

“No, I blocked this guy because he has been rude and vulgar on his own twitter account and I have the screen shots to show people.”

Clemons is being defended by the House’s general counsel.

Lawmakers are budgeting 400 million dollars for school safety. Most of it will be spent hiring new school resource officers.

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Texting While Driving Legislation Set to Clear House… Stalled in Senate

February 28th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

Logan Scherer was just 9-years-old when a texting driver slammed into the back of his parents car at more than 90 miles an hour… the accident took Logan’s life.

Now, parents Jordan and Brooke are advocating for legislation that would make texting while driving a primary offense.

 

“To actually do something about it. Distracted driving can be egregious like our situation, or we know many families, who it was just a simple, ‘ I looked down at my phone’ or ‘I was sending a quick text’ and it changes the lives of families forever,” said Brooke.

While the legislation is cruising through the House, expected to pass through the chamber Thursday, the Senate has hit the breaks over privacy concerns.

Appropriations Chair, Senator Rob Bradley say he won’t hear the bill until those concerns are addressed.

“If you happen to be in your car and you look down to make sure you’re going the right way that gives an officer the right to pull you over? I think that is problematic,” said Bradley.

But House sponsor Representative Jackie Toledo doesn’t buy the argument.

 

“Because we are addressing it in the House bill and if you take up the House bill then those concerns will be addressed,” said Rep. Toledo.

After fighting for the Legislation for three years after the death of his son Anthony, Demitrus Branca is fed up with the politics.

 

“We need to put public safety, traffic safety first. This needs to happen, 12 years ago,” said Branca.

As the 2018 session nears the end of the road, working out a comprise becomes a more daunting task.

In part because there is a long list of priority Legislation still on lawmakers to do list.

46 states have laws making taxing while driving a primary offense.

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House Subpoenas Local Agencies for Documents Related to Parkland Shooting

February 28th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

The Florida House has issued subpoenas for documents related to the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which claimed the lives of 17.

The body is requesting documents from the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, the Broward County School Board, Broward County, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Coral Springs. The House says it will also have access to any documents relevant to the case from state agencies like DCF.

A House committee will use the documents in its investigation of the massacre.

 

“The purpose of this is to investigate the tragedy that occurred on February 14th at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, with particular reference to going to the agencies at the local level and getting source documents that will aid in our evaluation of what went wrong with the view toward to find solutions to this so that it will never happen again,” said Representative Larry Metz.

The documents have to be handed over to the Legislature by March 6th. Three days before session is scheduled to end.

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Parkland Parents Make Personal Plea for School Safety

February 27th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

 

Dozens of people argued today that state lawmakers were doing too little or too much in legislation designed to prevent another school shooting, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, none were more compelling than the parents who lost a loved on in Parkland.

Father Andrew Pollock quietly stared into space for hours as lawmakers debated school safety, His daughter, 18 year old Meadow was one of 17 victims at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High. When his turn came, the emotions flowed.

“Just like we’re sitting here, no one’s worried someone’s coming through that door with a gun. But our children are gonna go to school and worry that someone is going to walk down a hallway and shoot them? Something’s not right” said the distraught father.

Next, 14 year old Alex Schachter’s father, Max, and grandfather.

 

“We need each one of you to step aside from politics an  reach inside as parents and grandparents and work together to make a difference” Max Schachter told lawmakers.

Then, the mother of hero teacher Scott Beigel, who was shot holding a door for students to escape,

 

“Scott’s focus was to keep his students safe. He did not have to make a split second decision, do I go for my gun, do I save my students? No, he didn’t have to decide shoot or save.”

Most Democrats on the House Committee voted no, but not the two Democrats from Parkland. They voted yes.”

 

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz attended the high school.

Sot: Rep. Jared Moskowitz

D-Broward County

“Would this bill have saved these students?”

“I mean, I’m not god. I can’t answer that. This would have given them a way better chance.”

All of the parents see this as the beginning, not the end.

While the legislation cleared its biggest committee, Democrat Moskowitz says the legislation could have trouble on the House floor because it goes too far for some Republicans and not far enough for some Democrats.

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Proposal to Allow Certain Teachers to Carry a Gun Moves Ahead

February 27th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

 

The Florida Sheriff’s Marshal Program is part of the Republican’s response to the Parkland Shooting.

It allows teachers who are trained by law enforcement to carry a gun in a classroom. It’s modeled after a program in Polk County led by Sheriff Grady Judd.

 

“This is a force multiplier to protect children,” said Judd.

Under the legislation approved by a House committee, school districts can decide if they want to participate or not.

Still, dozens of Parkland residents, teachers and parents made it clear…

 

“[I’m] not for arming teachers,” said Parkland parent, Shelbie Seys.

Patricia Kodish was substitute teaching at Stoneman Douglas the day of the shooting.

SOT Patricia Kodish

Substitute Teacher, Parkland

“This will be a terrible detriment to some students actual mental well-being knowing that their teachers actually have guns.”

The House expanded the program, making it a requirement for Sheriff’s offices to offer the training program, even if the school district doesn’t opt in.

Senator Kevin Rader represents Parkland, he says the amendment will make it even more difficult for Democrats to give their support.

 

“Teachers need to learn how to teach, law enforcement needs to protect us,” said Rader.

Representative Jose Oliva says it provides a ready force in the event a school district chooses to join the program at a later date.

 

“The amount of time that it would take to train up those who volunteer to go into the program would be significant and therefore this is really just a measure of preparedness,” said Oliva.

The bill also requires schools to have one school recourse officer for every 1,000 students.

Sponsors say the marshal program allows for an extra line of defense.

The proposal received six no votes, all from Democratic Representatives.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Gun Issue Already Starting to Dominate 2018 Elections

February 26th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

The deaths of 17 people in South Florida and NRA support for state lawmakers is fast becoming the hottest issue of the 2018 campaign season.  As Mike Vasilinda tells us, some are also suggesting students stop coming to the sunshine state for spring break.

This ad ran Sunday in the the South Florida Sun sentinel. It seeks to recruit candidates  to run against two dozen state lawmakers who have high marks from the NRA and have no opposition.

Nat sot ”First time you’ve seen it? That’s right”

The ad was a surprise to  Heather Fitzenhagen of Ft. Myers.

“We can never go far enough for some people and too far for others. So what I have to do is try and do what my constituents elected me to do, and that is represent them” says the Ft. Myers lawmaker.

Nassau County freshman Cord Byrd is also on the list.

“They don’t give me marching orders. They don’t tell me what to do. I follow the constitution” Byrd told us.

We talked to the targeted lawmakers as 900 more protested outside the Capitol

“Vote them out”

“In addition to chanting vote them out, there’s also a call for spring breakers to boycott Florida.”

 

A Saturday tweet from a Marjorie Stoneman Douglass survivor urging the spring break boycott has more than 59 thousand likes and 23 thousand re-tweets.

Sen. Jeff Brandes chairs the Senate tourism appropriations committee,

“And if they don’t want to enjoy our beaches, OK” says Brandes.

 

 

After leading a gun control rally, Democratic Gubernatorial hopeful Phillip Levine says tourism has already taken a hit.

“Do you think 17 people being killed with an AR-15 in a high school is good for tourism? Do we think the Pulse nightclub killing is good for tourism?” He asked.

The attention to far to electoral politics is almost sure to guarantee we’ll be hearing about the failures that allowed d Nikolas Cruz to slaughter students well into the fall.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

More than 1,000 Rally at the State Capitol, Again Calling for Assault Weapons Ban

February 26th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

Bussed in from 15 cities around the state,1,000 protesters arrived at the state Capitol to advocate for stricter guns laws and a ban on assault weapons.

The group is as diverse as the areas they represent. Grace Gale is just 17-years-old.

 

“For me it’s not just about gun control, which is really important to me, but it’s also about getting involved in the civic process,” said Gale.

Former teachers, law enforcement and even NRA members are joining the call for action.

“A true hunter doesn’t shoot a gun that’s either semi or automatic,” said former NRA member Ira Friedman.

Led by Gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine the group marched up the Capitol steps through the rain.

 

“We want them to ban those assault rifles in Florida,” said Levine.

Protesters pushed on through the rain, even saying it was the tears of the victims and the frustrated activists pushing for reform.

 

“These are the tears. Let it rain all over us,” said Representative Janet Cruz.

Activists were joined by survivors of the Parkland shooting, like Bela Urbina. She says republicans plan for reform doesn’t go far enough.

 

“We don’t want these military weapons on the street. Like my friend said, they’re not civilian weapons, they’re militarized weapons,” said Urbina.

This is the second mass rally in two weeks, Levine says their persistence will hopefully translate into policy.

“I always say listen to the customer, well the customers are coming up here today,” said Levine.

Protesters are also calling to raise the age to purchase a gun to 25 and for mandatory universal background checks.

Protesters also stand in opposition to Republican’s proposal to train certain teachers and allow them to carry guns in the classroom.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Democrats Push for Tighter Gun Control in Parkland Response Legislation

February 26th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

State Democrats from both the House and Senate announced their opposition to the Republican led Legislature’s plan to respond to the Parkland shooting.

First and foremost they stand in opposition to a provision, which would give some teachers the option to be trained as a law enforcement officer in order to carry a gun in the classroom.

They also say universal background checks should be included along with a ban on high capacity magazines. The top demand… adding a complete ban on assault rifles in the state.

 

“We need a complete ban on assault rifles. Anything less does not go far enough to protect our children. Assault rifles are weapons of war. They belong in the battlefield, not in our schools, our churches, night clubs or anywhere in our country,” said Senator Oscar Braynon.

Democratic leadership announced it intends to pursue their goals through amendments to the Republican plan.

Their attempt to add the amendments failed Monday, but will likely resurface.

When asked if Democrats would vote down the proposal if a ban on assault weapons fails to be included, Democrats say they would have to see the final version to comment.

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Emotions Run High at Senate Rules Vote on Gun Safety

February 26th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

Hundreds of people showed up at a Senate Rules Committee today to ask for a ban on assault rifles. Many, like St. Petersburg Pastor Andy Oliver, accused lawmakers of selling out to the NRA.

“Many of you have constantly and consistently scored an A with the NRA. Sadly, after the shooting, you will get to continue to keep making your A, while sadly 17 students from Parkland won’t have the opportunity to make any more grades.” Oliver defiantly told lawmakers.

Mr Oliver, if you conclude your testimony please.  (BOO) If you would like him to take up all of your time we can do that.

Chant

“I will conclude.even Scalia and his opinion in Heller knew the second amendment does not cover assault rifles. So don’t be a coward and hide behind the second amendment and the NRA. The blood of these children and the one coming after that is on your hands.”

“Mr. Oliver! Mr. Oliver”

“The Blood is on your hands.” (Cheering)

The committee meets until 5:30 tonight.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Legislature to Investigate Parkland Shooting

February 26th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Rick Scott has ordered the Department of Law enforcement to investigate what went wrong as tip after tip about school shooter Nikolas Cruz fell through the cracks. Now State lawmakers will be launching their own probe into what they have identified as at least 21 failures to stop the shooting in its tracks. House speaker Richard Corcoran says the investigation will be pattered after the 911 commission.

“We’re gonna do full subpoena’s in the next two weeks off the House Floor, We want videos, we want radio activity, we want everything known to mankind to give to this commission and have to investigate and figure out what were the breakdowns, who was responsible, and what can we do better.”

The Speaker says the investigative commission will be headed by a parent from Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School.

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School Safety Plans Have Differences

February 23rd, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Rick Scott and Legislative leaders today released specific plans to prevent  mass shootings in schools from ever happening again. As Mike Vasilinda tells us the plans are similar except in one area.

“Carmen Schentrup”

Governor Rick Scott began by recognizing Parkland’s 17 victims.

“Unfortunately, none of the plans I am announcing today will bring any of them back said Scott after the 17th name.”

The Governor’s plan calls for hiring an armed school resource officer for every 1000 students in a school, requiring schools add security measures before making other repairs, raising the age to buy any gun to 21.

“We need to be swift and decisive.”

Scott would also create a violence restraining order, something sought by police, to take a gun away for at least 60 days. from someone making threats

“60 days is the minimum. After that, you have to go back to the court.”

The plan does not ban assault style weapons, which thousands marched for on Wednesday.

“I’m supporter of the second amendment, the first amendment, and the entire bill of rights for that matter” says the Governor.

State lawmakers launched an almost identical plan, and say the 450 million sought by the Governor for security is not out of line. Where they differ is allowing trained, armed, deputized civilian to carry in schools. Sen. Bill Galvano says they would not allow just anyone to carry a gun. They would have law law enforcement training and be deputized.

“So law enforcement takes responsibility for them as they would for any other deputy.”

Lawmakers highlighted twenty one points of failure. Now they are asking law enforcement to check their records. Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Ft. Myers) made the plea.

“See if there is another person like this out there. That warnings have been given and tips have been called in.”

All agree if the changes had been in place, Nikolas Cruz would never have gotten a gun or kept it.

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Democrats and Schools Express Concerns Over Proposed Parkland Response

February 23rd, 2018 by Jake Stofan

The Governor and the Legislature have announced comprehensive proposals in response to the Parkland School shooting to increase school safety and prevent the mentally ill from acquiring guns.

Both call for raising the age to purchase guns to 21-years-old and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fortify schools and identify threats before another mass shooting can take place, but Democrats say it doesn’t go far enough.

5,000 people who came to the Capitol this week were demanding a ban on assault style weapons.

Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith says the Governor and Legislature’s proposed fixes are missing the point.

 

“There is support for an assault weapons ban, that’s what the students want, that’s what the teachers want,” said Smith.

Governor Scott and Legislative leaders say banning assault weapons would unfairly penalize law abiding citizens and would violate the second amendment.

 

“Even in difficult times we have to follow the constitution,” said Senate President Joe Negron.

Democrats also take issue with allowing teachers to carry guns, even if they’re also sworn law enforcement officers.

 

“More guns in our schools is not the solution. Teachers need to focus on teaching,” said Smith.

Schools also have concerns that the proposals may take away too much local control.

The main concern is Governor Scott wants to use school construction and repair funding for school hardening before it’s spent on anything else.

 

“There needs to be some consideration to what other obligations exist,” said Ruth Melton with the Florida School Boards Association.

Senator Bill Montford also represents the state’s School Super Intendants.

He say’s there’s time for the schools’ concerns to be addressed… When it comes to banning assault rifles, he’s not so confident.

 

“It’s a weapon of war, so that gives me great pause and a great deal of concern,” said Montford.

Putting more guns in schools and neglecting calls for a ban on assault rifles is likely going to be a road block to Democrats’ support.

The Legislature’s proposal also calls for a three-day waiting period before purchasing a firearm, it’s another idea with Democratic support that could be in jeopardy is a compromise is not reached.

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School Safety Plan Emerging

February 22nd, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

State lawmakers have noticed a hearing for Monday afternoon for the first discussion of new school safety and firearm legislation. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the legislation does not include the one thing that drove thousands to protest at the Capitol yesterday.

The emerging school safety plan calls for more firepower in schools. Patterned after the Sentinel Program in Polk County. It calls for well trained, armed school personnel to be the first line of defense. Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano is leading the negotiations.

 

“This isn’t just a situation of arming teachers. This is a program that is run through the Sheriff’s Department, on a voluntary basis, where in someone who seeks to become deputized has a psych eval and 132 hours of training” says Galvano.

The legislation will be a souped up version of legislation debated and sponsored by now Senator Dennis Baxley since Sandy Hook.

 

“Part of this focus has to be, what happens in the first five minutes” says Baxley.

Under the plan, police would have more power to take guns from the mentally disturbed without a declaration of incompetence. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualteri said this week, the current law ties law enforcments hands.

 

“We need the authority to take their weapons. To take the guns away from them that they have just threatened to hurt somebody with, and we can’t do that today.”

In a meeting with legislative leaders late Wednesday, the Governor reportedly said he was willing to give any tax cuts this year, if the money was needed for school safety.

But the proposals don’t do what thousands asked for this week:

“Gun control” changed marchers.

A Ban on assault style rifles. Democrats will keep trying says Leader Oscar Braynon.

 

“We believe that’s the solution. None of this happens without that.”

And Lawmakers say policy decisions will drive cost not the other way around.

Other features included more power to take guns from people evaluated under the Baker Act, raising the age for assault rifle purchases, and requiring a three day cooling off period.

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House and Senate Divided on How to Increase Land Acquisition Trust Funding

February 22nd, 2018 by Jake Stofan

In 2014 three out of four voters told the Legislature they want more funding for land conservation, but the Legislature justified ways to spend the money elsewhere.

Now, lawmakers are trying to make sure the money gets to where it needs to be.

 

“It’s another step in the right direction,” said Florida Conservation Voters Executive Director, Aliki Moncrief.

Both the House and Senate have their own ideas when it comes to how the increase should look.

In the Senate, Rob Bradley is proposing $100 million to go to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. No money could be spent on administrative costs.

 

“To make sure that all the dollars go towards what I think is an appropriate use of those dollars,” said Bradley.

In the House, Representative Matt Caldwell would spend a total of $200 million. Most of the money would pay outstanding debts, with $57 million left over to specifically go towards purchasing land.

 

“We enjoy those properties so having those conserved for ourselves and our children, our grandchildren is key,” said caldwell.

Environmental advocates say both proposals have an upsides and a downside.

The Senate allows the funds to be used for water management and the House allows money to go toward administrative costs.

 

“That money really needs to be focused on where voters intended and that’s conserving lands for people, conserving lands for wildlife and conserving lands to protect our waters,” said Moncrief.

While the two bills may differ, lawmakers say they believe a compromise can be reached.

Two weeks remain for those details to be worked out, and if they don’t agree, voters will be no worse off then they are now.

The House’s although smaller initially, bill increases funding over time. It would allocated $200 million for land acquisition by 2029.

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