Florida Democrats continue push for special session on no-fly, no-buy

Florida Democrats seeking special session on no-fly, no-buy
Florida Democrats seeking special session on no-fly, no-buy

Florida Democratic lawmakers continued to push Tuesday for a special legislative session in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre to ban people on the federal “no-fly” or terrorist watch list from obtaining weapons.

Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat campaigning for Congress, and Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, said that 46 Democratic members of the House and Senate have certified the need for a special session, a procedural move that sets in motion a poll of all member, conducted by the Florida Secretary of State’s office.

If 60 percent of each chamber agrees, a special session would be set. It’s a longshot, though. Republicans have overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate and so far, leaders have shown no interest in a special session.

The U.S. Senate recently rejected a similar no-fly, no-buy proposal — just as they did last December. Omar Mateen, the ISIS-supporting shooter in the Orlando massacre, formerly was on the terrorist watch list.

“Nothing would change for one single law-abiding citizen or NRA member who wants to buy a gun,” Moskowitz said.

“They would be able to do so without any change in the way that happens now so long as they are not a suspected terrorist. But for the safety of this nation, for the safety of our people in Florida, we have to close this breach in our nation’s security, shut this loophole that threatens our safety, with or without Washington’s help,” he added.


Orlando Democrats call for special session to block terror suspects from guns

Orlando Democrats call for special session to stop terror suspects from getting guns
Orlando Democrats call for special session to stop terror suspects from getting guns

Orlando Democratic lawmakers Wednesday asked Gov. Rick Scott to call a special session of the Florida Legislature to forge a state law banning those on the federal terrorist “watch list” and “no-fly list” from being able to obtain weapons.

Omar Mateen, the accused shooter in the murder of 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub, was on the watch list for a year beginning in 2013 and was interviewed by the FBI three times for comments or activity seen as supporting terrorism. Mateen legally purchased the AR-15 rifle and handgun used in the Pulse shooting at a Port St. Lucie gun shop.

» RELATED: The latest updates on the Orlando shooting

Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, who said that at least 13 of those killed lived in his district. He called the murders a “blatant act of domestic terrorism.”

“We come here today with a proposal that is narrowly tailored to put forward an idea that both parties can agree on: That known or suspected terrorists should not be able to possess firearms in the state of Florida,” Soto said.

While the measure would ban those on current federal lists from legally obtaining weapons, the proposal also would give the Florida Department of Law Enforcement authority to conduct its own background checks of those removed from the lists if they seek to make a gun purchase.

Congress last year rejected legislation aimed at barring those on the terror watch list from gun access.

Among those gathered outside the Orange County Courthouse was Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, a retired corrections officer whose son, John Paul, narrowly missed going to the Pulse that evening with two friends, killed in the massacre.

“This has to be a bipartisan effort,” Cortes said, adding, “To protect our families…If I ever lost my son, I’d be devastated.”

But Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, gave the Democrats’ request little chance for swift action.

“All of Florida is grieving over the horrific slaughter of innocent lives in Orlando,” Crisafulli said. “There will be no shortage of ideas on the state and federal level to ensure our families and communities are safe.”

He added: “Thoughtful consideration will be given to all proposals to improve public safety in a rational, effective, and constitutional manner.”


Florida Legislature 2016: Scott personally pitches $1 billion tax cut idea to senators

Gov. Scott testified before the Senate Finance and Tax Committee on his bid for $1 billion in tax cuts
Gov. Scott testified before the Senate Finance and Tax Committee on his bid for $1 billion in tax cuts

Gov. Rick Scott made his second appearance in as many months before Florida lawmakers Monday, pitching his plan for $1 billion in tax breaks.

The governor testified before the Senate Finance and Tax Committee promising that the business-dominated tax-cutting would add fuel to a state economy that he says is already “on a roll.”

“If we keep reducing taxes…we get more companies and jobs in our state,” Scott told the panel.

Scott testified before a similar committee last month in the House. But the Senate, where a number of leaders are wary of permanently erasing $1 billion from the state treasury, may prove his toughest test after the 2016 legislative session opens Tuesday.

On the session’s eve, Scott got off easy. Senate committee members generally praised the governor’s approach.

Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, said he liked Scott’s plan for bolstering manufacturers, saying it might spur companies to leave the Midwest for places like Palm Beach County’s Glades region.

The bulk of the reductions — $770 million over the next two years — stems from shielding manufacturers and retailers from the state’s corporate income tax.

Scott also would permanently eliminate the sales tax on machinery and equipment, which lawmakers agreed to lift two years ago but which is scheduled to go back into effect in 2017. That’s worth $73 million to manufacturers.

Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, questioned why Scott wasn’t looking to cut property taxes — the state levy that may affect the most citizens and companies.

The governor in his budget proposal instead uses rising property values to finance almost the entire $507.3 million increase in school funding he is seeking. Many lawmakers from both parties have criticized the move as amounting to a tax increase.

“I think the important thing this year is to focus on the tax cuts we’ve proposed,” Scott told Soto.

He said his goal is to “grow the economy,” saying that any lost revenue will be offset by more activity, including an expansion of jobs and sales-tax transactions.

More issues to watch this session:  http://bit.ly/22TVhAk


Lawmakers say instead of shooting bears, shield habitat

Lawmakers are looking to preserve bear habitat.
Lawmakers are looking to preserve bear habitat.

Following a controversial autumn hunt that ended with the killing of 304 black bears in Florida, a pair of lawmakers are proposing a non-lethal approach to ending human-bear interactions in the state.

House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach and Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, have filed legislation requiring state agencies to adopt rules ensuring the restoration of black bear habitat.

The measure would require the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Department of Environmental Protection to prevent the destruction of habitat through timbering or palmetto berry harvesting on state lands.

Much of the criticism of the October hunt, Florida’s first in more than 20 years, stemmed from the view that it was designed to randomly kill the animals when they generally only prove a problem when they come close to residential areas seeking food.

The largest share of bears killed were in the state’s more sparsely populated eastern Panhandle region. Overall, more than 20 percent of the bears killed were lactating females, meaning orphaned cubs were left following the hunt.

“We need to apply a scientific-based approach founded upon sound research to protect our citizens and Florida’s black bear population,” said Soto, whose bill is SB 1096.

“From preventing new dangerous encounters, to providing funding for bear-proof garbage pails, along with defining and protecting bear habitat and food sources, we have filed this new legislation as a starting point to establish a comprehensive solution for the future,” he said.

Added Pafford, “Anything to help Floridians and Florida black bears live together more successfully is a good thing for the people and the wildlife. I think this bill moves us in the right direction.”