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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Governor, Cabinet to consider FDLE counter-terrorism plan



Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet on Tuesday will consider the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's request for new laws and more agents from the 2017 Legislature to fight terrorism at the state level. The request, coming three months after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando in which 48 bar patrons were killed, is expected to win support from the four statewide officials.

"Our current threat environment has seen a vast expansion and evolution of terrorist-related threats in recent years," an FDLE staff report says.

The leader of the statewide law enforcement agency, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen, will ask for support for $6.2 million to add 46 full-time employees at eight new regional counter-terrorism squads; $4.2 million to improvement recruitment of FDLE agents; and $786,000 to address the backlog in processing sexual assault testing kits. FDLE also wants to make it a crime in Florida for anyone to belong to a foreign terrorist group or to receive any military-style training from foreign terrorist groups.

The Cabinet agenda also include the most detailed review of Swearingen's performance since he was appointed by Scott in December 2014. In a review of his own performance, Swearingen generally gave himself good marks, but he cited a backlog in the processing of applications for concealed weapons permits.

Swearingen said that in the 2014-2015 budget year, FDLE processed 800,000 firearms requests, most within four minutes each. The requests jumped by about 200,000 to nearly 1 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30. "Unfortunately," Swearingen writes, "in FY 15-16, the percent of checks responded to within defined timeframes dropped to 96 percent, primarily due to an increase in firearms checks."

Scott and the Cabinet also will vote Tuesday on spending $1.3 million to acquire a 25-acre Tampa site from Florida Rock and Tank Lines as a buffer against future development next to MacDill Air Force Base. Florida Rock will retain development rights on a separate 15-acre tract to the north for a hotel project, according to a staff report.

[Last modified: Monday, September 19, 2016 1:04pm]


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