Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Politics

Gov. Scott signs bills on vouchers, guns and sports stadiums

TALLAHASSEE — From pro sports to Pop-Tarts, Gov. Rick Scott signed dozens of new laws Friday, including two NRA-supported gun bills and an expansion of school vouchers.

The voucher program, part of a 140-page education bill (SB 850), expands the use of tax credit scholarships so that low-income children can attend private schools. It was a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and was supported by former Gov. Jeb Bush's think tank, the Foundation for Florida's Future.

The bill was opposed by the Florida PTA, the Florida NAACP Conference, the Florida Education Association teacher union and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), who said it would drain resources from public schools.

"(Scott) did not care enough to listen to the concerns of hundreds of thousands of people," said Mindy Gould of Miami-Dade, the Florida PTA's legislative chairwoman.

Under the bill, a family of four earning up to $62,010 a year will be eligible for at least a partial scholarship, up nearly $20,000 from the current income limit of $43,568.

Scott also signed into law increased penalties for harming a fetus while committing a crime, a response to the case of a Tampa man who tricked his girlfriend into taking an abortion drug that resulted in a miscarriage.

Florida joins 23 other states that allow offenders to be charged separately for causing the death of a fetus at any stage of development.

"It's recognizing the trauma that occurs to the woman when she is a victim of crime and, in the process, loses her unborn baby," said the sponsor, Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.

On guns, Scott signed the so-called Pop-Tart bill (HB 7029), which allows children to play with simulated guns in school without fear of punishment. A boy in Maryland was suspended for nibbling a breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun.

That bill had the backing of the National Rifle Association, as did a second gun law, called the "warning shot" bill.

That bill (HB 89) was intended to allow people to use threatened force, such as a warning shot, as part of the "stand your ground" defense, but some law enforcement officials say the bill as written is confusing and will be difficult to enforce.

"The governor was in a very tough spot," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. "It leaves people in the situation where if they do defend themselves in their home, they have to meet a heightened standard with 'stand your ground.' It's a mess. I hope we can fix it next year."

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, said it was inspired by the case of Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville, who faces 60 years in prison under Florida's 10-20-Life sentencing law for firing a warning shot in a domestic dispute.

NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer dismissed criticism from sheriffs.

"They are more interested in doing what's convenient for them as opposed to protecting the rights of the people," Hammer said.

Hammer said the Pop-Tart law "protects children from the irrational behavior of school administrators."

Another gun-related bill Scott signed (HB 523) allows people to apply for concealed weapons permits at county tax collectors' offices.

Scott also signed a bill that helps a former Arcadia man receive more than $1 million for being wrongfully incarcerated for 27 years. The bill (HB 227) removed a technicality that prevented James Richardson from seeking compensation in a case in which a babysitter later confessed to killing his seven children.

Scott also signed a bill (HB 7095) that enables pro sports franchises to compete for sales tax subsidies to pay for renovations. Three new projects will be eligible to compete for $7 million in tax breaks next year: pro soccer stadiums proposed for Miami and Orlando and Daytona International Speedway.

The jobs-minded governor said the bill will create "more jobs and opportunities for Florida families," but Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group of the Koch brothers, urged Scott to veto the bill, calling it "an irresponsible use of tax dollars" and saying that up to $200 million could be paid out over 30 years.

Scott also signed bills that require lobbyists to register at the state's five water management districts (SB 846); provide ID cards to all Florida-born inmates when they leave prison (HB 53); create new specialty license tags for fallen law enforcement officers, the Florida Sheriffs Association, Keiser University and Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center (SB 132); and rename the Florida Parole Commission the Florida Commission on Offender Review (SB 1636).

Information from Times staff writers Tia Mitchell and Kathleen McGrory and the News Service of Florida was used in this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Updated: 5 hours ago
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18