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Drum roll: Top lawmaker predicts governor will sign Parkland bill Friday

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he believes Gov. Scott will sign the bill that imposes new restrictions on guns and an optional program to arm school staff.
Gov. Rick Scott MONICA HERNDON | Times
Gov. Rick Scott MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published Mar. 9, 2018
Updated Mar. 9, 2018

A top lawmaker said he believes that Gov. Rick Scott will sign the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act into law Friday.

Incoming Senate President Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said Thursday that because of the changes the Senate made to modify the school safety proposal, Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the bill, SB 7026, after meeting with parents.

"The changes we made were significant to him," Galvano said of the amendment that removed most classroom teachers from the proposal to arm school personnel, called the "guardian" program.

Scott has not revealed his intentions when asked about the bill, but he had repeatedly said he was against "arming teachers." And the Times/Herald has learned that Scott has invited the families of the 17 people killed in Parkland to be present in Tallahassee an event Friday.

"I'm going to review the bill line by line, and the group that I'm going to be talking to, the group that I care the most about because it impacted them so much, is the families," he said Wednesday.

In addition to the guardian program, the bill also raises the age to purchase all firearms to 21, creates a three-day waiting period when buying a gun, creates a way for police to temporarily take away guns from the mentally ill and pays for measures like bulletproof glass and metal detectors at schools.

Scott can only veto bills in their entirety, and he has voiced support for other parts of the bill.

However, he can veto line items in the state's budget, prompting speculation that he could later veto the $67 million for the guardian program, which is optional for each district.

Asked if he'd consider vetoing that item, Scott only said: "I'm going to make all these decisions after I read the bill, after I talk to parents."

Some of the chief opponents of the funding aspect of the bill have been Florida's sheriffs, who say the money for school resource officers is woefully low while there is far too much money in the guardian program. Most of the state's largest districts have said they will opt-out of arming staff.

"I have had discussions with him (Scott) and … he is aware of it and understands the situation we're in, " said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, a leader in the Florida Sheriffs Association. "We're in a very tough spot with this because we're charged with implementing what they've done and they've implemented something not adequately funded."

However, Gualtieri said he did not encourage Scott to veto the bill or the specific line item in the budget. He said schools need law enforcement on every campus and a veto to the guardian program would not increase the $97 million currently set aside to hire more school resource officers.

Check back with the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald for updates.