Rep. Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens, debates the House congressional districts map amendment on the House floor during Special Session B of the Legislature, August 20, 2015.
PHOTO COURTESY OF STATE LEGISLATURE
By MICHELLE HOLLINGER
Lawmakers passed an $88.7 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. After extending the session by two days to finish the spending plan, the House and Senate agreed on 195 bills, four resolutions and one resolution-like “memorial.”
The session also included the passing of a firearms bill that many Democrats call “watered down” and “half-hearted,” because it did not include a ban on assault rifles and allows teachers to carry weapons. There are additional concerns that weapons training facilities where teachers and marshals will be trained are owned by members of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
State Representative Barbara Watson pointed out that an existing bill, one she co-sponsored in 2013, has stronger, clearer language regarding how mentally ill people are handled as it relates to their ability to purchase firearms.
In the bill, CS/CS/HB 1355, which was signed by Governor Scott on June 28, 2013 and implemented that year, mentally ill people who have been Baker Acted, must appear before a judge or magistrate, are brought to the attention of the FDLE and are not allowed to purchase guns anywhere throughout the nation.
“The governor’s bill doesn’t require you go before a judge or magistrate, it says judge only. Because many communities do not have judges, they only have a magistrate, that language should be added back. I tried. They refused to accept any Democrat amendment. It was crucial, my amendment would make the bill stronger,” Watson added.
“Our governor has strictly undermined a Democratic bill to capture it and call it his own,” she said of the 2018 legislation Scott signed into law as a result of students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School protesting and demanding action following the Valentine’s Day mass shooting by one who used an assault weapon to kill 17 students and teachers.
Scott, who says he’s a member of the NRA, on March 9, signed a $400 million package that allows trained employees to bring guns to schools. The package also raises the minimum age to 21 and imposes a three-day waiting period for people buying rifles and other long guns.
The NRA has filed suit challenging the age restriction.
Several Parkland students criticized the governor for his grandstanding and double talk.
“You said you were against teachers being armed. We told you we were against it. So why didn’t you stop that part,” tweeted student Aly Sheehy Friday, referring to Scott. “Don’t stand there and say you disagree with it when you hold the power to put an end to it.”
Cameron Kasky, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper early Saturday, “Gov. Scott is trying to look like he’s taking a step in the opposite of the direction of the NRA, but we know that’s not really going to happen.”
Kasky’s classmate, David Hogg tweeted, “(Scott and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio) are STILL taking money from the NRA. The only reason they took action is because we did.”