Florida lawmakers head into their final day of the 2018 legislative session with work still to be done and questions waiting to be answered.
While Friday marks the 60th and what is supposed to be the final day for the Legislature, the fact they weren’t able to reach a budget agreement until Thursday meant the session had to be extended until Sunday to accommodate the 72-hour waiting period for voting on the spending plan. Lawmakers will return to the Capitol at 3 p.m. Sunday to approve the budget.
Lawmakers will actually debate the budget today so that all they will have to do Sunday is vote on the plan. They will also spend today trying to tie up loose ends on numerous bills.
A lot of the focus in Tallahassee today will also be on Gov. Rick Scott who is expected to make a decision on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act that lawmakers approved earlier this week. Scott is scheduled to meet with family members of the victims from the school shootings in Parkland before he announces his decision. His schedule sets aside an hour to meet with the media at which time he will make his announcement.
Various legislative leaders have indicated Scott will sign the bill. One senator who worked with Parkland students to lobby for passage of the bill told Politico that the governor will sign the measure.
State Sen. Lauren Book, a Broward County Democrat who helped organize and pay for Stoneman Douglas students to travel to Tallahassee to meet legislators, said she was being told on good authority that the Republican governor is “going to sign it. That’s my understanding.”
The school safety package totals $400 million dollars to harden school facilities to make them safer and to hire additional school resource officers. The bill would also improve mental health services.
It would also gun laws, including the establishment of a three-day waiting period on gun sales, raising the minimum age 21 for buying any firearm in Florida, and banning the sale of bump stocks.
The bill also would allow law enforcement to seize firearms of anyone being held under the state’s Baker Act. Authorities could hold those firearms for up to 24 hours and longer if they obtain a court order.
The main area of contention for lawmakers during the school safety debate was a $67 million guardian program that would allow certain school personnel who are specially trained and certified by law enforcement to carry concealed weapons on campus to help protect students in the event of an active shooter. Critics argued the measure saying it will put more guns in schools.
Scott had said he would oppose any school safety legislation that would call for the arming of teachers. The legislative proposal originally applied to all teachers, but the Senate voted on Monday to exclude classroom teachers from the so-called “marshal program.” It’s believed the changes addressed Scott’s concerns.