State Sen. Dennis Baxley finds himself in a position many conservative lawmakers find themselves the day before the Senate and House are both scheduled to debate their respective school safety packages.
While they support much of what is in the legislation, they have concerns about the gun control measures included in the packages, including the establishment of a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases and prohibiting anyone under 21 from buying any type of firearm.
“I’ve never voted for those types of restrictions and I still have a problem with it,” said Baxley, R-Ocala. “But, 99 percent of that bill is a fantastic response.”
Conservatives say there is much in the bill that they can support–funds for mental-health services in schools, resources to “harden” schools and add more school resource officers.
When asked if he would support the Senate plan, Baxley insists he doesn’t know.
“I’m still on the fence,” Baxley added. “It’s a wonderful proposal. The problem is, for me, there are some provisions in there restricting people’s ability on their freedom to be responsible for themselves. As I deal with that, I’ll know where I’ll land.”
The difficult decision facing Baxley is one that many of his colleagues in the House are also dealing with and that is posing a problem for House Speaker Richard Corcoran who has a record of getting what he wants, but is having trouble getting the votes to pass the legislation.
Asked if he has the votes, Corcoran did not predict victory. He told the Times/Herald: “When you have a crisis like this … I find it hard to believe that the House, Senate and the governor can’t come to an agreement and have the votes to pass it.”
Corcoran needs 59 votes in the House to pass the bill. There are 76 Republicans in the Senate, but there are many who share the same concerns as Baxley.
Some Democrats say the school safety legislation is in trouble in the House. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, says if the bill fails he’s prepared to be called back for a special session to deal with school safety.
“Here’s the feeling that I get, this is just my personal opinion,” Moskowitz said. “Should the bill fail, we’ll be here for special session.”
“This is always an atmosphere where I’m reluctant to predict what might happen. It’s a very dynamic process,” Baxley said. “This is how 20 million people have a discussion”