Hello and welcome to Thursday.
D.C. dysfunction— A tussle over a modest school safety bill — backed and co-sponsored by Sen. Rick Scott — and named after two of the victims of the Parkland shooting morphed to a bitter exchange between Scott, other Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Tussle— In the aftermath of this week’s horrific school shooting in Texas, Scott and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to ask that the Senate take up legislation that would codify a federal clearinghouse for school safety practices. Schumer objected, contending it was not “a sufficient solution” and that “hardening schools” would not have prevented the killings of children in Ulvalde, Texas. His objection came shortly after he criticized Republicans for offering “thoughts and prayers” instead of backing “common sense” legislation after a long line of shootings.
Exchange — Schumer also contended that the legislation would somehow lead to “more guns in schools” and took to Twitter to repeat that assessment. That sparked a fierce response from both Scott, who as governor signed into law a bill that raised the age to purchase guns to 21, and Johnson. Scott on Twitter: “This was a bill I worked on with the parents of Parkland victims. It’s named after them. You’re a liar and a hack.” Johnson himself responded that “Dems aren’t looking for solutions, they want wedge issues that they hope will keep them in power. Sick.”
Also weighing in— Max Schachter, whose son was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, also weighed in: “21 people were murdered yesterday. Today you objected to passing the Luke & Alex School Safety Act named after my son was murdered in Parkland. The bill will save kids lives. Let’s meet to work together to prevent the next Uvalde and Parkland.” Scott added onto this by saying Schumer should meet with Schachter to explain why he blocked the bill and is “lying about it now.”
Just another day— The Senate is expected to take up legislation in the aftermath of the shootings in Buffalo and Texas — measures that will most likely fail — but the exchanges between the Democratic and Republican senators are also a prime example of the divide and paralysis that appears to be acceptable in D.C. There’s a chance Schumer would wrap the language from Scott and Johnson into a larger, more comprehensive legislative package. And yes, there is a political element to all of this. Johnson is on the ballot this year and Scott leads the group trying to win back the Senate for the GOP so Schumer in some way denied a small political victory to them. But to what end?
— WHERE’S RON? — Nothing official announced for Gov. DeSantis.
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STATUS QUO — “‘Not expecting much to change.’ Gun control bills ignored in Florida, ‘constitutional carry’ still in play,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Skyler Swisher and Jeffrey Schweers: “The Texas elementary school massacre is putting new scrutiny on a proposal to allow Floridians to carry handguns without a permit, a measure Gov. Ron DeSantis has promised to sign before he leaves office. Gun control advocates don’t expect the Republican-led Florida Legislature to back off its pro-gun stance, even as the nation’s attention is gripped by yet another horrific mass shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.”
‘WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENED’ — “Texas school shooting invades trial of Parkland murderer,” by The Associated Press’ Terry Spencer: “The mass shooting at a Texas elementary school invaded the penalty trial of Florida’s campus killer Wednesday as lawyers argued over whether potential jurors should be questioned directly about the nation’s latest gun tragedy and a victim’s father was brought nearly to tears. Attorneys for Parkland, Florida, killer Nikolas Cruz clashed with his prosecutors, saying they should be allowed to ask potential jurors directly about their knowledge and feelings about the Uvalde, Texas, shootings that left 19 students and two teachers dead on Tuesday.”
ALLIES — “Republicans pledge allegiance to a hobbled NRA,” by POLITICO’s David Siders and Olivia Beavers: Despite being weakened by financial difficulties and infighting, the National Rifle Association’s membership is a critical constituency to conservative politicians, and the event in Houston — less than 300 miles from the site of the mass shooting in Uvalde — a measure of its longstanding ties to the GOP. The timing was inconsequential. “Fuck them,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in 2018. “Fuck all of them. Our kids are dying in record numbers, and it is because of them.”
‘IT’S TERRIBLE’ — “‘I’m in physical pain with what they’re going through.’ Parkland families react to Texas massacre,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Scott Travis and Susannah Bryan: “Parkland families have become spokespeople for a cause they didn’t sign up for. The family members of the 17 students and employees who died at the shooting on Feb. 14, 2018, became experts on school violence. They’re part of a small group that know the exact horror families are facing at Robb Elementary in Ulvade, Texas.
— “Fred Guttenberg on grief and guns,” by POLITICO’s Sam Stein, Max Tani and Alex Thompson
LOOK AT ME — “Randy Fine ‘warns’ Biden in posts that critics say that threaten President after school shooting,” by Florida Today’s Eric Rogers: “Florida House Rep. Randy Fine Wednesday sparked controversy and widespread media coverage once again with a pair of social media posts that critics say amounted to threats against President Joe Biden. ‘I have news for the embarrassment that claims to be our President — try to take our guns and you’ll learn why the Second Amendment was written in the first place,’ Fine wrote in a Twitter post Wednesday morning. A nearly identical post on Facebook referred to Biden as ‘Traitor Joe.’”
TV eye— Let’s note for a moment that Fine himself voted for gun restrictions after the Parkland massacre that are still being challenged by the National Rifle Association. His ensuing tweet did garner a lot of attention – including from a large contingent of media that had traveled to Tallahassee for the special session.
Explanation — Fine – who once explained to Democrats that the GOP passes bills that they don’t like “because we can” – told a throng of television reporters that it was Democrats who “politicize” gun shootings and “make these outrageous statements” and then tell GOP leaders to be quite in the “name of unity.” He said Republicans are “done with that” and won’t “stay silent.”
OVER AND OUT— “House sends property insurance reform to DeSantis’ desk,” by POLITICO’s Matt Dixon: The Florida House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a property insurance reform bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis, a move that comes after lawmakers failed to address the state’s ailing markets during the 2022 regular session. In each committee stop and floor session during the three-day special session, lawmakers from both parties conceded the bill was an imperfect solution but overwhelming majorities in both chambers signed off on the plan, which focuses on cracking down on roof fraud, pushing through controversial legal reforms, spending $150 million for home-hardening grants and creating a $2 billion reinsurance fund.
P.O.V. — House Democrats, even some who eventually supported the bill, used a more than five hour floor session to focus on a message that the bill was a “giveaway” to insurance companies for the new reinsurance fund, which allows insurance companies that take part to recoup loses from a hurricane faster in return for lowering rates by the end of June. “Everyone up front,” said Rep. Michael Grieco (D-Miami Beach), referring to Republicans who sit in the front of the House chamber. “I follow everyone on Twitter, and watched your campaign promises about corporate welfare and the free market. If you vote for this bill, you are voting for corporate welfare,” he added.
ALSO INCLUDED— “Florida lawmakers pass insurance bills with $10,000 for home upgrades,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Lawrence Mower: “State lawmakers are reviving a 16-year-old state program that could give homeowners up to $10,000 to harden their homes, an attempt, legislators hope, to curb skyrocketing homeowners’ insurance rates. While the program, known as My Safe Florida Home, could help thousands of homeowners get free home inspections and money to replace their windows, doors and roofs, it’s unlikely to make a significant dent in rapidly rising rate increases for the vast majority of Floridians. The program’s past iteration was troubled during its two-year stint, and lawmakers this year are giving it 40% less money than they did in 2006, when the state was experiencing another property insurance crisis triggered by a series of hurricanes.”
— “Florida lawmakers deliver home insurance reforms sought by DeSantis. Will they work?” by Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Zac Anderson and USA Today Network-Florida’s Jason Delgado:
FINISH LINE — “Condo safety bill clears Legislature, heads to governor’s desk,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Ron Hurtibise: “Aging high-rise condos will have to undergo safety inspections while condo boards will have to save money for structural repairs if the governor signs a new condo safety bill that cleared the Legislature on Wednesday. The bill is meant to prevent another catastrophe like last year’s collapse of the Champlain Tower South in Surfside, which killed 98 people.”
— “Five things to know about the Florida Legislature’s proposed condominium reforms,” by Miami Herald’s Ana Ceballos
WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET?— “Billionaires flocking to Ron DeSantis as he courts economic elites despite Disney spat,” by USA Today Network-Florida’s Zac Anderson: “An astounding level of wealth is lined up behind Gov. Ron DeSantis as he seeks reelection, with at least 42 billionaires and members of billionaire families worth a combined $275 billion contributing to the governor, a vast campaign money supply that he may be able to tap repeatedly in 2022 and beyond. Political experts say that level of billionaire support in a governor’s race is remarkable, and speaks to his star power within the GOP.”
DROPPING IN — “Congressional panel goes to Tallahassee to ask about DeSantis’ ‘election police,’” by News Service of Florida’s Dara Kam: “A congressional panel probing changes to elections laws across the country held a hearing Wednesday in Tallahassee, illustrating a partisan divide over voting-related measures pushed in Republican-led states such as Florida. The U.S. House Administration Subcommittee on Elections heard testimony from elections experts critical of voting restrictions passed by the Florida Legislature over the past two years. The subcommittee also heard from Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Christopher Anderson, who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019.”
MEANWHILE — “Donald Trump recalibrates his standing in GOP after primary defeats,” by Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer and Ashley Parker: “But privately, his team increasingly expects Republican challengers — potentially including [Gov. Ron] DeSantis, Pence, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, along with others — to come after him in 2024. Among his advisers’ biggest concerns, though, is that DeSantis, who has dominated chatter among Republican operatives and donors, takes Trump on. ‘My guess is a lot of people run against him,’ said Tony Fabrizio, his longtime pollster, if Trump announces he’s running.”
— “‘Ghost’ candidate Jestine Iannotti booked into Seminole jail, bonds out,” by Orlando Sentinel’s Jeff Weiner
— “Broward lawmaker Anika Omphroy running for Congress,” by South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Anthony Man
WHAT’S GOING ON?— “How FEMA helps white and rich Americans escape floods,” by POLITICO’s E&E News’ Thomas Frank: FEMA has allocated billions of dollars of flood-mitigation money using a racially inequitable system that has favored saving flood-prone houses in rich areas or in communities that are almost entirely white, using costly projects that elevate the homes above flood levels, an investigation by POLITICO’s E&E News shows.
‘REAL DEAL’— In Florida, Iris Eisenberg was facing annual premiums of nearly $20,000 after her Jacksonville home flooded several times in the late 2000s. She collected roughly $75,000 in claims payments. Then Eisenberg, a pediatrician, got $453,304 from FEMA to elevate her four-bedroom, Mediterranean-style house in a historic district along the St. Johns River. Eisenberg paid 10 percent of the project cost, or $50,367. When the elevation was finished in 2014, Eisenberg’s insurance premium dropped to $800 a year. “I invested $50,000 and got $500,000 back,” Eisenberg said, estimating her long-term savings on insurance. “On my side, that’s the real deal. But on the taxpayer’s side, it’s like WTF?”
CC: SPEAKER SPROWLS — “Remote learning apps used in schools tracked kids’ data without their knowledge, report says,” by Miami Herald’s Sommer Brugal: “Miami-Dade County Schools, for example, switched from in-person learning to fully remote learning in a two-week time frame that overlapped with spring break, offering what many thought would be a temporary fix. But many of the same platforms used to support teaching during what turned out to be nearly two years of at-home learning tracked students without their knowledge and shared that data with big tech companies like Facebook and Google, which could monetize the students’ information by selling ads to companies that targeted the children, according to a newly released report by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.”
‘EXODUS’— “The biggest wave of Cuban migrants arriving in U.S. since 1980 is driving policy changes,” by El Nuevo Herald’s Nora Gámez Torres: “About 115,000 Cubans — more than one percent of the island’s population — have left their homeland fleeing poverty and repression and reached the U.S. in the past seven months, a mass migration wave on a scale not seen in four decades that has prompted recent changes in U.S. policy and provided the Cuban government an escape valve following unprecedented protests last year.”
CHARGED — “Feds say one-time West Palm Beach candidate bilked $816K from small business loan program,” by Palm Beach Post’s Jane Musgrave: “A former West Palm Beach city commission candidate with ties to Gov. Ron DeSantis has been accused of bilking federal small business loan programs out of more than $800,000. Sean Pierre Jackson, 33, who used his platform as chairman of the Black Republican Caucus of Florida to defend DeSantis against accusations of racism, filed false applications to get loans intended to help businesses hurt by COVID-19 closures or natural disasters. He faces a maximum 20-year sentence if convicted of wire fraud.”
GENTLE GIANTS— “Florida wildlife officials say some manatee food growing,” by The Associated Press’ Curt Anderson: “Wildlife officials working to prevent threatened Florida manatees from starving to death say they’re encouraged that some of the marine mammals’ favorite food is growing naturally in a key area. Seagrasses have been found growing recently in small areas of the Indian River Lagoon along Florida’s east coast where chronic pollution has wiped out much of it, officials said on a Wednesday conference call.”
— “53% of Florida third-graders passed the state’s reading test this year,” by Tampa Bay Times’ Jeffrey S. Solochek
— “Voters choose to name Florida park after Gov. DeSantis after candidate’s email push,” by Bradenton Herald’s Ryan Callihan
— “With COVID surging, South Florida braces for ‘the busiest Memorial Day weekend ever,’” by Miami Herald’s Daniel Chang: “Record numbers of visitors are expected in South Florida for Memorial Day weekend at the same time that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning about rising COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions in the region — casting a pandemic cloud over what is typically a raucous start to the summer season.”
BIRTHDAYS: Former Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.)