Today, the Florida Cabinet, acting in their capacity as the state’s Clemency Board, issued pardons to Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Earnest Thomas, collectively known as the Groveland Four. Senate Democratic Leader Designate Gary Farmer and Representative Bobby DuBose issue the following statements: [Read more…] about Statements from Senate Democratic Leader Designate Gary Farmer & Representative Bobby DuBose on Today’s Pardon of the Groveland Four
Senator Gary Farmer
The Bill Still Arms Teachers and Brings Guns Into Classrooms
State Senator Gary Farmer today released the following statement with the intent of clearing up a misunderstanding about the “school guardian” provision of Senate Bill 7026:
My primary concern with SB 7026, as shared by many of my Democratic colleagues, is a provision that permits teachers to carry guns in classrooms. In order to assuage this issue the Senate Republicans proposed an amendment that appeared to exclude teachers from the program. In reality however, this restriction is nothing more than window dressing. Instead of removing guns from classrooms, this amendment simply provides an illusionary limitation on the class of teachers who may carry, and provides for numerous exceptions to that rule.
The amendment language states that the limitation only applies to teachers that “exclusively perform classroom duties.” This means that if a teacher performs any additional service on behalf of the school he/she will be allowed to carry a gun into a classroom. If a teacher is also a coach, or the moderator of a club, as is often the case, they would be allowed to carry a firearm at a school.
The exclusion is also narrowly tailored in a manner that fails to cover many individuals that will be interacting with students in classrooms every day. The exemption only covers 1 out of 5 categories of instructional personnel at our schools. Under the current bill language school counselors, psychologists, librarians, cafeteria workers, learning specialists, adjunct educators, and physical education teachers will all be allowed to carry guns at our children’s schools.
Many reports from both national and local media outlets represent the Senate version of SB 7026 as stripped of the controversial classroom carry provisions. This is simply not the case. Those who believe the Senate adequately addressed this point in yesterday’s amendment are mistaken.
While I support some of the better features of this bill, such as restrictions on firearm purchases for those under the age of 21, the ban on bump stocks, additional mental health funding, and school hardening, I will be unable to support this legislation as long as it allows civilians to be armed in the presence of our children. If these provisions remain in the final version of the bill, I urge the Governor to exercise his veto authority, and to call a special session to address this issue in a more responsible manner. I would be happy to return to the Capitol this summer if it means bringing forward a plan that will both keep our children safe by preventing more guns from entering our schools, while addressing the long overdue issue of gun safety.
Senator Farmer this morning filed SB 726, a bill to legalize the smoking of marijuana for medical use. While Floridians successfully amended the State’s constitution (Amendment 2) in November of 2016 to allow for the use of medical marijuana, the Governor and the legislature specifically excluded the smoking of marijuana as a valid medical use in statutes written to implement the Amendment. This decision has been widely criticized as a violation of the Amendment’s intent. The text of Amendment 2 made it clear to the 71% of Floridians who voted for it that the smoking of marijuana in private for medical purposes would be constitutionally guaranteed.
SB 726 would attempt to reconcile the State’s statutes with the mandate established by the voters, and enshrined in the Florida Constitution.
“Each and every legislator including myself swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the State of Florida. An overwhelming majority of voters ratified Amendment 2, and its intent could not be more clear: to allow for the use of medical marijuana, including smoking. The fact that the text of the Amendment specifically disallowed the smoking of marijuana in public places indicates that a patient should be allowed to do so elsewhere. With the passage of the implementation language last session, we as a legislature failed to uphold our oath to defend the State’s Constitution. We owe it to the people of Florida to fix this mistake,” said Senator Farmer about allowing the smoking of medical marijuana.
Senator Farmer believes that this bill is especially necessary in the face of the growing opioid crisis. “The passage of this bill (SB 726) is required now more than ever,” Senator Farmer said. “Right now when a patient is faced with chronic pain and other pain inducing ailments, doctors have limited options available to them as to how to help provide relief for their patients. We need to make sure that our medical professionals are equipped with a full range of options to care for their patients’ needs, while not subjecting them to the horrifying possibilities that can result from the prescription of opioid-based medications. We know that the best delivery method for medical marijuana can vary depending on the patient and the circumstances involved. It makes sense for us to allow doctors and patients to find the best treatment plans on an individual basis. It is not for the legislature to determine treatment the proper plans for our citizens.”
Senator Farmer hopes to see bipartisan support for SB 726, as it will both adequately reflect the mandate of Florida’s Constitution and provide Floridians with the best possible healthcare.
Senator Gary M. Farmer, Jr. (D-Fort Lauderdale) on Thursday issued the following statement regarding the heartless remarks recently made by Senator Dennis Baxley:
“Words cannot express how disappointed I am in my colleague’s rationalization of the events in the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills. To mitigate the impact of their deaths by suggesting their inevitability is simply wrong.
“We cannot condone death as a cost of doing business in the State of Florida. Our charge as a Legislative body is to do anything and everything we can to prevent tragedies like these from occurring or repeating themselves. Anything short of that is irresponsible and unacceptable.
“That is why I plan on introducing legislation that will go a long way toward preventing similar tragedies in the future. Ensuring access to life-saving temperatures, reviewing our oversight procedures and personnel, and providing accountability where there is none are just a few of the solutions that I will raise in this coming Session.
“I look forward to debating these issues when the time for a bill hearing comes. For now, it is my hope that Senator Baxley apologizes to the families and friends of the deceased, as well as the countless other nursing home and assisted living facility patients across our State. I ask Senator Baxley and my fellow Senators to join me in taking steps to ensure another tragedy like this never happens in the state of Florida. We owe them more than an abrupt dismissal. We owe them the dignity they were due.”
Senator Gary Farmer has submitted two bills to decrease unfair discrimination in the sale of auto insurance, and to reduce premiums for consumers across the state.
Senate Bill 414 would ban the use of credit scores as a determining factor in calculating auto insurance premiums. Currently, insurers are permitted to use a customer’s credit history as a justification for higher insurance rates. According to Consumer Reports, drivers with poor credit scores face an additional $1,301 in auto insurance premiums on average. The use of credit scores as a determining factor for auto insurance rates has been found to disproportionately affect minority populations, with African American and non-white Hispanic policyholders often paying higher premiums, and is not a reliable indicator for increased risk. “This is a common sense bill that would prevent responsible drivers from being penalized for financial situations which are wholly unrelated to their conduct on the road. Right now the system is rigged to unfairly force higher premiums on those who can least afford them,” said Senator Farmer on SB 414. Massachusetts, California, and Hawaii have all implemented similar statutes.
In addition to SB 414, Senator Farmer also filed Senate Bill 410, also dealing with auto insurance. SB 410 would prohibit the use of zip codes as a determining factor in calculating auto insurance premiums. A recent study by ProPublica determined that the use of zip codes in auto insurance rates have had an unfair impact on premiums for those living in urban areas, and particularly on minority and elderly communities. Currently, drivers with the same driving records and level of risk can be charged drastically different premiums simply because of the neighborhood in which they reside. “While Florida’s statutes contain language which purports is meant to prevent the use of zip codes in auto insurance from being unfairly discriminatory, what we have found is that their use is de facto discriminatory by nature and needs to be banned. Our minority communities are being adversely affected by our current statutes, so a change needs to be made,” Senator Farmer said about SB 410.
Senator Farmer hopes to see this issue addressed in the upcoming legislative session, as Floridians across the state struggle to keep up with high and often unfair insurance premiums.
On the 16th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and following Hurricane Irma
16 years ago our country suffered a devastating attack that was felt the world over. Today we remember that what makes us stronger as Americans is our dogged persistence, even in the face of hatred and bigotry, to our founding principles of tolerance and love for our fellow man.
It is in our response to adversity that our character is truly revealed. On September 11, 2001 we saw the character of America, and it was one of which we could be proud. Once again, today we are faced with adversity, this time in the form of a devastating hurricane. Much like on the fateful day of 9/11 we have seen our first responders put others first in an effort to secure the safety of our communities. We have seen an outpouring of support from fellow Floridians and our friends in states across the country. On a day when we remember the sacrifices of those who choose to run into burning buildings, we could not have a better example to look upon than the brave men and women who are actively supporting us now, from far and wide.
Today, recall the amazing work that our police, fire, EMT’s, and national guardsmen do for us each and every day. Remember that there are those who forgo personal safety for the benefit of others. Thank you to our first responders.
As we remember this solemn moment in America’s recent history, I wish you all a path to swift recovery.
-Senator Gary M. Farmer, Jr.