TALLAHASSEE — As committees begin to wrap up their efforts just past the midway point in the legislative session, Sen. Tom Lee conceded the Senate’s effort to impose stricter gun regulations has stalled.
Senate President Bill Galvano earlier in the session called the gun legislation one of his chamber’s priorities. But with House Speaker Jos Oliva — and Gov. Ron DeSantis — balking at any perceived slights to the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment, the proposal appears doomed.
The measure (SB 7028), sponsored by Lee, would close the gun-show “loophole,” create a record-keeping system for private gun sales and set aside $5 million to establish a “statewide strategy for violence prevention,” among other things.
The measure would also expand the state’s “red-flag law,” which was included in a wide-ranging package passed shortly after the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Criticizing the Senate plan last month as unnecessary, Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, warned “we have to be very careful when we once again look to trample on people’s constitutional rights.”
With the bill facing a vetting by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has a final meeting scheduled next week, “all of the common-sense gun legislation is going to be very difficult to pass procedurally,” Lee told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday.
“There’s just not a lot of bills floating around that are germane to that subject area that you could amend by committees, by design,” the Thonotosassa Republican added. “This is not the kind of piece of legislation that you want to bring up on the (Senate) floor in a bizarre kind of twist.”
Galvano, R-Bradenton, “has got to make certain decisions about whether or not we have a dance partner” with the House, Lee, a former Senate president, said.
“And if not, do we want to fulfill our commitment to move something, pursuant to those early statements, or do we want to defer to the House or the governor. Nobody wants to hotbox the governor,” he said.
It’s still possible to include a provision in the budget that would cement the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s power to pursue a statewide threat assessment tool, Lee said.
“We could land that,” he said. But as for the gun-control measures, he said, “I think it’s kind of starting to get late.”
Insurance in the summertime?
Is it wise to write off an election-year special session? Particularly one on insurance?
Galvano isn’t dismissing the warnings of Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who has been outspoken about problems in the property-insurance industry.
“I’ve heard that there are looming issues and that there are problems with reinsurance, and they may come to fruition,” Galvano said Wednesday. “I hope that’s not the case. It depends if they do, what the magnitude is. And if it requires us to take some action in the future, we should be prepared to do that.”
Brandes said this week reforms are needed, particularly in property insurance, and that they could require a special session if not addressed before the March 13 end of the regular session.
“I think the insurance market in many ways, it has the coronavirus and is not healthy at all,” he said Tuesday during a Banking and Insurance Committee meeting. “As we’ve seen a variety of companies go under in 2019 largely because of roof claims or other lawsuits. We’re seeing a rapid increase in the amount of litigation going on. And understand we had no storms in 2019. We’ve also seen insurers file for a number of rate increases. We’ve had rate increases between 22% and a 40% or 45% have been filed and have had rate hearings in the last few weeks. So, I think it’s important to notice that the market is not healthy at all, and it is struggling to find its footing in this space.”
Last month, for example, the Office of Insurance Regulation approved a 21.9% rate increase proposed by Edison Insurance Co. for homeowners, according to the agency.