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Backroom Briefing: NRA Takes Aim at SWFWMD

February 11, 2016 - 11:00pm
Marion Hammer
Marion Hammer

The governor's office and the attorney general's office have tried to distance themselves from a growing showdown between the National Rifle Association and one of the state's water management districts.

Influential NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer on Tuesday asked Gov. Rick Scott to "abolish" the Southwest Florida Water Management District and asked Attorney General Pam Bondi to investigate the state agency for allegedly violating a 2004 law as it seeks to enforce an agreement involving Skyway Trap & Skeet Club in Pinellas Park.
Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said any investigation would have to come from the local State Attorney's Office in Pinellas County.
Also, Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said, "We are confident water management board members and the NRA can work together on a solution that is good for everyone.”
Asked about the governor's response, Hammer said, "With Gov. Scott being a smart businessman as well as strong supporter of the Constitution and Second Amendment rights, I'm sure he understands that it is not the role of a state agency to bankrupt or destroy a small private business or to violate the Second Amendment rights of citizens who use that facility." 
Hammer called Ray's response a "punt."
"When somebody doesn't want to do their job they try to pawn it off on somebody else," Hammer said in an email. "We're talking about a state agency misusing tax dollars and violating the law."
Hammer contends the district has violated a 2004 state law that prohibits water management districts from suing gun ranges.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the district took the gun club to court last year over a separate 2004 agreement in which Skyway Trap was expected to put up a barrier to block bullets from going into the nearby district-owned Sawgrass Lake Park. No barrier has gone up and last month the district, which has not replied to a request for comment, got a judge to put a hold on shooting at the club.
The Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market is the latest company that wants to break down the wall --- an effort to undo Florida's 80-year-old law requiring liquor stores and bars to be separated from other retail goods.
However, as the 60-day legislative session crossed its halfway point this week, there has been no indication that the heavily lobbied proposal (HB 245 and SB 420) --- opposed by Lakeland-based Publix --- will advance this year.
The House measure hasn't moved since being temporarily postponed before a vote could be taken by the House Business and Professions Subcommittee in November. The Senate version hasn't gotten that far.

Still, supporters of changing the law aren't giving up.

A coalition backing the effort, "Floridians for Fair Business Practices," continues to remind the media about the issue and this week announced that the natural and organic grocer Whole Foods has joined its ranks alongside Target, Wal-Mart, the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

A coalition standing with Publix in opposition to ending the state law is called "Florida Businesses Unite." It includes ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, the Florida Independent Spirits Association and a number of small liquor stores throughout the state.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, now in the crosshairs of Second Amendment advocates, wants assurances a controversial open-carry gun bill won't become a vehicle for "bad things" if he brings the issue before his committee.

The proposal, already approved by the House, would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry firearms.

Diaz de la Portilla, noting that the open-carry measure (SB 300) is "hanging by a thread," expressed concerns on multiple occasions this week about an amendment that was added to the House-approved version (HB 163). The amendment would allow lawmakers with concealed-weapons licenses to bring their guns into legislative meetings.
"I don't think that would be a good idea," Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, said of the amendment he called "legislator-carry."
Diaz de la Portilla, shrugging off critics, also doesn't want open-carry to result in "cowboy scenarios" in large urban centers.
His stance on open-carry, along his decision to stop a measure (SB 68) that would allow concealed-weapons license holders to carry guns on state university and college campuses, has made him a target of the groups Florida Carry and Florida Students for Concealed Carry.
Florida Carry, in an email to members Wednesday, said Diaz de la Portilla had refused to listen to Florida State University student and campus rape survivor Shayna Lopez-Rivas --- who has addressed several committees this year --- and other gun-rights advocates.
"Senator Diaz de la Portilla refuses to hear any of it. Why? Only he knows for sure, but one thing is certain --- he is NOT listening to the people, but to the anti-gun special interest groups like the Florida Sheriffs Association and the League of Women Voters, who couldn't care less about personal protection from on campus crime and who would just as soon see you defenseless anywhere you might happen to be," Florida Carry said in the email.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: "I'm thankful for the past 44 years with @FLAnnScott and our wonderful family." Gov. Rick Scott @FLGovScott noting the birthday of First Lady Ann Scott on Thursday.


Worse yet, until 1987 we used to be an open carry state. Janet Reno at that time along with short-sited politicians allowed the unrestricted right to carry openly to be removed for the conceal-carry "license" (privilege). In Florida we have no Second Amendment until the day that we can open or conceal-carry without permission from government. Open carry if this passes will still require the conceal-carry license. Until the day we have Constitutional carry--it is no right here, but a mere privilege. Florida Carry must take this to the Florida Supreme Court even if "open carry" passes.

45 states already have Open Carry! That's FOUR FIVE!! Why not Florida? Because of one man! Senator Diaz de LA Portilla!

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