The “Florida Plan” for School Safety Should Become a National Model

Last fall, just two months before the start of the 2018 Legislative Session, the Florida Chamber of Commerce put forward the business community’s legislative recommendations designed to make Florida more competitive and help businesses create good jobs and economic opportunity for everyone.

And, while these priorities will need and deserve attention in the future, the truth is, nothing on Florida’s business agenda matters if Florida, in this new world we live in, is not doing what is needed to protect our children, and to provide them a safe place to learn, explore and grow. In the days since the Parkland tragedy, I’ve heard from business and local chamber leaders throughout Florida – each expressing concern, and urging us to unite for reasoned and positive action while balancing individual freedoms and security of our children.

In many ways, Florida is moving in the right direction. As the third largest state, Florida is creating one in every 10 new jobs in America. More than 21 million people from all walks of life call Florida home, and more than 112 million visit our great state. Florida will become a $1 trillion economy this year, and employers will create more than 180,000 jobs in 2018 – outpacing the U.S. economy in job growth for the eighth year in a row.

As you know, the bookends of the Florida Chamber’s Six Pillars for economic prosperity are education and quality of life. From championing the talent developed in our education system, to protecting Florida’s family-friendly brand, we’ve made it our business to ensure today’s learners become tomorrow’s earners, and that Florida is the best place to live, work, learn, raise a family and pursue the American dream.

Business and local chamber leaders throughout Florida are encouraging our Governor and legislative leaders to ensure Florida has the procedures and laws in place to give our children, as well as their parents, the assurances they need to learn. Frankly, nothing else matters. As parents, we also recognize that, but for the grace of God, it could have been our children.

In my view, what unites us is far greater than what divides us. From picking up the pieces after Hurricanes Andrew and Irma, to uniting after the Pulse and Parkland massacres, there are many things that make Florida a national leader.

Our character is being tested yet again as voters throughout America are waiting for politicians to put partisanship aside, and put Americans first. Right now, Florida has an opportunity to set a national example to balance quality of life, safety, and important constitutional rights.

Therefore, on behalf of employers throughout Florida, I have encouraged our state’s leaders to show our residents, employers and the nation that Florida leads regardless of the political consequences.

If members of the Florida Legislature do the right thing for our schools, for our future, and they lose an election because of it, that’s one of the most honorable things an elected leader could do. I believe Floridians will reward them for putting the long-term best interest of Florida ahead of short-term political fixes. I believe their actions, can begin to restore unity in a nation where so much polarization keeps good people from agreeing on smart reforms.

Last week I respectfully encouraged Governor Rick Scott, President Joe Negron and Speaker Richard Corcoran to pursue the following four guiding principles to better protect our most precious resources – our children and families.

  1. Expanding mental health services, improving background checks, and empowering law enforcement with the tools they need to keep our young learners safe.
  2. Hardening schools and increasing School Resource Officer staffing.
  3. Increasing the age to purchase certain long guns to 21 years of age.
  4. Ensuring accessories to convert semi-automatic guns to fully automatic status are illegal.

Additionally, toward their consideration of the guiding principles toward new or revised policies, we requested their support include appropriate investments to ensure immediate implementation.

Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature have put forth their recommendations, and those proposals are actively moving through the legislative process. You can read more about those efforts at www.FloridaChamber.com/Safety.

On behalf of Florida’s leading employers, the Florida Chamber encourages lawmakers to take action – sacrifice the day-to-day details of legislative activities and secure Florida’s future by putting the safety of our students, Florida’s global brand, individual freedoms, and the future of our diverse state first.

Our hearts and prayers remain with the families and victims of the Parkland tragedy. By putting security, common sense and Florida’s quality of life first, we can secure Florida’s future.

Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip to Headline Florida Chamber’s Board of Governors Webinar

Improving Florida’s Quality of Life…Join the Discussion and Learn How You Can Help

Florida has much to offer its current and future residents. However, Florida’s unique quality of life – the root of its family-friendly brand – is constantly under attack from special interests and other challenges. Making Florida the best place to live, work, play and raise a family means making tough choices.

Please join the Florida Chamber as we continue the discussion about Florida’s future during our Statewide Board of Governors webinar on November 20 at 2:00 p.m. EST. Joining us for this month’s webinar is:

  • Celeste Philip, M.D., M.P.H, Surgeon General and Secretary, Florida Department of Health, who will discuss Florida’s opioid crisis, and share her expert insight on the affect prosperity, health and wellness have on Florida’s economy,
  • John Fleming, Senior Consultant at North Highlands, lead researchers on the Quality of Life/Quality Places and the Civic/Governance Systems pillars for the Florida 2030 project, will provide an update on their research, and
  • Dr. Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist for the Florida Chamber Foundation, who will review the most recent jobs numbers.

The Florida Chamber is committed to fighting to keep Florida as great as it deserves to be for the families that call it home. Don’t miss this opportunity to LEARN, ENGAGE, and be a part of the SOLUTION.  Contact Greg Blose to find out how you can join the Florida Chamber’s Statewide Board of Governors for a discussion about the future of Florida’s quality of life and civic & governance systems.

The Florida Chamber Foundation has moved into “Phase 2” of Florida 2030, our two-year, $1.8 million research initiative to write Florida’s next strategic plan, and we’re inviting your management team to help us write it. We encourage you to invite members of your management team, Board of Directors, local chambers of commerce and Economic Development Councils who would benefit from this valuable discussion.

Drive the Discussion

Do you have specific information you would like covered during this conference call? Send your suggestions to Greg Blose.

Did You Know Almost 70 Percent of Florida’s Potential Water Supply is on Private Land?

With Florida’s population expected to increase by 6 million more residents in 2030, total statewide water consumption will grow to 9 billion gallons a day – a 20 percent increase over today’s demands. To meet these needs, it is imperative that Florida develop a long-term, comprehensive water plan that focuses on sustainability, economic growth and quality of life.

Approximately 10 million of Florida’s 34.7 million acres of land is owned by local, state and federal government and dedicated to conservation. Twice as much of Florida’s land, 19.4 million acres, is private land with conservation opportunity. Many of Florida’s private land owners are currently expanding their infrastructure for alternative surface water storage and investing in conservation and reuse projects that protect the state’s water supply.

“Farmers, ranchers and other private land owners are the best stewards of their land and ideal partners for conservation easements and water retention and storage projects,” said Michael Minton, Chair of the Agribusiness Industry Team at Dean, Mead, Minton & Zwemer. “By creating sustainable water conservation solutions, Florida can meet present and future consumption needs while protecting our valuable natural resources and promoting sustainable agriculture that supports the state’s economic growth.”

Get Involved

Harris’ Innovation: Keeping Floridians Safe

Education, innovation, infrastructure and quality of life are all key pillars making Florida’s business climate more competitive.

Each is essential to growing private-sector jobs, Florida’s economy, and creating greater opportunities for families and small businesses.

A stronger, more competitive Florida encourages job creators to grow and reinvest in their communities. In my experience, one great example of a good corporate citizen reinvesting in communities across Florida is Melbourne-based Harris Corp. – a Central Florida technology company employing more than 6,500 Floridians.

Each year, Harris does $230 million worth of business with Florida suppliers and contributes $1 billion to our state economy. In the last three years, Harris has donated more than $4.5 million to community and education organizations — raising more than $1 million each year for United Way and volunteering more than 300,000 hours.

And, while you and I go about our daily lives — sending our children off to school, working, taking the dog for a walk, resting — Harris’ top-of-the line communications system helps ensure we remain safe. Of the many fields for which Harris designs communication systems, the company is an important partner to Florida’s law enforcement community, providing radios and networks that ensure a lifeline for officers in the field.

While these products help protect us, they are also a contributing factor to Florida’s top-quality business climate. Why? Because businesses looking to grow and add jobs, as well as companies looking to move their company and their jobs into Florida, want to feel safe and know they can count on the protection of law enforcement, should the need arise.

Since 2000, Harris has provided technical communications services, like engineering expertise, to the State Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) – a network of communication and radios from Pensacola to Key West, as well as 7,000 state first-responders. In fact, Harris is slated to provide this technical expertise to run the SLERS system through 2021.

SLERS has been reliable through hurricanes and natural disasters, but as new technologies have emerged, law enforcement officers have said they require the newest in law enforcement communication systems. That’s where the Project 25 system, or P25, comes in. P25 is a digital network that provides increased interoperability between agencies, encrypted communications for responders and the most technologically advanced radios that allow officers to securely talk and provide each other help in dangerous situations.

Providing law enforcement tools they need now, instead of waiting until 2021, simply makes sense. Floridians want the comfort of knowing that law enforcement will have the tools they need to respond, and protect families and businesses. Waiting six years until a contract expires to upgrade law enforcement radio system technology could jeopardize both law enforcement officers in the line of duty as well as those they are protecting.

Ensuring Florida’s law enforcement community has the most innovative and up-to-date technology to protect Floridians is essential. With Harris and the P25 system, we can ensure this equipment is made in Florida – keeping Floridians employed, growing Florida’s economy and creating more opportunities for families and small businesses.

Mark Wilson is president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at mwilson@flchamber.com.