The “Florida Plan” for School Safety Should Become a National Model
By: Mark Wilson
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.
- Expanding mental health services, improving background checks, and empowering law enforcement with the tools they need to keep our young learners safe.
- Hardening schools and increasing School Resource Officer staffing.
- Increasing the age to purchase certain long guns to 21 years of age.
- 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.