Florida’s public college presidents are putting the final touches on their legislative wish list. And they’re betting on a controversial campus carry gun bill to go down in flames.
The Colleges want $80 million for workforce programs. College of Central Florida President Jim Henningson says local hospitals are “banging on the door” for his school to expand in order to fill workforce demands in the healthcare industry:
“Not being able to meet that demand, because our price point is so low, we don’t have the investment dollars. Without some sort of capacity expansion, our hospitals are just frustrated, and I am too," he told colleagues during a Thursday conference call.
Meanwhile, recent shootings at colleges and universities have campus presidents worried. They’re asking lawmakers for $74 million to expand safety programs, including hiring more officers and equipment. The figure was based on the question of how much it would cost schools to increase safety if a bill allowing guns at colleges and universities were to pass. But now presidents say the money is necessary to defend schools in active-shooter situations.
“I think the change in the argument is that it’s not related to the gun bill, its related to what we think we have to do to minimize damages as it relates to the whole, new world that we live in and the potential for active shooters," said State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota President Carol Probstfeld.
Presidents are hoping the bill stalls out in the Florida Senate, just as it did last year.
“We believe right now the bill is stalled at Senate Judiciary," said Association of Florida Colleges Executive Director Michael Brawer. "However, we are concerned that if it does get agenda’d in Senate Judiciary it’s likely to pass, given the makeup of that committee.”
If it manages to get past that committee, the colleges hope Senator David Simmons, head of the chamber’s Rules committee, will be open to amending the bill with language allowing schools to opt out. House version has been cleared for a full chamber vote when lawmakers reconvene in January.
Correction: The quote regarding active shooters was misattributed to Florida State College at Jacksonville President Cynthia Bioteau. It was said by Carol Probstfeld, President of State College of Florida,Manatee-Sarasota.