Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith

A younger John Thrasher pictured in the Senate's farewell video.  Here, Thrasher is a state representative.
Florida Channel

The Florida Senate met Tuesday in what’s called an organizational session to set rules and fill leadership positions for the upcoming legislative session.  As lawmakers welcomed one another back to Tallahassee, they also bid farewell to a long-time Republican powerbroker.

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A couple of NRA-backed priorities died in the Florida Senate Thursday. The issues centered around one bill that that would allow people to legally carry a concealed weapon without a permit during a mandatory evacuation and another issue relating to tweaking Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

Emergency Concealed Carry Bill

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A bill allowing tax collectors to help Florida meet a rising demand for concealed weapon permit applications passed the full Senate Friday and is now heading to the Governor.

“This bill allows county tax collectors the ability to apply to the Agriculture Commissioner and request that the Commissioner appoint them, so they can accept applications for concealed weapons license,” said Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), the bill's sponsor.

And, Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith says this is a gun-related measure that he can get behind.

Sen. David Simmons' district facebook page

Is a measure aiming to tweak Florida’s Stand Your Ground law dead this year? While some believe that effort is over, others—including the law’s main author—don’t seem to think so.

Last month, a proposal aimed at tweaking the controversial law began to move again, when it passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee—the bill’s second stop.

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

The bipartisan bill to tweak Florida’s Stand Your Ground law appears stalled in the Florida Senate. And, several groups, including the so-called Dream Defenders, joined the measure’s author in calling for further discussion to changing the controversial law.

Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith has been working side by side with Altamonte Springs Republican Senator David Simmons in trying to make changes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

Smith says the legislation is needed to address some of the recent decisions associated with the law.

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The so-called “Warning Shot” bill is heading to the Governor’s desk, after the Senate passed the measure Thursday. But, debate grew heated as some Democrats tried—and failed—to amend the bill.

State Attorney's Office

State Attorneys say they’re against Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.  At least one of those prosecutors says he’s also dead set against the so-called bipartisan tweak bill now moving in the Senate.

Tallahassee State Attorney Willie Meggs is railing against an NRA-backed provision in the bill that he insists would “make a bad policy a lot worse.” He says he opposes Stand Your Ground because Florida residents no longer feel they have the duty to retreat in a situation that could call for it.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

A bill allowing someone to threaten to use force in a situation where they feel threatened without fear of prosecution is expected to be discussed on the Senate Floor this week.  And, the so-called “warning shot” bill that was modified at each committee stop may go through another change on the floor.

MGN Online

Based on two separate Supreme Court decisions, state lawmakers are now tasked with reforming Florida’s juvenile sentencing laws. But, the Senate’s latest revamp is drawing mixed reviews.

According to the federal court decisions from 2010 and 2012, juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole or some kind of review. That’s regardless of their crime whether they committed a serious felony or convicted of murder. But Florida’s state laws haven’t caught up.

Screenshot via the Huffingtonpost

A measure inspired by the story of a young Maryland boy who got suspended for chewing his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun cleared its first Senate committee Monday. But, some say the bill aimed at loosening Florida schools’ zero-tolerance policies regarding kids and guns goes a little too far.

MGN Online

Over the next few weeks, Florida lawmakers are slated to take up a series of gun-related measures, from fixes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law to enhancing penalties for insurers who discriminate against gun-owners. But, while some bills appear to be moving quickly through the Legislature, others appear to be stalled in the legislative process.

"Right To Be A Kid" Bill

MGN Online

As Governor Rick Scott continues to tout Florida’s lowered crime rate, some question why he’s putting more money into the criminal justice budget.  It comes as the Florida Department of Corrections prepares for a projected increase in the state’s inmate population.

According to the latest Criminal Justice Estimating Conference, the state’s prison population is expected to soon rise, even though Florida is at a 42-year crime low.

Florida Senate

Another Florida lawmaker has filed a bill to make changes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Miami Senator Dwight Bullard says his goes further than a bipartisan proposal starting to move through the Florida Legislature.

MGN Online

Should Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law be tweaked?  A bipartisan proposal that would make some changes to the controversial measure passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 7-2 during this legislative committee week.  But, the bill has its share of critics, including a powerful House member who could hold the key to its survival.

Florida Channel

A bill that aims to clarify Florida’s Stand Your Ground law passed its first committee Tuesday. The Senate Judiciary Committee was initially set to consider two similar bills seeking to tweak the law.

Florida Senate

A state lawmaker seeking to make changes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law says he’s optimistic ahead of a hearing set to review his bill. It’s one of two bills a group of legislators are expected to take up in the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning.

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

The man who sponsored Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in the state House says he wants lawmakers to tread carefully as they examine the law, but he feels there should be some type of debate.

Amend Stand Your Ground?

Ocala Republican Representative Dennis Baxley says caution is key if lawmakers consider repealing the law or, in his words, “diminishing a valuable piece of legislation”…


Several Florida lawmakers are hoping to legislatively reignite the debate surrounding what should be done about the state’s Stand Your Ground law. Some hope to repeal the controversial law, while others say the law just needs some clarification. While those same measures never got a hearing this year, some lawmakers say the 2014 legislative session is the perfect time to have such a debate.

The September Hearing

Florida Senate

An author of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is now hoping to set parameters that clarify the law. And, Altamonte Springs Republican David Simmons is also hoping to put guidelines in place for neighborhood watch programs across the state. The state senator helped write the bill in 2005.

"I believe that I am uniquely situated to deal with what I call 'tweaking improvement' on the Stand Your Ground law, having been the main drafter of it," said Simmons.

Florida Senate

As some lawmakers call on the Florida Legislature to repeal the state’s Stand Your Ground law, one Democratic lawmaker has filed a bill seeking to clarify the controversial law.

Florida Senate

Florida Senate Minority leader Chris Smith says he’s not giving up on getting a bipartisan group of lawmakers to take a look at the state’s Stand Your Ground law, despite being turned down by the Senate President Tuesday. Smith wanted Don Gaetz to form a select committee, but Gaetz rejected that request.

Regan McCarthy

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed the state’s new budget into law. He used his line item veto power to cut almost $400 million in projects from the budget and Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith said he’s worried about some of the items the governor axed—like water and road projects—which Smith said really affect small communities.