It really was -- as Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, called it -- "a disingenuous political stunt ... the very definition of dirty politics."
The Democrats -- some of them, anyway -- knew Tuesday when they tried to force a premature floor debate on an assault weapons ban that a debate was never going to happen.
It wasn't time. And it isn't the way the Florida Legislature makes laws.
The plot to make a procedural motion to bring House Bill 219 to the floor was a stunt, say Democrats behind the scenes, hatched by Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, in cahoots with Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Parkland.
The idea was to trick the dozens of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students in the House gallery into believing only the Democrats care about students' lives. Look at that, the arrogant Republicans won't even allow a conversation about guns.
And it worked. By the time the floor session ended, emotional students who watched were crying and the Republicans' "refusal to talk about an assault weapons ban" was crawling all over social media. Soon after, one after the other of CNN commentators were shaking their heads, playing and replaying Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes' gavel moment: "The motion is not adopted."
Ingoglia, who is also chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said hate mail poured in Tuesday afternoon and all of Wednesday, all based on the stunt motion. He took time Wednesday to blast out an angry response on his Facebook page.
"Let me be clear," Ingoglia wrote. "Yesterday was not a vote to ban 'assault weapons.' It was a 'procedural game' to bring a bill to the floor for a vote (with no notice) that had never been heard in committee.
"This means straight to a vote: no questions of the bill sponsor as to what is actually in the bill; no time to read the bill; no time to amend the bill; no time to hear testimony on the bill.
"Basically," he said, "they wanted us to vote on a bill without knowing what was in it!"
Ingoglia told me Wednesday, "It's a page straight out of Nancy Pelosi's playbook. You have to pass it to know what's in it."
It's not only Republicans who were soured by such a political and exploitive farce. Many Democrats were also caught by surprise. "We all voted yes for the motion to be heard," one Democratic representative told me. "We had no notice and thought it was a motion to have the bills heard in committee."
Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, who was attending the funeral of student victim Peter Wang on Tuesday, might have been the angriest of the Democrats and apparently didn't care who knew. In a written statement in the Tampa Bay Times he tore into his fellow Dems for making a procedural motion to bring HB 219 to the floor "with zero notice."
“Procedural games will not make policy," he said. "Only members from both parties working together on legislation will bring the gun safety changes we need to prevent this from ever happening again.”
Moskowitz's statement caught the attention of Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Hudson. She responded on Twitter: "For those of you confused and upset about yesterday -- we are confused and upset too. When lives are at stake ‘procedural games’ are not the answer. Looking forward to working on BIPARTISAN gun reform & policy change on this issue."
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, candidate for commissioner of agriculture, twice appeared on CNN Wednesday "to defend the Second Amendment and discuss real solutions to the devastating tragedy in Parkland." Sadly, both times the increasingly left-leaning network had something to say to degrade Caldwell's attempt to answer questions honestly. See the CNN interview clips on this page.
“Trying to pull a bill out of committee is a political stunt," Caldwell repeated Wednesday evening. "We are trying to work in a bipartisan manner. The point is to be able to hear everybody’s voices, make sure that we do the right thing, and not just pull a political stunt.”
The Feb. 14 mass shooting at the Parkland high school led to 17 deaths and has revived the national debate over gun control. Suspect Nikolas Cruz, 19, had bought his first gun months after his 18th birthday. He used a military-style semiautomatic rifle to carry out the bloody attack.
Meanwhile, Parkland students, empowered by their outrage, will take their anti-gun crusade beyond Tallahassee, and they'll have a wealth of celebrity help to do it. Five Douglas students have organized a March 24 Washington, D.C. rally called "March for Our Lives" -- Jacqueline Coren, Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, and Alex Wind, in collaboration with the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety. And they've inspired Hollywood celebrities to pitch in.
George and Amal Clooney, Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, Jeffrey and Marilyn Katzenberg, and Oprah Winfrey each have vowed a $500,000 donation to the "March" event, according to Deadline.com. The Clooneys and Katzenbergs also will participate in it.
Winfrey announced the donation on her social media channels Tuesday, with a hat-tip to the Clooneys who launched the donation charge. "George and Amal, I couldn’t agree with you more," she tweeted. "I am joining forces with you and will match your $500,000 donation to ‘March For Our Lives.’ These inspiring young people remind me of the Freedom Riders of the 60s who also said we’ve had ENOUGH and our voices will be heard."
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