Connie de Haan said she is sorry that Gov. Rick Scott didn’t get to read her message while he was in front of a group of reporters on the top floor of the Capitol on Wednesday.
But the Longwood resident said she hopes her words weren’t lost on others while they were towed on a banner behind a plane circling Tallahassee for more than an hour.
Haan wants the governor to intervene and stop the upcoming Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission-approved bear hunt, something he hasn’t shown any intention of doing.
The banner urged viewers to contact Scott and his chief of staff, Melissa Sellers, about the hunt, and included the governor’s phone number and Sellers’s email address.
“The bear issue is literally in my back yard, and I am convinced this hunt is not justified,” Haan, who lives in the Wekiva River Buffer Conservation area, told The News Service of Florida. “I just want to keep this fight going until the last minute, and I believe the banners have added fuel to our fire.”
The last minute is Oct. 24, when the state will allow hunters to go into four regions of the state with a goal of slaying 320 bears, or about 10 percent of the critters’ estimated Florida population.
Not everyone missed the banner-toting plane.
Before he addressed the media at an Associated Press pre-session event, Senate President Andy Gardiner said he was on the lookout for the plane after seeing photos on Twitter.
Scott’s staff would not say whether they’ve been contacted as a result of the banner, but instead reiterated the governor’s position on the hunt.
“It is for FWC to decide what is best for Florida’s growing bear population,” a statement from Scott’s office said. “Governor Scott trusts them to make the right decision to keep families safe.”
On Tuesday, FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski said he didn’t see anything that would stop the hunt.
Opponents are concerned that, with more than 2,570 permits already purchased, the enthusiasm by hunters to bag a bear apiece as allowed will far exceed the 320 target.
Florida black bears were removed from list of threatened species in 2012.
“As much as I hate hunting, I understand it is the humane thing to do sometimes, but this is not one of those times,” Haan said. “Because the hunt is happening before the current bear study is completed, because the hunt will not affect ‘problem’ bears that are cited as a reason for the hunt…and because the hunt seems poorly planned, with almost as many hunters as bears, and a questionable plan to stop the hunt once the arbitrary quota is met.”
Speak Up Wekiva, which failed to persuade a circuit judge earlier this month to block the hunt, hopes the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee will hear their case next week, said Chuck O’Neal, the group’s director.
Haan said she had initially intended to fly the banner, which also circled over Gainesville and Orlando this summer, when the case went before Circuit Judge George Reynolds III in Tallahassee, but weather and hearing delays shifted her flight plan to this week.
READING BETWEEN THE LINES
For those trying to read the tea leaves in the ongoing feud between the House and the Senate, the fact that Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Crisafulli appeared separately at this week’s annual Associated Press legislative planning day might have been more significant than anything the duo actually said.
For the previous three years, House and Senate leaders addressed the gathering together to unveil their joint agendas for the coming legislative sessions. Former Senate President Don Gaetz and former House Speaker Will Weatherford started the tradition in 2013, after the chambers had a venomous falling out in 2011 and the two sides basically didn’t communicate directly with each other the following year.
This year — following bitter battles over health-care legislation and redistricting — Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, talked to the press separately. There was no joint agenda.
“But I would not read much into that,” Crisafulli said. “The president and I are good friends. We’re close. We communicate. Obviously, there were differences (in the 2015 session), but the fact that we’re not doing this together today is not something that you need to read much into.”
Gardiner blamed the shorter-than-usual time between legislative sessions for the different approach. The AP event usually takes place in January in advance of the legislative session, which generally begins in March. But, because this year’s session begins in January, the reporters’ and editors’ gathering came early.
“When you do a joint agenda, it takes a long time, and certainly we’ve been busy over the last few months,” Gardiner told reporters after his remarks. “But I think we’ve got a pretty good idea of what the House is interested in and they know what I’m interested in, and hopefully we can get some things done.”
During the annual regular session that collapsed in late May without a state budget, Gardiner and Crisafulli battled over a Senate plan that would have used federal Medicaid expansion dollars to help low-income Floridians purchase private health insurance. Crisafulli suggested that, if Gardiner felt strongly about the expansion alternative, the Senate president should have mentioned it during the negotiations over the joint agenda.
There will be more land mines for the House and Senate to maneuver around during the 2016 session. Another health-care debate of some type, which would open up the 2015 wounds, is a certainty. Crisafulli also said House would look to overhaul the pension plan for public employees. Previous pension-reform efforts have caused contentious fights between the two chambers.
Despite their separate appearances Wednesday, both leaders said they were hopeful about the possibilities for next year.
“I’m confident that both the president and I can view our responsibilities in the windshield and not in the rearview mirror as we approach this upcoming session,” Crisafulli said.
TWEET OF THE WEEK:
“Great to see Hillary supporting #StandYourGround #DemDebate”— Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Niceville, (@mattgaetz), poking fun at Hillary Clinton’s statements during a Tuesday debate that she would “stand her ground” as president. Gaetz supports the state’s controversial stand your ground self-defense law, which many Democrats oppose.
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