Days after the June 12 Pulse nightclub shooting that took the lives of 49 innocent people in Orlando, the political demagoguery began.
Many on the liberal left, from the Florida chapter of the National Organization of Women to the Florida Democrat Party, were calling for more gun control laws. If Florida had stricter gun measures, the Pulse nightclub massacre shooting would not have happened, they said.
But one individual, not from the left but from the right, says his House bill -- had it not been unceremoniously axed -- would have at least gone part of the way to stop the terrorist attack. Certainly, it would have mitigated the tragic result.
State Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, says his bill, Andy’s Law (HB 3), might have dissuaded Omar Mateen from launching his shooting rampage. Under Hill's proposal, any victim of a terrorist attack in Florida would be able to bring civil penalties against the person or persons who perpetuated the terrorist act.
Just one problem: Hill’s bill never got a floor vote in the 2016 legislative session and Hill has been going on the airwaves letting it be known that it was his own Republican House leadership that killed the bill.
It all started the Monday after the nightclub shooting. The Washington Free Beacon posted a story headlined, “Florida Rejected Key Counterterrorism Legislation Ahead of Attack."
The story describes the manner in which Florida House Republicans killed an anti-terrorism bill at the last moment.
It states House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, killed HB 3 by preventing it from coming to a full vote.
To make matters worse for the speaker, Hill went on the Florida Radio Network and told them the reason why Crisafulli nixed his bill. Hill said it was because he voted against house leadership "by not supporting the crony capitalism bill that would have funded the Enterprise Florida legislation."
“I was being punished for going against party leadership,” Hill told FRN.
A week later Hill was on the I Heart Radio Network. Again, he stated that his Andy's Law bill would have either deterred or stopped the terrorist attack in Orlando. Again he proceeded to blame leadership for stopping it cold. But this time he didn’t stop at blaming Crisafulli, he went even further, laying the blame on House Rules Committee Chairman Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne.
Hill told the radio network, “Workman was colluding with Speaker Crisafulli to kill my bill because I voted against party leadership."
When asked about Hill’s comments, Crisafulli said he was shocked.
“This is the first time I'm hearing I'm being accused of killing Rep. Hill’s bill,” the speaker told Sunshine State News. Crisafulli also said the Free Beacon misquoted his comments in their article. “People know I’m a straight shooter and on issues that deal with terrorism, I don’t play politics," he said.
But Hill says that is exactly the name of the game -- “politics.”
Hill points out that Andy’s Law passed the major committees. It passed two subcommittees and a committee of the House without opposition and passed three committees of the Senate without opposition, then wound up passing on the Senate floor by a flawless 35-0 vote.
Workman wasn’t as kind about Hill’s comments as Crisafulli. He said there are 3,000 bills filed every year. And the reason why Hill’s bill failed was because he didn’t work it.
Not true, Hill responds. “Three times I personally talked to Rep. Workman about my bill and I also sent him two personal letters about supporting it. How is it my bills pass the committees without opposition, even with Democrats' support, yet are not allowed a floor vote by my own party?” Hill asked.
Workman fired back, “The only guy who’s playing politics here is Mike Hill.”
“The bodies from the massacre weren’t in the ground before Hill used this issue as a political stunt to promote his bill. It’s shameful, it’s grotesque and it shows Hill’s lack of character,” said Workman.
Honestly now -- Was Hill being punished for not supporting the Enterprise Florida bill?
Not at all, said Workman, who pointed out that back in December 2015 Hill sent out a press release supporting the governor’s proposal, announcing his support for Rick Scott’s proposed reforms for Enterprise Florida, including the creation of the Florida Enterprise Fund.
When asked about his switching positions, Hill told Sunshine State News the governor's original proposal was more of a free market plan with less cost to the taxpayer. He said he decided not to support the governor's final bill because it got watered down and the return on investment wasn't going to benefit the taxpayer.
“The bottom line," said Hill, "is my bill would have benefited those who were victims of terrorism, boosted criminal penalties for terrorism and those who support terrorism. And people like Ritch Workman decided to play politics and hurt those people whose lives are on the line.”
Ed Dean, a senior editor with Sunshine State News whose talk show can be heard on radio stations in Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Daytona Beach, Orlando, the Space Coast, the Treasure Coast and South Florida from West Palm Beach to Miami. It can also be heard in parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio.