Renner, Hutson brief Flagler Chamber members on legislative session

Comparing the breakdown in communication that allowed a troubled teen to gun down 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to the failure of intelligence before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, State Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, said state legislators have taken steps to ensure another tragedy doesn’t happen in a Florida school.

“It was such a systemic and comprehensive failure of the system,” Renner said Thursday morning during the Flagler County Chamber’s Common Ground breakfast. “We have to find the threat at a point in time and as far away from the schoolhouse doors as possible.”

Renner said if a mass casualty event is not terrorism, “it’s almost always some with a mental illness” and steps must be taken to address those issues.

He said a fundamental issue is how to balance the privacy rights of someone with a mental condition with finding ways to share that information with authorities if threats are made. He said banning weapons is not the answer.

“We can ban every firearm in the country and it’s not going to solve the problem,” Renner said. “I’m a Second Amendment guy and we have to be very careful going forward not to infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Renner said a Guardian Program passed by the Florida Legislature would provide a measure of protection if efforts to identify threats beforehand fail.

“We have to have some mechanism for one last chance and the Guardian Program is that chance,” he said.

The program would allow some school personnel to be armed, as long as they were approved by the local sheriff and school board, Renner said.

Hutson kicked off Thursday’s breakfast session with a review of the recent legislative session, including efforts to improve higher education opportunities in the Sunshine State.

“We want you to get in, get out and get a job,” he said. “We want to make sure these kids get an education and get out in the workforce.”

Hutson said one change to education funding enacted this year was something called “compression funding,” which ensures that more tax dollars go back to local school districts. He said Flagler County schools will receive an extra million dollars as a result.

Hutson also talked about a “Resign to Run” bill that requires elected officials seeking another office to resign their current post once they announce their intention to run.

“It guarantees that there are not special elections,” he said. “If I’m running for another position, I should not be able to window shop.”

Chamber President Jorge Gutierrez said he was not surprised that turnout for the breakfast gathering was high.

“I think it’s because Renner and Hutson are moving up,” he said. “It’s natural our members want to know where their heads are at. It just makes sense, that’s why the interest is there.”

Originally posted on The St. Augustine Record by Aaron London.