Bobby” Olszewski, Republican, for State Representative, District 44 talks about keeping our schools and community safe.
I had a very moving and inspiring meeting this week with the students from Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I told them the Florida House has already been hard at work on legislation with the Florida Senate and Governor Rick Scott to keep our schools and community safe.
As a man of deep faith who is trying my very best to serve the community and state that I love, I do hope I can be a ray of light in a troubled time. First-off, I feel and hear your passion clearly. Action is needed to keep Florida’s children safe. Preventing another tragedy like the shooting that took 17 precious souls at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week requires us to stop, listen, and analyze many aspects of a complex problem.
We must look at the missed opportunities to respond to aggressive and threatening behavior by what was clearly a troubled youth. We must understand why none of the responsible adults, not teachers in his schools, nor investigators from the child welfare agency, nor the law enforcement officers who received reports of suspicious behavior, were able to prevent this terrible event. Firearm safety is an essential component of this comprehensive answer as we need to examine our current laws and determine if additional restrictions are needed to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of people with antisocial and potentially violent personality disorders. Adequate and effective mental health services must be provided in addition to our school safety being improved to both prevent violent attacks but also to stop the attacker as quickly as possible.
I am a graduate of Orange County Public Schools, my wife goes to teach every day at an OCPS school in District 44, my mother spent 30 years of her life teaching at OCPS schools in our district, when my dad passed away he was the electrical engineer for OCPS, and my wife and I plan to send our daughter to an OCPS school.
There is no one who better understands how important it is keeping our community and children safe where students and teachers only need to focus on their education. I have had the true honor of serving of serving Florida House District 44 for just over four months.
With that honor comes the responsibility of being in the House Majority where we have the ability to set policy that must be fair to all citizens in our state. With my previous experience of serving as a Winter Garden Commissioner and now as a State Representative, I have always and still carefully examine and evaluate every vote that I make to ensure that it measures up to the oath that I took on a Holy Bible to defend the Constitution of the United States of America and the laws and Constitution of the State of Florida. All that I have is my good family name and my word based on taking an oath to serve the people of Florida in exchange for one (1) vote out of 120 Florida House members. I know when people hear “State Representative” and they think that I have executive authority to snap my fingers to implement policy. However, even when the Florida House of Representatives passes a bill (after numerous committee votes), it then must be voted upon the in the Florida Senate, and finally signed into law by our Governor.
I would like to give you further background and insights on “the process” and most specifically, what happened yesterday. Unequivocally, your Florida House of Representatives, in a bi-partisan effort, have been working with House Leadership as well as Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Senate to address the tragedy in Parkland. The motion that was made by Representative McGhee (the next House Minority Leader and responsible for House Democrat Campaigns) came as a complete and total surprise to all of us on the floor with a procedural motion to bypass House Rules and hear a bill that has not been vetted by staff or members in any committee without proper public hearings. I do not think it is wise for legislature to start bypassing these rules and passing bills without constituent knowledge or public input through the committee process so I voted no on this rule procedure. As reported by the Tampa Bay Times in this link http://www.tampabay.com/florida-politics/buzz/2018/02/21/rep-jared-moskowitz-rips-fellow-democrats-for-procedural-games-on-guns/, this procedural motion was a political scheme to put myself and other members in this tough position for political reasons.
Many of you may have seen on the news or read in the paper that the Florida House of Representatives voted down banning the AR-15 or voted down banning “assault weapons.” What simply happened was a political stunt at a time where serious and honest debate about security and the Bill of Rights should have been taking place. This was not appropriate for such a monumental discussion.
Now it comes to what actually we are doing as your Florida House of Representatives. This week we will most likely be rolling out a very comprehensive bill related to gun reform and school safety. This is a bill that is being worked on by members and leadership in both chambers with consultation from both parties. The reason for my delayed response this evening is that in Tallahassee I have multiple constituent meetings scheduled, committee meetings, staff meetings, voting on the House floor, in addition to working with staff, members, and leadership on this and other important legislation.
After I made my vote yesterday, without hesitation or reservation, today I embraced the students that came to visit me from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as they honored their fallen classmates. As their State Representative I owed it to them to look them in the eye personally and listen to their every concern as they held back their tears. They listened as I explained what happened with the procedural floor vote yesterday. I shared with them what I am doing to make sure that we keep our communities and schools safe.
Again as a man of faith, I know there is true evil in the world and if someone is intent on doing us harm, they will unfortunately find a way. However, we must do what is right and stand-up to do what is right and just for our children and community no matter how difficult the process can become.
I am happy to share some of the ideas being proposed in this pending legislation which I will support
1) A ban on anyone under 21 from purchasing any weapons, including rifles.
2) Background checks and a three day waiting period on the purchase all guns.
3) School safety changes which will include funding for security upgrades.
4) Mental health funding.
Please remember this bill is not complete as there are other components still being worked on as ALL options are on the table as stated by our Governor Rick Scott. Republican leadership has worked closely with leaders in the Democratic Party in a constructive and bipartisan manner. We will introduce a substantive bill, again most likely this week, which all sides can agree will make our schools and our communities safer. No one, no matter their party or belief, wants anything less than safe schools and kids to never live in fear. For those that have taken the time to comment with harsh personal comments, most of you being complete strangers but even some friends too, I will say that nothing you can do or say will make me stop loving you because we are all God’s children. I am trying my very best to be an honest and true Statesman to serve all members in my community. I am simply not interested in looking for a photo-opportunity, to see who gets the most likes, or to see who can make the wittiest social media post dig. I was elected to serve you, I took an oath to serve you, and I am spending every day serving you as my constituents in Florida House District 44 in the state of Florida to the best of my ability, so help me God!
-Robert “Bobby” Olszewski