Rick Scott Archives - Page 6 of 249 - Florida Politics

Senate advances voucher expansion bill, goes to House for final vote

Florida senators, including some reluctant Democrats, voted to expanded two of Florida’s de facto education voucher programs that aid low-income students and those with disabilities.

The Tampa Bay Times reports HB 15 passed 27-11 Friday morning, on a vote where four Democrats joined Republicans. The bill returns to the House this afternoon for final approval of the Senate language before it reaches Gov. Rick Scott‘s desk.

The bill’s passage represents another victory for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who made the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship a priority in 2017. The scholarship, designed to help low-income, mostly minority students obtain private school scholarships, gives dollar-for-dollar tax breaks to businesses that donate to the program.

HB 15 raises the award amounts, allowing students in the program to advance to higher-priced private high schools.

Those Democratic senators signing onto the bill were hesitant about “diverting” more money to tax credits — which could instead go to public schools — but also did not want to vote against the Gardiner Scholarship, a program helping children with disabilities. Since both programs were put in a single bill, linking the Gardiner Scholarship to tax-credit awards, lawmakers were forced to vote on both at once.

“The Gardiner Scholarship program is a fantastic program, so I want desperately to be able to support this bill because of those provisions,” Lake Worth Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens told the Times. “But I am philosophically opposed to corporate tax vouchers and diverting money away from our general funds, which could be used to improve our public-school system.”

Supporters of HB 15, like Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young, defend tax credit scholarships as helping children “who have no hope without it.”

Democrats breaking with the caucus to approve HB 15 include Daphne Campbell of Miami Shores, Bill Montford of Tallahassee, Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg and Linda Stewart of Orlando.

 

House puts fate of fentanyl trafficking bill at risk

The Florida House has rejected a Senate proposal to loosen mandatory-minimum-sentence requirements in a bill that cracks down on synthetic drug traffickers, putting the legislation in jeopardy with only one day left for it to pass.

The bill’s primary sponsor, Republican Rep. Jim Boyd, said the purpose of the bill would be defeated without the three-year mandatory minimum sentence for someone caught with at least 4 grams of fentanyl. He said the bill is meant to jail “scumbag” drug dealers, not drug addicts.

“I’m all about the minimum mandatory sentences for users and addicts, but this particular issue — because it is such an epidemic in the state — I just don’t think I can budge,” Boyd said.

The Senate amendment would have given judges the discretion to depart from mandatory minimum sentences when the circumstances allowed it. By rejecting the compromise, the state may have to wait to see a tougher drug-trafficking statute. The measure called for imprisoning those caught with at least 14 grams of fentanyl for 15 years, and those caught with 28 grams to 25 years.

While all lawmakers agree action is needed to combat the opioid-addiction crisis — including Gov. Rick Scott, who declared a public health state of emergency on Wednesday — legislators were very much divided on whether people caught with at least 4 grams of fentanyl should face mandatory minimum sentences.

Rep. Joseph Geller, a Democrat who supports tougher sanctions for fentanyl traffickers, said he is uncomfortable with mandatory minimums because there are often extenuating circumstances.

“We’ve taken away a valuable tool that judges and prosecutors would have had, and in doing so we’ve put a good bill at risk,” Geller said. “That amendment made it a better policy.”

Boyd, however, said people who are in possession of 4 grams of fentanyl are “not some poor person who needs help.”

Under current state law, there is no criminal penalty for trafficking fentanyl, but the state is bolstering its response to combat the rise in opioid overdoses. The deadly drug can be 100 times more potent than morphine and is often mixed with another drug such as heroin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015 the drug was associated with more than 700 deaths in Florida.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Renewable-energy tax break bill headed to Rick Scott

The Florida Legislature has passed a bill that will give a renewable-energy tax break to commercial and industrial properties with solar installations.

The measure (SB 90) was sent to Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday after passing the Senate unanimously. If signed into law, businesses that install solar panels to their properties would not have to pay additional property taxes from the increased value of adding such devices.

“The voters of Florida spoke loud and clear in support of an expanded solar market in the sunshine state,” said Sen. Jeff Brandes in a statement. “Reducing property taxes on solar and renewable energy devices will bring more solar energy to Florida. The unanimous support of the legislature shows that we are dedicated to expanding the share of renewables in our energy portfolio, and I am excited to continue to advocate for energy reform.”

The bill , sponsored by Brandes in the Senate and Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues in the House, carries out a decision by voters last year to extend a tax exemption already provided to residential properties. The tax break would be in place for the next 20 years.

“Tourism is Florida’s leading industry. Visitors and residents alike, will benefit from the energy savings resulting from the passage of this legislation,” said Richard Turner, general counsel and vice President of government Relations for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “The hospitality industry is excited to support our lawmakers’ smart policies that promote sustainability and diversify our energy grid.”

The final version of the bill is viewed by those in the solar industry as a more consumer-friendly approach than what had been initially proposed.

_The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

House argues prosecutors have no discretion on death penalties

In a friend of the court brief bound to raise state attorneys’ eyebrows throughout Florida, the Florida House is arguing that prosecutors have no discretion with regard to capital punishment, that the state Legislature’s intent was to rest all discretion with juries.

The House filed the brief in the Florida Supreme Court case of Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala versus Gov. Rick Scott. The issues, in that case, are whether prosecutorial discretion gives Ayala the power to refuse all capital punishment prosecutions, as she’s done; and whether the governor has the right to strip capital cases away from her, as he’s consequently done.

The brief, filed late Wednesday, argues that a state attorney is not the one to decide on death penalties. It contends the state attorney’s role is more clerical, to review facts of a case to determine if aggravating circumstances exist that could merit a death penalty, and then leave the decision of death or life in prison entirely up to the jury.

The House of Representatives is one of the numerous bodies filing amicus curiae briefs in the case, indicating the enormous ramifications the legal battle holds for prosecutors, the governor, and the Florida Legislature. Among others expected is a dissenting brief from several Democratic members of the House and Florida Senate.

The official House brief declares, “the policy of this State, reflected in legislative enactments, reserves to the jury — speaking for the community and reflecting that community’s values — the threshold decision whether death should be an authorized punishment for a capital murder conviction. A state attorney, by contrast, has no authority to abrogate the Legislature’s death penalty policy within her circuit.”

Ayala’s lead attorney, Roy L. Austin Jr., called the House argument “stunning.”

“This is a stunning position that calls for an unconstitutional interpretation of the Florida statutes, not to mention contradicting the positions and pleadings from the governor, the attorney general, the FPAA and every state attorney in Florida,” Austin said in a written statement to Orlando-Rising.com.

On March 16, Ayala, the newly-elected state attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties, announced that she had reviewed Florida’s laws, court decisions, and the opinions of various parties to conclude that Florida’s death sentence law was not just for anyone, so she would not use it. Scott responded by stripping 23 cases from her and reassigning them to State Attorney Brad King of Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit.

Ayala sued, both in the state Supreme Court and in U.S. District Court, asserting her rights under the doctrine of prosecutorial discretion, and challenging Scott’s authority to reassign cases if she had not violated any laws.

At issue in most of the filings so far is whether prosecutorial discretion could be exercised before or after Ayala or any other prosecutor reviewed all the facts of the case and weighed aggravating and mitigating circumstances.

But the House argued that the prosecutor does not have discretion, even after he or she reviews the facts of a case. That could fly in the face of the common practice among prosecutors, who often weigh a number of factors, from victims’ families desires to potential plea bargains, in deciding whether to pursue death penalty prosecutions.

In the brief, a section title lays it out bluntly: “The Legislature’s capital sentencing scheme leaves no discretion to the state attorney to assess whether death should be an authorized punishment in a capital murder case.”

In another argument that may make state attorneys uncomfortable, the House also challenged the independence of state attorneys.

Citing a 1939 Florida Supreme Court Decision and several statutes, the brief argues that a “state attorney in this State is not merely a prosecuting officer in the Circuit in which he is; he is also an officer of the State in the general matter of the enforcement of the criminal law. … It is the State, and not the County, that pays his salary and official expense. And when a state officer like the petitioner refuses or is unable to follow the State’s policies as set by the Legislature, the Legislature fairly can expect that either the Governor, or a chief circuit judge, will find someone who will.”

Darryl Paulson: Should the Florida GOP feel blue?

Florida’s Republican Party has governed Florida for less than a third of the past 150 years. After the Civil War, a coalition of newly enfranchised blacks, a small number of native white Republicans and northern carpetbaggers dominated Florida politics from 1865 to around 1885.

After the blacks were stripped of their voting rights at the end of Reconstruction, the Republican Party ceased to be a political force. By 1900, more than 90 percent of black voters were dropped from the voter rolls due to barriers to black voters adopted by the state Legislature and through constitutional amendments. As a result of the removal of black voters, not a single black or Republican was left in the legislature.

Republican Party fortunes were so bad that when the party failed to run a candidate for governor in 1918, the Florida Supreme Court declared that “The law does not know such a political party as the Republican Party.

From the 1880s to the 1950s, Democrats completely controlled the political process in Florida. Only once in that 70-year period did a Republican presidential candidate carry the state of Florida. Almost 57 percent of Floridians voted for Republican Herbert Hoover in 1928 over Democrat Al Smith. Smith was the first Catholic candidate for the presidency, and Protestant voters in Florida were not ready to support a Catholic candidate.

Partisan change in Florida and the rest of the South was triggered by events at the 1948 Democratic National Convention. The convention adopted a strong civil rights plank which led to a walkout of most southern delegates and the formation of the States Rights or Dixiecrat Party headed by Governor Storm Thurmond of South Carolina.

The Southern states had agreed to support the national Democratic Party as long as the party did not interfere with racial policies and states’ rights. The bond was now broken. Beginning in 1952, the Republican Party won the electoral votes of three Southern states, including Florida. “Presidential Republicanism” was the wedge that began to open the door for the Republican Party in the South.

Republican strength in presidential elections would be followed by increasing Republican victories in Congressional elections. This would be followed by growing Republican numbers in the state legislatures and then in local elections.

From 1952 to 1992, Republicans won nine of the 11 Florida presidential elections. The only GOP losses were Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Jimmy Carter in 1976. The Lyndon Johnson campaign successfully convinced voters that Goldwater would lead the country into a nuclear war, and Florida voters were concerned about Goldwater’s proposal to privatize Social Security. Carter was helped by coming from neighboring Georgia. Republican President Gerald Ford assumed the vice presidency when Spiro Agnew was forced to resign and then became president due to Nixon‘s Watergate resignation scandal. Scandal and a bad economy contributed to Ford’s narrow loss to Carter.

Republican dominance in Florida presidential elections changed beginning with the 1996 election. Bill Clinton, who narrowly lost Florida to George H. W. Bush in 1992, defeated Republican Bob Dole by 6 percent in 1996. Republicans would win only three of the six Florida presidential elections from 1996 to 2016, and one of their losses was by 537 votes to George W. Bush in 2000.

Going into the 2016 election, almost all political observers predicted a Hillary Clinton victory in Florida and nationally. Although getting 3 million more votes than Donald Trump, Trump carried 30 states and won 304 electoral votes, including Florida’s.

In state elections, Marco Rubio retained his U. S. Senate seat and Republicans only lost one U. S. House seat despite the redrawing of districts which many believed benefited the Democrats. Republicans also retained large majorities in both houses of the legislature.

Looking toward the future, Democrats have several things working in their favor. First, the election of Trump has been a great motivating factor for Democrats. Massive turnouts at congressional town halls attest to the fact that Democrats appear to be more motivated than Republicans.

A second advantage for Democrats is that Republicans are in disarray. Republicans in the Florida House are battling their Republican counterparts in the Senate, and Republicans in both chambers are fighting Republican Governor Rick Scott. Growing factionalism within the party creates opportunities for the Democrats.

Third, the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), once viewed as one of the premier party organizations in the country, has fallen on hard times. When Governor Scott’s hand-picked choice to lead the party, Leslie Dougher, was defeated by state legislator Blaise Ingoglia, Scott abandoned his role as party leader.

Scott urged donors not to give to the RPOF, but to contribute to his “Let’s Get to Work” political action committee. The RPOF now has about half of the revenues it had four years ago.

For Democrats, they face the same problem they have faced for the past 25 years:  disorganization. Numerous party leaders have come and gone, and the results from been dismal. Democrats have just elected a new party chair, Steven Bittel, and hired a new executive director, Sally Boynton Brown. Will they do any better than their predecessors?

2018 is an off-year election, and the party occupying the White House usually suffers large losses. 2018 will provide a good look at whether Florida Democrats have got their act together and will achieve better results than they have achieved in the past.

It is hard to imagine Democrats doing any worse.

___

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Rick Scott says lawmakers inability to finish budget on time ‘doesn’t make any sense’

Gov. Rick Scott chastised state lawmakers for being unable to complete the 2017-18 budget on time, but once again stopped short of saying whether he would veto the entire spending plan once it reaches his desk.

“You would expect that when people have a job to do they’d get it done. I’ve been in business all my life, and that’s what you expect if you have a deadline,” said Scott following a stop in Naples on Thursday morning. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.’”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron announced Wednesday they had reached an agreement on a final 2017-18 state budget. Both legislative leaders told their chambers the plan was to reconvene in Tallahassee at 1 p.m. Monday to consider the budget and budget bills.

“It would be my goal that we would conclude our session at a reasonable time on Monday evening, to allow members to travel home if they chose to, or stay until Tuesday and go back then,” Negron told members Wednesday.

The budget needs to be finalized 72-hours before the final vote. While Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Carlos Trujillo met Wednesday to publicly finalize several parts of the budget, there are still a few pots of money that need to be publicly closed out.

Much of the $83 billion budget was crafted in secret, something that Scott has pounced on in recent days. The Naples Republican — who launched a three-day, 10-city tour to make a last minute push for his priorities Wednesday — chided lawmakers for working on the budget behind closed doors during his stop at Best Home Services in Naples.

Scott encouraged Floridians to call their legislators and ask them what was in the budget and why there wasn’t more of an opportunity for public input. He also said voters should ask lawmakers “why can’t you get it done on time?”

“They’re supposed to vote on this budget on Monday, and I have no earthly idea what’s in this budget,” said Scott. “Remember what Nancy Pelosi said about … Obamacare a few years ago: ‘You won’t know until you vote for it.’ It’s similar to this. I don’t know anyone is going to know (what’s in it).”

“On an annual basis, there’s 4,000 lines in the budget. It takes us a long time to review them,” he continued. “How is someone going to vote on Monday on a budget, 4,000 lines in a budget, that they haven’t seen?”

Scott is scheduled to hit five cities Thursday, where he’ll urge Floridians to call their lawmakers to ask them to support his top priorities — $100 million Visit Florida and $200 million to fix the dike around Lake Okeechobee. The governor also wants money for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency, to help lure businesses to the Sunshine State.

It’s unlikely he’s going to get much of his requests. Legislators have agreed to set aside $25 million for tourism marketing, and don’t have money for the Herbert Hoover Dike in the budget.

Although Scott declined to say whether he would veto the entire budget when it gets to his desk, he did note it was an option.

“When I get the budget — when I finally get to see it, because I haven’t see the budget — then I’ll make the decision whether I veto the entire budget or look at any lines and see if they are a good use of your money,” he said. “Because remember, it’s not the Legislature’s money. It’s not the state’s money. It’s your money.”

_The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permissions.

Florida bolsters response to opioid-addiction crisis

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Wednesday to combat opioid abuse in the state, where he said the number of overdose deaths has reached epidemic proportions.

Scott’s executive order will free up nearly $30 million in federal funds for prevention, treatment and recovery services. And it comes as a series of workshops focused on addressing the opioid abuse crisis launch in the state’s hardest-hit areas.

“I know firsthand how heartbreaking substance abuse can be to a family because it impacted my own family growing up,” Scott said in a statement. “Families across our nation are fighting the opioid epidemic and Florida is going to do everything possible to help our families.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015 nearly 3,900 people died across the state as a result of opioid abuse.

Scott’s declaration has bolstered the Florida Legislature’s effort this year to address the opioid abuse crisis in several proposals.

“The governor deserves credit for recognizing the immensity of the problem,” State Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Democrat from Lake Worth, said. “People are dying, and now we can all come together to work on solutions and save lives.”

Among the measures state legislators are considering is one that rewrites the state’ drug trafficking statute and puts fentanyl — a synthetic drug that can be 100 times more potent than morphine — at the same level as heroin. The measure would create tougher penalties for dealers and users, specifically those caught with fentanyl. This drug is associated with more than 700 deaths in the state last year.

The state Senate unanimously approved the bill Wednesday. If passed, drug dealers could face murder charges in cases where a buyer overdoses and died.

Opponents of some provisions in the measure say it will increase the state’ inmate population and will criminalize drug addicts who should be getting treatment instead.

Lawmakers are also trying to crack down on sober-living homes that make false marketing statements in order to draw in more patients. The fate of that bill remains uncertain after its passage in the House a week ago. With two days left in Session, the Senate has yet to put it on its schedule for consideration.

A bill that places new restrictions on how doctors prescribe painkillers has also moved along in the Legislature. Under this bill, pharmacies would have to report the dispensing of a controlled substance to a state database after the end of each business day, rather than on a weekly basis.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

Victims’ families: Aramis Ayala shut us out; prosecutors group: She abolished capital punishment

“Unlike every other amici in this litigation, the Family Members’ right to be heard is not hypothetical, it is not philosophical, it is not past – it is real and present.” Thus opens a friend of the court brief filed Wednesday by the families of victims of seven homicides in the balance of the Florida Supreme Court case pitting the powers of Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala and Gov. Rick Scott.

The families brief, guaranteed by Florida law “and fundamental standards of decency in a modern society,” the brief states, was one of two filed Wednesday by friends siding with Scott, supporting his actions to strip first-degree murder cases from Ayala and reassign them after she pledged she would not seek death penalties.

The families’ brief connotes emotion and loss along with legal arguments. The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, also does not mince words, arguing that Ayala tried to “abolish” the death penalty in her 9th Judicial Circuit, and that Scott responded prudently.

Both entered briefs in a case in which Ayala is challenging Scott’s power to issue 23 executive orders stripping away her cases and reassigning them to State Attorney Brad King of Ocala.

The family members are families of 9th Judicial Circuit homicide victims Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, Sadie Dixon, Darrell Avant Jr., Jasmine Samuel, Elena Ortega, Alexandria Fransa Chery, and Teresa Ann Green.

The family members maintain they are not pressing an argument for or against capital punishment. Rather, they argue the families’ have the right and need to be heard out by prosecutors – for “meaningful participation” – before a decision is made whether to pursue a death penalty prosecution. Ayala, they argue, negated that right with her blanket declaration in March.

“The Petitioner’s preemptive strike against secondary victim input for capital punishment silences those with a substantial right to be heard. Petitioner’s declaration that she will not seek the death penalty in cases handled by her office is not a proper exercise of discretion; rather, it is an exercise of bias,” the argue. “For these Family Members, there is ample ‘good and sufficient reason,'” – the legal standard to support Scott’s executive orders.

And the families added that “because each homicide presents different victims, different secondary victims, and different circumstances, consequential participation and partnership is an indisputable force for better mental health outcomes in secondary victims. Shutting out, preempting, and disrespecting individual survivors’ views on capital punishment– pro or con – in their cases is an indisputable violation of the Family Members’ constitutional rights and inflicts unnecessary, compounded pain.”

The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association represents Florida’s 20 elected state attorneys [including Ayala and King] and more than 2,000 assistant state attorneys who work for them.

Their brief reads at times like a prosecutor’s opening statement in a murder trial, even declaring the guilt of the suspect whose case started Ayala’s tribulations and led to a firestorm of backlash: that of Markeith Loyd, which has not gone to trial, so he has not been convicted of the homicides for which he has been charged, Clayton, Dixon and Dixon’s unborn fetus.

“On March 16, 2017, State Attorney for Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, Aramis Ayala [“Ms. Ayala”], announced she would not seek the death penalty against Markeith Loyd [“Mr. Loyd”], who not only murdered his pregnant ex- girlfriend, but also was caught on camera shooting and wounding a police officer, then as she laid on the ground wounded, fighting for her life, he walked up and executed her,” the prosecutors argue. “Despite the vicious and heinous murders of the two victims, Ms. Ayala decided that she would not seek the death penalty in not only these two cases, but not in any case during her time in office.”

Florida statutes and Florida Supreme Court presidents show Scott has the authority to reassign the potential capital cases for any “good and sufficient reason in order to see that the laws of Florida are faithfully executed,” the prosecutors argue.

“Additionally, this Brief illustrates Ms. Ayala’s lack of discretion and authority to disregard consideration of the death penalty in all cases. Specifically, Ms. Ayala effectively abolished the death penalty in the Ninth Circuit by implementing a hard-and-fast rule that removes her decision-making on a case-by-case basis, which is beyond the scope of her prosecutorial independence and discretion,” the prosecutors argued.

Gwen Graham vows to push for solar while installing panels

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham spent a good part of Wednesday installing solar panels on roofs in Orlando, while vowing she’ll do all she can to make the Sunshine State a solar energy leader.

It’s not one now.

Florida’s solar energy generation per person falls somewhere between Illinois and Ohio, well behind such un-sunshiny states like Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont, Delaware, and New Jersey, and far, far behind the national leaders of Arizona, Hawaii and Nevada, according to CleanTechnica.com, a renewable energy news website.

“We need Florida to be the solar capital of the world. We need to be encouraging the use of renewable energies. And we are the Sunshine State as we stand here on the roof in the direct sunlight, and we should be using the sun that Florida receives to cut down on our need for other energy sources,” Graham said.

Graham was on the roof of homeowner Ruben Garcia in east Orange County Wednesday afternoon, taking part in one of her “Work Days,” a tradition she borrowed from her father, former Gov. Bob Graham, regularly spending a full day working someone else’s job, to learn what Florida workers do.

She announced her candidacy for governor in the 2018 election on Tuesday.

Garcia and some of his neighbors are part of the Orange County Solar Coop of Fl SUN, to bulk-purchase solar energy equipment for their homes at bulk prices.

Graham and officials of the solar contractor she was working with, ESA Renewables, said Florida must change its law that prevents third-party owners. The law prevents companies from underwriting (and then owning) residential and commercial solar energy generation equipment, in exchange for charging the property owners for the energy they produce, at rates discounted compared with traditional power companies.

“That’s something that other states. They don’t have that prohibition. I think there are four other states that prevent third-party ownership. It makes it far more challenging for people to take care of solar energy,” she said.

Justin Vandenbroeck, a senior project developer for ESA, said the typical rate for solar power equipment installation runs about $3.50 per watt. [Garcia’s coop is getting a rate of $2 per watt.] It takes equipment, he said, to generate anywhere from 6,000 to 9,000 watts to service a whole home. That’s about $20,000-30,000 per house.

While homeowners’ energy bills could go away entirely, at that price, it could take 10-20 years for payback.

It’s why states with third-party solar power owners have far more solar energy in place, he said.

Solar energy is only part of her environmental record and platform Graham pushed Wednesday.

She said she supports repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike, for which Republican Gov. Rick Scott is seeking to fund, but said that project stands alone in efforts to clean up the Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.

Graham also said Republican Senate President Joe Negron‘s plan is a good start, albeit a “very small” one.

“I think we need a comprehensive approach to the Lake Okeechobee issue. We certainly need to repair the Hoover Dam. I don’t believe we can focus on just bringing water south or just repairing the dam. We need to bring people together to develop a comprehensive solution,” she said.

“We’ve got to get good, smart people, who care about the environmental future of Florida. The Everglades are the environmental heart of Florida. We need to get good, smart people back together again who are just focusing on how do we reverse course,” She said. “I think the Negron plan is a good start, but a very small start.”

One difference she has with Negron, she said, is she does not think there should be a prohibition on Florida using eminent domain to address Everglades cleanup.

“We don’t want to be limiting the state of Florida in terms of what we need to be doing with our environment,” she said. “We have a long ways to go to get our environment back to a healthy state. Clearly, the last six years have been the worst in our environment’s history.”

Two Janet Cruz-sponsored bills headed to Gov. Scott’s desk

Two bills sponsored by Tampa House Democratic Minority Leader Janet Cruz are headed towards Governor Rick Scott’s desk.

The House on Wednesday unanimously passed SB 800, the Senate companion to Cruz’ bill that will prohibit health insurers from denying patients the ability to receive a partial refill of a prescription if they choose to enroll in a medication synchronization program through their pharmacy. According to the sponsor, this will allow more patients to synchronize their prescription plans and lead to better health outcomes.

The origins of the bill come from the fact that often patients with chronic conditions who may have been prescribed medications from different specialized physicians, face numerous refill dates and multiple trips to the pharmacy each in order to maintain their prescribed treatment plan. This lack of alignment, or synchronization, in prescription fill dates has been identified as a major contributor to medication nonadherence, which results in poor health outcomes for patients and an estimated annual impact of $300 billion a year in avoidable costs to the U.S. health care system.

“Especially for our seniors, multiple trips to the pharmacy each month can be a burden that prevents them from receiving the care they need,” said Cruz. “By passing this bill, we are allowing thousands of patients throughout Florida the ability to maximize their health outcomes and live longer, healthier lives. I am proud that we were able to work in a bipartisan manner to improve the overall health of our state.”

The other Cruz sponsored bill (HB 1189) that also was unanimously passed in the House was legislation which requires the Supervisor of Elections to notify voters that their signature was rejected and give them a chance to fix it and have their votes counted.

Cruz sponsored the bill after U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled last fall that county election offices should notify voters if their signature on a vote-by-mail ballot and their voter registration forms don’t match.  Walker called it a “bizarre law.” Currently, the state of Florida does not count votes from people who have signed their ballots with a signature that differs from what is on file with the Supervisor of Elections office. The Supervisor of Elections isn’t required to tell them their vote has been invalidated and give them a chance to remedy the situation.

“The right to vote is one of the fundamental pillars of our democracy,” said Cruz. “Passing this bill gives Floridians the chance to fix problems with their signature and ensures their voice is heard at the ballot box. I’m pleased that all of my colleagues in the House, as well as the Senate, joined me to pass this much-needed legislation. I look forward to Governor Scott signing this critical bill into law to guarantee that all votes in Florida are counted.”\

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