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Rep. Eddy Gonzalez defends himself on failed ALF bill

As Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, pushed desperately last week to pass reforms that would have helped protect elderly and mentally ill residents in assisted living facilities, she complained she didn't get an "honest broker" or a "dance partner" in the House.

But Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah Gardens, insists the failed reform effort is not his fault.

"She had an honest broker and a great dance partner, but she never showed up at the dance," he said in a press release.

The release points out the strengths of HB 7133, which would have created a licensing requirement for administrators, a new advisory council to investigate ALF abuses and deaths, and required that abuses to residents be reported to a central hotline.

SB 2074, promoted by Storms and sponsored by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, contained some of the same requirements, but would have also shut down homes that cause a resident's death, imposed more inspections, and required more education for administrators and caretakers.

In a dramatic appeal the last day of session, Storms tacked amendments onto the House bill and begged fellow lawmakers to take them up. House leaders refused because they said the Senate bill is so harsh it would put ALFs out of business.

Senate leaders insisted that the House reform was weak, and was meant to protect and placate the powerful ALF industry rather than help residents.

Storms said she repeatedly urged Gonzalez and House leaders to pass meaningful reform, but her pleas fell on deaf ears.

Not true, said Gonzalez, who sponsored legislation last year that called for stripping key protections from residents — including portions of the Residents’ Bill of Rights.

"Senator Storms had ample opportunity to raise her concerns while the bill moved through the legislative process. Unfortunately, our state's most vulnerable seniors will have to wait at least another year for meaningful reform due to her last-minute actions," the release said.