April 11, 2013

Senate passes bill to tighten oversight of assisted living facilities

The Senate passed a bill on Thursday that aims to tighten oversight of Florida's nearly 3,000 assisted living facilities passed  by a 38-0 vote. "It's a work that we've all put a lot of effort on,'' said Sen. Eleanor Sobel, sponsor of  HB 646.
  The bill was  prompted by a 2011 Miami Herald investigation that revealed years of abuse, neglect and even death of ALF residents, said Sobel, D-Hollywood.
 "Legislation failed in the 2012 session," Sobel said during the bill's second reading Wednesday. "We have a more targeted approach this year. We are attempting to better enforce existing regulations. I know this bill significantly improves the lives of over 80,000 residents in ALFs in Florida."
  

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April 10, 2013

Rep. Daphne Campbell to press: Nevermind

To speed up the political process, Miami Rep. Daphne Campbell called a press conference Wednesday afternoon to highlight a bill she's sponsoring that expands the authority of nurse practitioners and physician assistants to order the involuntary committment of a patient who could hurt themselves or others under the state's Baker Act.

Under current law, a physician, police officer and counselor can commit someone who might be mentall ill, but not nurse practitioners, who have additional training and education, Campbell said.

 "A police officer on the street can Baker Act a patient and not a nurse practitioner, who has two licenses?" said the Democratic legislator, who is a registered nurse but not a nurse practitioner. "They're well, well educated."

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Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"

Some of the young women carrying signs scrawled with slogans like "Time to ratify the ERA" weren't even born when the proposal was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972. But they, along with a couple women legislators, leaders and other Democratic women from around the state, came to the Capitol Monday to show they haven't given up on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. They also want legislators to know they're "watching" them on numerous key issues like the Parent Trigger bill, election reform, Medicaid expansion and women's healthcare.

"Despite the good things that have happened, we continue to be under assault here in this state," said Rep. Lori Berman, who with Rep. Janet Cruz has co-sponsored a bill (HB 8001) that would ratify the
ERA in Florida. The bill was workshopped Monday in the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee, its first of three stops, but the odds are against it passing with the clock ticking on this session.

Continue reading "Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"" »

Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"

Some of the young women carrying signs scrawled with slogans like "Time to ratify the ERA" weren't even born when the proposal was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972. But they, along with a couple women legislators, leaders and other Democratic women from around the state, came to the Capitol Monday to show they haven't given up on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. They also want legislators to know they're "watching" them on numerous key issues like the Parent Trigger bill, election reform, Medicaid expansion and women's healthcare.

"Despite the good things that have happened, we continue to be under assault here in this state," said Rep. Lori Berman, who with Rep. Janet Cruz has co-sponsored a bill (HB 8001) that would ratify the
ERA in Florida. The bill was workshopped Monday in the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee, its first of three stops, but the odds are against it passing with the clock ticking on this session.

Continue reading "Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"" »

Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"

Some of the young women carrying signs scrawled with slogans like "Time to ratify the ERA" weren't even born when the proposal was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1972. But they, along with a couple women legislators, leaders and other Democratic women from around the state, came to the Capitol Monday to show they haven't given up on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. They also want legislators to know they're "watching" them on numerous key issues like the Parent Trigger bill, election reform, Medicaid expansion and women's healthcare.

"Despite the good things that have happened, we continue to be under assault here in this state," said Rep. Lori Berman, who with Rep. Janet Cruz has co-sponsored a bill (HB 8001) that would ratify the
ERA in Florida. The bill was workshopped Monday in the House Local and Federal Affairs Committee, its first of three stops, but the odds are against it passing with the clock ticking on this session.

Continue reading "Democratic women tell legislators: "We're watching"" »

April 09, 2013

Gov. Scott praises legislators advancing abortion-related bill

Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement Tuesday praising legislators for unanimously passing a Senate bill that would “ensure common sense measures to help care for the babies who survive abortion procedures.”

 The 9-0 vote advances Senate Bill 1636, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, which would require health practitioners to offer emergency medical care to a baby born alive or face a first-degree misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to a year in jail.

While the measure is known as an abortion bill, the proposed law focuses on what happens after the procedure, one reason it hasn't drawn the ire of prochoice groups and legislators. Planned Parenthood dropped its opposition after a provision that would have stripped a mother seeking an abortion of parental rights was eliminated from the bill by both Flores and Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, in the House version.

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April 08, 2013

Texting while driving bill clears last committee hurdle

After trying to pass a texting while driving law for for years, Sen. Nancy Detert can finally see the finish line ahead

“I really couldn’t be more thrilled,” said the Venice Republican, after Senate Bill 52 passed by a unanimous vote in the Judiciary Committee Monday afternoon, the last committee stop before heading to the Senate floor. “We finally have it in a position to pass it in the Senate and in the House and the governor has signified he’s willing to sign it, too, so hopefully we’re home free this year.”  

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April 04, 2013

The day in cannabis: Medical marijuana group rebrands, Pew poll shows majority want legalization

@MarcACaputo

Two developments on the marijuana front today, one in Florida and one nationally.

The group People United for Medical Marijuana (PUFMM, get it?) is rebranding its effort to put medical marijuana on the ballot. Its new website: United for Care. The group is now being led by Florida trial attorney John Morgan and Ben Pollara, a top Democratic fundraiser. Libertarian and former Republican Roger Stone gives it a bipartisan feel. Coming soon: More Republicans to give it a multi-partisan flavor.

Nationally, the Pew Research Center release a poll showing that national attitudes toward marijuana are trending greener by the day:

"For the first time in more than four decades of polling on the issue, a majority of Americans favor legalizing the use of marijuana. A national survey finds that 52% say that the use of marijuana should be made legal while 45% say it should not.

"Support for legalizing marijuana has risen 11 points since 2010. The change is even more dramatic since the late 1960s. A 1969 Gallup survey found that just 12% favored legalizing marijuana use, while 84% were opposed."

Two years ago, Gallup found a "record high" number of Americans favored legalizing it, 50%. And more than 64% percent of Americans, according to another Gallup poll, say the federal government shouldn't enforce federal anti-pot laws in the places where marijuana has been decriminalized.

Floridians aren't quite ready to say they're for outright decriminalization, according to the last poll paid for by PUFFM. But the poll indicates Floridians think it should be treated more like a speeding ticket than  a lock-em-up crime.

That poll, however, did indicate that more than 7 in 10 Florida voters favored medical marijuana. That link is here. Two years ago, about 6 in 10 favored medical marijuana in Florida. That link is here.

What's the Florida Legislature doing in the face of increasing public support? It's refusing to even hear bills to allow for medical marijuana. The issue doesn't even merit a vote. But the Legislature is hearing a measure to stop the sale of bongs.

On that note, we'll leave you with one last poll number: 52% of Florida voters disapprove of the job the Legislature is doing and only 25% approve, according to Quinnipiac University's last survey.

 

March 26, 2013

Prison officials offer tour of shuttered inmate re-entry center

 

Top state prison officials hosted a guided media tour Tuesday of a vivid symbol of the agency's long-festering budget problems: a shiny new $17 million medium security inmate re-entry center that's finished but sits idle. The reason: Go. Rick Scott's Department of Corrections doesn't have enough money to operate the center.

The 432-bed Gadsden Re-Entry Center sits on the campus of the Florida Public Safety Institute in Havana, about 15 miles northwest of Tallahassee. With its three dormitories, chapel, classrooms and computer lab, it is designed to ease inmates through the difficult transition from long-term incarceration to civilized society by teaching them vocational and life skills, such as obtaining a high-school equivalency or learning how to balance a checkbook.

Helping inmates re-enter society is a priority of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews, who acted as tour guide. "We can stick our heads in the sand," Crews said, "or we can do what we can to ensure that they succeed when they get out."

Gov. Scott's proposed $74 million budget includes $5.4 million to open the center on July 1. The proposed Senate budget has enough money to open it next January, Crews said, and he's waiting to see what the House proposes in its budget, to be released in the coming days.

Crews emphasized that a re-entry center is not a work release center. Inmates sent to Gadsden will not be leaving the grounds for outside employment. "That is not going to happen," Crews said. "This is about skills, jobs, education. Their time will be spent inside the fence."

-- Steve Bousquet

March 22, 2013

Scott: Citizens' raises, claims of underpaid execs, 'simply ridiculous'

Gov. Rick Scott has more tough words for Citizens Property Insurance, after the company continued to make the argument that their executives and employees are underpaid and deserving of huge raises paid out last year.

Here’s the latest statement from Scott, released Friday:

“Citizens’ claims that they need to pay their executives more because of their history of controversy is simply ridiculous. A few weeks ago, I asked Citizens to give back outrageous pay raises they doled out to their executives last year. I also said that Citizens needs to have per diems that match other state employees and they should not be reimbursed for alcohol. Citizens needs immediate reform and that is why I called for the creation of an Inspector General. They must be responsible stewards of the taxpayer funds that back them.”

The board at Citizens met Friday and some board members were none-too-happy with new austerity measures put into place after Scott’s Inspector General questioned how employees were spending money on luxurious business travel and gourmet meals. Board members said calls for lower spending and salaries were driven by political interests and media coverage.

The board did not move to reverse the salary hikes, as Scott requested, and complained about new caps on spending for meals that bring Citizens in line with state law governing state workers.

Our blog post on that meeting is below:

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