Rep. Ron Saunders, a Key West Democrat, saying he was trying to avoid all the ongoing controversy with the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer's Center and Research Institute tried to rename it after President Ronald Reagan, the Republican icon who suffered from the disease in the later years of his life. The amendment was soundly defeated by a 36-67 vote, with most Republicans voting against the name change.
Three Republicans, however, did vote for the name change: Bob Allen, Thad Altman and David Simmons. Simmons, however, told the House clerk later that "accidentally pushed the wrong button" and that he thought he was voting on something else.
Saunders tried to attach the name change to a bill that would slash state funding for the center by $7.5 million. The Senate is proposing only cutting the funding by $1.5 million. The center is named after the father of the controversial former House speaker who presided over the House in 2003 and 2004. Rep. Rich Glorioso, the Plant City Republican who replaced Byrd, told members to vote against the proposed name change. Glorioso told members that the Reagan family has previously told backers that they did not want the center named after the late president.