Posts Tagged ‘Charlie Crist’

Ultrasounds no longer mandatory in Florida anti-abortion rights bill

Posted on: May 4th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Florida’s mandatory-ultrasound bill passed one last hurdle today before its final vote, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

Final changes to Senate Bill 1744 included an amendment that would conform the Senate bill to House language that allowed a woman to sign a waiver if they do not want to see an ultrasound or hear a description of an ultrasound before receiving an abortion.

As the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, explained, “They don’t have to view it and they don’t have to hear the description if they sign the form.”

Original versions of the legislation required the woman seeking the procedure to hear the description without the option of a waiver. However, they were able to decline viewing the ultrasound.

Those opposed to the bill do not see the need for such legislation, and fear it might raise the cost of an abortion. Storms explained that an ultrasound is already “part of operating procedure” during the procedure. This further raised concerns about whether there was a need for the bill.

Storms said her reason for sponsoring the bill is to make sure that women in Florida are aware that they have the option to view an ultrasound.

Storms has not been silent about her disapproval of abortion providers. During committee discussions of the bill she explained that abortion providers were “disengaged” and did not “view the baby as a baby.”

She echoed similar sentiment today when she was asked about standard operating procedure for abortions in the state.

She explained what she read on the websites of the clinics providing the service. She said that the clinics use ultrasounds “in order to determine the gestational age of the baby — except they don’t say ‘baby,’ they say ‘fetus.’”

A similar bill measure made it through the state legislature during last year’s spring legislative session, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Crist said such legislation would “place an inappropriate burden on women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.”

Florida Sen. Flores votes down amendment providing more protection to pregnant women facing health risk

Posted on: April 18th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Yesterday, Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, voted down an amendment in a Senate budget committee that would have provided more protection for women seeking an abortion whose life is threatened by a pregnancy. #


The Senate committee was considering an amendment that would allow pregnant women who face a “serious risk” to their health to receive insurance coverage for an abortion. The amendment was attached to Senate Bill 1414, which greatly limits abortion access for women who receive health insurance from the health care exchanges set up by the the federal health care reform law passed last year. #


Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, sponsored an amendment that provides an exception to the ban for cases of rape, incest or if the pregnancy is a “serious risk” to the mother’s health. #


Senate Bill 1414 is similar to the failed Stupak Amendment that almost stalled federal health care reform last year. Similar legislation is being passed at a state level all over the country. Some states, however, are proposing more extreme measures by not allowing exceptions to this ban for cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health. #


Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Nassau, said that Margolis’ amendment was “too broad” and could possibly justify exceptions that are beyond those stipulated in the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment provides exceptions for cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health. Margolis argues that her amendment was, indeed, the same as the Hyde Amendment. #


Once the amendment came to a vote, every one of the few women who sat on the committee, save Flores, voted “yes.” However, they were outnumbered by their male counterparts who placed “no” votes. #


Flores has voiced strong opposition throughout this session on the subject of public money funding abortions. This year she sponsored a state constitutional amendment that would ban public funding for abortions. She also led the charge to reintroduce the mandatory-ultrasound bill after it was vetoed last year by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. #


Margolis’ amendment failed. However, at the end of the long budget committee meeting, Margolis introduced an amendment that tightens the language to provide exceptions for “rape, incest… and physical illness, including an endangering physical condition arising from the pregnancy itself. And would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion was performed.” #


The bill passed with the amendment. Sens. Arthenia Joyner, Evelyn Lynn and Nan Rich cast “no” votes on the abortion-restricting legislation. #

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program one step closer to becoming reality

Posted on: April 11th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Despite several hurdles, Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is steadily moving forward. #


Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t want it, due to privacy and cost concerns, while most other major political players (including Senate President Mike Haridopolis, R-Merritt Island) think a statewide drug-monitoring database is crucial to dealing with our notorious prescription drug epidemic. #


But even as bills that aim to repeal the Drug Monitoring Program and replace it with harsher laws governing local pharmacies and a doctor’s ability to dispense drugs, the database is moving forward. Last Friday, a judge signed an order finalizing the Drug Monitoring Program appeal, which can now get off the ground. #


“This gives the Department of Health the green light to move forward with a contract,” says Greg Giordano, chief legislative aide to state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, a longtime proponent of the database. Giordano says the department “will start the contracting process” this week, “barring any further legal action.” #


The bidding process over who would operate the database was a major point of contention for detractors of the program, and one of the initial problems that led to its attempted repeal. On Friday, Judge Robert Meale dismissed that bid protest, paving the way for Department of Health officials to move forward. #


In a press release, Haridopolis thanked the Department of Health for the decision to begin operation of Florida’s program, which will be similar to databases in 30 other states. ”The database will provide ‘shock and awe’ in Florida’s efforts to end the criminal abuse of legal prescription drugs,” said Haridopolos. “In addition to the Senate’s commitment to the database, pending legislation will strengthen the prescription drug monitoring program and provide even stronger privacy protections for individual Floridians.” #


The Drug Monitoring Program was signed into law two years ago, by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Scott announced his effort to repeal that law in February, and recently unveiled his own plan to combat Florida’s drug problem, a so-called “strike force” that would assist local law enforcement agencies by “providing intelligence and analytical and investigative support.” #


Haridpolois says the Drug Monitoring Program will take it a step further. “The database will be an effective tool to help law enforcement. The illegal use of prescription drugs is a plight on our state and touches people from all walks of life. We will use the full resources of Florida to tackle this problem,” said Haridopolis, in his press release. #


View the full Final Order here. #

Florida leaders seek ‘Fair Districts’ pre-clearance, append qualifications

Posted on: March 30th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos yesterday asked the U.S. Department of Justice to approve the two anti-gerrymandering amendments supported by Florida voters in last November’s election, appending a lengthy explanation of how they feel the so-called “Fair Districts” amendments should be interpreted. #


The move comes two months after controversy erupted over Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to rescind former Gov. Charlie Crist’s application for Department of Justice approval. After news of Scott’s order became public, the League of Women Voters, the Florida NAACP, Democracia Ahora and others sued the governor, asking a court to force him to resubmit the amendments — approved by more than 60 percent of Florida voters last year — to the Department of Justice. #


According to a legislature press release, Scott determined “earlier this month” that “the proper authority” to submit the amendments to the feds rests with either Attorney General Pam Bondi or the Florida legislature, prompting the latter to act. #


In addition to the one-page letter seeking Department of Justice approval (a legal necessity created by the Voting Rights Act of 1965), Cannon and Haridopolos included an 11-page document outlining their interpretation of how they can implement the Fair Districts amendments while still preserving minority representation in the state legislature and Congress: #

Properly interpreted, we do not believe that the Amendments create roadblocks to the preservation or enhancement of minority voting strength. To avoid retrogression in the position of racial minorities, the Amendments must be understood to preserve without change the Legislature‘s prior ability to construct effective minority districts. Moreover, the Voting Rights Provisions ensure that the Amendments in no way constrain the Legislature‘s discretion to preserve or enhance minority voting strength, and permit any practices or considerations that might be instrumental to that important purpose. In promoting minority voting strength, the Legislature may continue to employ whatever means were previously at its disposal. #

The argument here seems to be that the legislature should be allowed the freedom to draw lines as it sees fit if it suits the purpose of preserving minority representation, regardless of whether the Fair Districts amendments require the lines to be drawn differently. #


The Tampa Tribune‘s William March today documented criticism of Cannon and Haridopolos’ claims: #

Gerald Hebert, an election law expert who has followed Florida’s reapportionment battles since 2002, said the legislators were wrong on their proposed interpretations. #


“What they’re trying to do is get the Justice Department to approve their misinterpretations,” he said. “The Justice Department won’t do that — they’ll simply say they either approve or disapprove the amendments.” #


Hebert said he intends to file comments with the Justice Department disagreeing with the Legislature’s submission. So does the FairDistricts committee that sponsored the petition drive and campaign for the amendments. #


“The submission contains a number of statements that are clearly intended to undermine the intent of the FairDistricts Amendments,” said Dan Gelber, former state senator and unsuccessful Democratic candidate for attorney general, who is the committee’s lawyer. #


Cannon has made the state House a party to a lawsuit seeking to overturn the amendments, and Haridopolos has opposed them in written comments. #

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Florida pill mill bill passes Criminal Justice Committee

Posted on: March 22nd, 2011 by The American Independent 1 Comment

Senate Bill 818, Mike Fasano’s so-called “pill mill bill,” passed the Senate Criminal Justice Committee this morning with a unanimous vote. #


In the bill (.pdf), Fasano, R- New Port Richey, proposes harsher restrictions for those operating pill mills in Florida. The measure would also maintain a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database in the state, a program implemented by then-gov. Charlie Crist. The database would track prescription drugs, in an effort to thwart doctor-shoppers and pill mills and reduce the large number of drug overdoses in the state. #


But just as 818 advances through the Senate, two bills that aim to repeal the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (and take privileges away from doctors) are advancing in the House. Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Dean Cannon have both spoken out against the Drug Monitoring Database, arguing that it would lead to privacy concerns and cost the state too much money. Supporters of the database, like Fasano, have long argued that there are already enough funds placed aside to run the program for at least two years. #


Attorney General Pam Bondi, a vocal advocate of  a state drug-monitoring database, spoke in favor of the bill in this morning’s committee meeting. #


Fasano’s bill will next go to its final stop, the Budget Committee. #

Former Florida state rep. eyeing U.S. Senate run, cites Rubio as inspiration

Posted on: March 22nd, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Former Florida House majority leader Adam Hasner announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a U.S. Senate run  Monday during a broadcast of the conservative Mark Levin show.

Hasner said he and Levin had something in common: They both supported Marco Rubio before the weight of the Republican establishment was behind him. Like Rubio, he said he plans to drive around the state, just he and his Garmin GPS, talking to conservative activists.

Hasner’s Twitter bio notes that he was “picked by Marco Rubio to serve as Republican Majority Leader in Florida.”

Describing himself as an “unapologetic conservative,” he pointed to his support for a national push for a balanced budget amendment.

When Hasner said he was 41 years old, Levin said, “I like this young crop of conservatives like you who are articulate, who have experience under their belt, and who are on a mission to save this country.”

Hasner took a few subtle digs at other potential primary contenders. He said wasn’t banking on raising a lot of “special interest money,” perhaps a jab Senate President and fundraising powerhouse Mike Haridopolos (who has invoked Rubio’s name in his own pitches to possible donors). He described George LeMieux as “the Charlie Crist-appointed former senator.”

“I don’t need to reinvent myself as a conservative,” he said.

Florida state rep points out governor’s budget renews funding for crisis pregnancy network

Posted on: March 15th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Since Gov. Rick Scott unveiled his 2011-2012 budget proposal last month, questions have swirled about what his recommendations might mean for particular state programs. According to state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, one controversial program — which provides taxpayer dollars to crisis pregnancy centers that have been found to disseminate disputed information about abortion — lives on in Scott’s budget. #


Plakon, a vocal supporter of the crisis pregnancy network, tells The Florida Independent that the state’s Pregnancy Support Services Program is fully funded under Scott’s budget proposal. He says the program would be transferred out of the Department of Health and into the Department of Children and Families. #


Plakon emphasizes that he neither endorses nor opposes Scott’s proposal to transfer the program, saying that the state House — which has historically been supportive of the program — is currently developing its own budget. #


The program was created by an executive order under then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2005 and currently supports about 70 pregnancy centers located throughout the state. According to then-Gov. Charlie Crist’s 2009 budget, the program exists to provide counseling, support services and accurate medical information to women in crisis pregnancies. #


In October 2010, the Independent obtained Department of Health records that show that oversight of the state-funded and often faith-based crisis pregnancy clinic chain mainly rests in the hands of the two organizations contracted by the state to run those clinics — the nonprofit Florida Pregnancy Care Network and the for-profit Uzzell Group. #


The Independent documented at length that pregnancy centers supported by taxpayer dollars distribute information that links abortion to grave mental health consequences like clinical depression, suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse — information that has been disputed by scientific organizations. #


The Department of Health documents show that Pregnancy Care Network site reviews for 2009-2010 indicated that 27 pregnancy centers needed to develop a procedure for reviewing and verifying the accuracy of materials and information given to clients. #


Department officials, in charge of the Pregnancy Support Services Program, never responded to various requests from the Independent to discuss the agency’s oversight of the accuracy of information given out at the centers. #


“There is ongoing oversight of this program,” Plakon says when asked about that point. “It sounds like ongoing improvement of the program.” He says that crisis pregnancy centers are “allowed in their non-governmental section to put out literature that is paid separately from the government funds to talk about faith-based ideas.” #


When asked how the Department of Health verifies that state money isn’t spent on religious information or practice Plakon says, “In my meetings with them they are very, very careful.” #


“They are fully aware there has to be segmentation between the faith-based component and the government component,” he says. “They understand the importance of segmenting those two approaches in their facilities and their activities. Now, if there is an occasional lapse, I’m sure that [the Department of Health], the Pregnancy Care Network and Uzzell would be all over that.” #

Florida governor rolls back voting and other rights for felons

Posted on: March 9th, 2011 by Rich 1 Comment

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida’s cabinet unanimously approved changes to clemency rules that impose new waiting periods on felons seeking to have their civil rights restored. #


The changes scale back the automatic restoration of rights — including the right to vote — for offenders who have completed their sentences, a program begun under former Gov. Charlie Crist. #


The text of the new rules was not publicly available until after today’s meeting began, and some members of the cabinet were only able to read them the same day they approved them. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said he hadn’t seen the specific changes until he was given a printout before the meeting began. #


Several Democratic lawmakers called on the board to delay its decision. #


“Why the rush to go back to where we started from?” asked state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. “It appears we are going in circles.” #


Police officers and prosecutors spoke in favor of the changes, arguing that the waiting periods provide for felons to prove they will not return to a life of crime — part of repaying their debt to society. #


Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said requiring past offenders to prove they have reformed themselves “ensures accountability,” echoing an argument made earlier by Attorney General Pam Bondi, who helped lead the effort to make the changes. #


Bondi said the new rules would help “restore proper respect for law-abiding citizens.” #


Newly elected state Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, told the cabinet that his campaign, completed just last week, showed him that people would be less likely to break laws when they understand them, and have a say in how they are made. #