Sunday, August 19, 2018
Politics

Rick Scott's veto of prison bill misses point

It took six long years for Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff to pass a law intended to help a few people deal with their drug addiction in state prison.

It took Gov. Rick Scott only a few seconds to wipe it out.

Scott last Friday vetoed a carefully crafted bill that had the support of almost every conservative Republican in the state Legislature.

In an election year, state lawmakers are especially leery of voting for anything that an opponent could distort into a "soft on crime" attack.

This bill didn't do that. It passed the Senate, 40-0, and the House, 112-4, and had the backing of business groups, too.

"I'm phenomenally disappointed," said Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican who could not convince Scott that the modest reform in the bill would save taxpayers' money by reducing the chance that inmates would re-offend by getting them the help they need.

"He said it was a 'public safety' issue. No, it's not," she said. "These are nonviolent drug offenders."

Political leaders have to get past what she called the "garbage" of mindless "tough on crime" talk, Bogdanoff said.

She said Florida cells are full of people whose only crime is an addiction to drugs, and if they don't get help, they'll soon be back on the streets, committing new crimes to support the habit that flourished in prison.

But that's not how Scott saw it.

"Justice to victims of crime is not served when a criminal is permitted to be released early from a sentence imposed by the courts," Scott wrote in his veto message. "This bill would permit criminals to be released after serving 50 percent of their sentences, thus creating an unwarranted exception to the rule that inmates serve 85 percent of their imposed sentences."

Florida remains shackled by the 85 percent rule, enacted in the 1990s during a crime wave fueled by the crack cocaine epidemic.

Across the country, more and more conservatives have become convinced that such laws are too expensive and that inmates need help, not strictly punishment.

The vetoed bill (HB 177) would have permitted a small group of drug-addicted inmates to move from prison to intensive treatment programs after serving half their time. They'd still be in custody, but not behind bars.

The prison system said a total of 337 inmates could have participated in the first year, out of more than 100,000 statewide. Only nonviolent offenders would have been eligible after a full assessment and after being enrolled in adult education courses.

The prison system would have chosen inmates based on their good behavior, the severity of their addictions and the likelihood that rehabilitation would save taxpayer dollars, a House analysis said.

In other words, the bill, properly implemented, could have reduced the cost of government, the very thing that Scott talks about so much.

The House sponsor of the bill was Rep. Ari Porth of Coral Springs, a Democrat who also was disappointed by Scott's veto.

"This was a very small step toward prison reform," Porth said. "This was a real chance to have a positive impact on the lives of people."

The term-limited Porth is not going back to Tallahassee, but Bogdanoff probably will be back next session.

"We'll try again," she said.

Comments
Romano: A fresh start for Florida to protect abused children

Romano: A fresh start for Florida to protect abused children

The worst job in Florida is available, once again.Mike Carroll has announced his pending resignation as secretary of the Department of Children and Families, giving someone else the privilege to be an underfunded, second-guessed punching bag. For no ...
Published: 08/18/18
Pinellas commission candidate faced stalking, abuse claims

Pinellas commission candidate faced stalking, abuse claims

ST. PETERSBURG — A political newcomer seeking a Pinellas County Commission seat has faced accusations of physical abuse and stalking from her former fiance, who twice sought court-ordered protection from her.Both allegations came after Democrat Amy K...
Published: 08/17/18

Two Seminole council members face challengers

SEMINOLE — Six candidates have filed to run for two open seats on the City Council.Incumbents Chris Burke, first elected in 2012, and Trish Springer, elected in 2015, face challenges from former council member Dan Hester, who served from 2005 to 2010...
Published: 08/16/18
In Republican race for Pinellas County Commission seat, Rep. Kathleen Peters outpacing field

In Republican race for Pinellas County Commission seat, Rep. Kathleen Peters outpacing field

As the Aug. 28 primary election approaches, three Republicans are battling to represent a Pinellas County Commission district that hasn’t witnessed a competitive contest for more than 15 years.State Reps. Larry Ahern of Seminole and Kathleen Peters o...
Published: 08/16/18
Romano: Con artist or Florida politician? You decide

Romano: Con artist or Florida politician? You decide

Decorum matters, and so the attorney’s language was appropriately measured.In seeking to have a constitutional amendment thrown off the ballot, a motion filed in Leon County used words such as "misleading’’ and "ambiguity’’ and "wordsmithing.’’That’s...
Published: 08/16/18
Veteran Hernando politicians take oversized contributions, run afoul of campaign finance laws

Veteran Hernando politicians take oversized contributions, run afoul of campaign finance laws

BROOKSVILLE — With primary Election Day at the doorstep, two Republican candidates vying for seats on the Hernando County Commission found themselves in uncomfortable spots over potential filings with the Florida Commission on Ethics.And a third Repu...
Published: 08/15/18
Q&A: A Watergate trickster talks dirty politics, then and now

Q&A: A Watergate trickster talks dirty politics, then and now

CLEARWATERNearly half a century ago, Martin Kelly made the mistake of his life.He was a senior at the University of Miami when he decided to take part in what would become one of the most infamous political scandals in U.S. history: Watergate. He was...
Published: 08/15/18

Pasco Political Notebook for Aug. 17

Republican Club hosts candidate forum at meetingThe West Pasco Republican Club will host an "Election Extravaganza" candidate forum at its meeting Aug. 21 at Heritage Springs Country Club, 11345 Robert Trent Jones Parkway, Trinity. A social time will...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/15/18
Early voting in Pasco: Here’s what to remember when you head to the polls

Early voting in Pasco: Here’s what to remember when you head to the polls

Early voting Pasco County begins Saturday and runs through Aug. 25, with 11 locations across the county for voters.Polls are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 20-24, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug...
Published: 08/13/18
Largo election cancelled as incumbents stay with no opposition

Largo election cancelled as incumbents stay with no opposition

LARGO — There will be no suspense in the city when elections arrive Nov. 6. In fact, there will be no election at all, because all four city commissioners whose seats were up were re-elected by default when no one came forward by the end of the candi...
Published: 08/13/18