Saturday, January 20, 2018
Politics

Sen. Mike Fasano's maneuver ensures funding for Pasco County medical van

Tis the season for lawmakers to protect their budget earmarks from the governor's veto pen.

Locally, such hometown spending would pay for a campaign against prescription drug abuse and a community center in Lacoochee. Statewide, earmarks include $5 million for a rowing center in Sarasota and $1 million to lure Major League Soccer training camps.

But Pasco landed one local project that sponsoring Sen. Mike Fasano won't lose sleep over. He secured an additional $165,000 to hire a full-time nurse practitioner and a driver for a new medical van that Pasco officials will unveil next week.

"The good news is, they are veto proof," said Fasano, a frequent critic of fellow Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Veto proof? How so?

Pasco bought the van to provide indigent health care from Pinellas County in February using donations. Pasco officials agreed to have the van operate under the office of Bob Dillinger, the Pasco-Pinellas public defender.

But there was no county money available to operate it.

Fasano, R-New Port Richey, added the extra money for the nurse practitioner and driver to Dillinger's base budget that pays for most of his daily operations. That means Scott would have to veto the entire public defender budget to get at Fasano's hometown spending.

The veteran 18-year lawmaker is a keen student of the Legislature's rules and can use them to his advantage. But he's also quick to rail against legislative maneuvers he considers unfair. Recently, he leveled tough criticism of a major prison privatization plan and the move to split Polytechnic from the University of South Florida.

The 47-foot vehicle provides the basics — such as treatment for cuts and wounds, colds or lice — to the homeless and people who have little access to free clinics.

Money to buy the van and other start-up funding was raised by County Commissioner Pat Mulieri, who serves on the Pasco homeless advisory board. Officials planned to hire a part-time nurse practitioner using those donations. The van also would be staffed with interns.

Dillinger said he will use the donations to cover salaries until the state money becomes available in July. He plans to hire a driver with medical training and noted that nurse practitioners are able to do almost anything a doctor can do, except prescribe certain narcotics.

"It's going to really help a lot of people," he said.

Full-time staffers will also allow the van to travel to homeless camps five times a week. With part-time staffers, visits would be limited to twice a week.

Fasano brainstormed the idea of full-time funding with Dillinger when he first heard about the van months ago.

"I wanted to make certain it will have an even greater impact on serving the uninsured and underinsured in Pasco," he said.

There's one more twist to Fasano's project. He added the medical van spending to the budget while he was chairman of a budget subcommittee that oversees the judicial system. He was later stripped of that post by Senate leaders over his opposition to the prison privatization plan that ultimately failed. Despite losing his chairmanship, the money remained in the budget.

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

Comments
U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

U.S. government shuts down; Democrats, GOP blame each other

WASHINGTON ó The federal government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trumpís inauguration in a striking display of Washington dysfunctio...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Battle lines already forming for Menendez corruption retrial

Battle lines already forming for Menendez corruption retrial

NEWARK, N.J. ó U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez might spend 2018 asking voters to re-elect him and jurors to acquit him. Prosecutors from the Department of Justice told a federal judge in New Jersey on Friday that they will seek a retrial of the Democratic sen...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Romano: If UCF is national champion, then Iím a Hollywood stud

Romano: If UCF is national champion, then Iím a Hollywood stud

The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said people were entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.Clearly, Moynihan never dealt with Florida legislators.Because around Tallahassee, facts are fungible. They arenít just up for ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

Congress likely racing toward a government shutdown

WASHINGTON ó A bitterly-divided Congress hurtled toward a government shutdown this weekend in a partisan stare-down over demands by Democrats for a solution on politically fraught legislation to protect about 700,000 younger immigrants from being dep...
Published: 01/19/18
Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

Clearwater City Council candidate John Funk: City needs better planning

CLEARWATER ó Voters may not be too familiar with the name John Funk.So since launching his campaign for City Council Seat 5 against well-known incumbent Hoyt Hamilton, Funk said he has knocked on 2,000 doors to introduce himself. Before the March 13 ...
Published: 01/19/18
Clearwater City Council candidate Hoyt Hamilton: Experience is key for critical next term

Clearwater City Council candidate Hoyt Hamilton: Experience is key for critical next term

CLEARWATER ó By asking voters to elect him into office a fifth time, Hoyt Hamilton knows heís now considered part of the old-guard. Born and raised in Clearwater, his family roots stretch back here more than 100 years. Hamilton, 59, spent nearly his ...
Published: 01/19/18

Q&A: Government shutdown looms. Hereís what you need to know

Lawmakers have until midnight tonight to pass legislation to avert a government shutdown.Hereís what that means. Why would the government shut down?Every year, Congress has to approve laws, known as appropriations, that provide money for federal agen...
Published: 01/18/18
Redington Shores mayor, commission positions filled with no opponents

Redington Shores mayor, commission positions filled with no opponents

REDINGTON SHORES ó There will be no election this year, but the changeout of commission members that began last year will continue. When the new commission is sworn in this March, four of five members, including the mayor, will have changed within th...
Published: 01/18/18
Rick Baker leaving Edwards Group, promoting new book

Rick Baker leaving Edwards Group, promoting new book

ST. PETERSBURG ó Rick Baker is opening a new chapter in his life. So far, the future remains an open book.The former two-term mayor announced Sunday that heís resigning his position as president of the Edwards Group effective Jan. 31.Baker has worked...
Published: 01/18/18
Madeira Beach voters have clear choices as battle lines form over growth

Madeira Beach voters have clear choices as battle lines form over growth

By Sheila Mullane EstradaTimes CorrespondentMADEIRA BEACH ó Voters here can either end or continue the cityís divisive politics on March 13. They will also decide how the city grows.The two commission seats that now represent pro-growth and pro-devel...
Published: 01/18/18