May 15th, 2013 by Matt Horn
Under a new bill sent to the Governor by state lawmakers, Floridians battling mental illness will be banned from purchasing a gun.
Supporters say it will save lives, while medical professionals say it will wrongfully take away second amendment rights for a large group of Floridians.
A loophole in Florida law has allowed people diagnosed with mental illnesses to continue purchasing firearms, until lawmakers closed the loophole with just one dissenting vote. “If it’s just one and they save one life, it’s a significant bill,” said Representative Barbara Watson (D) Miami.
The bill gained support by Democrats, Republicans and the NRA. “Keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people with mental illness saves lives,” said NRA past President Marion Hammer.
The legislation requires people who voluntarily commit themselves to give up their gun rights. “This only keeps mentally ill people who are determined to be dangerous from being able to buy guns,” she said.
But thousands have called or emailed the governor seeking a veto of the bill. “I hope the governor vetoes it,” said counselor Robert Carton. Health officials worry the legislation will keep people from seeking treatment. “It’s likely to create the opposite effect of what legislators are intending,” he said. “Not everybody with a mental illness is homicidal, not everybody with a mental illness is suicidal.”
90-thousand mentally ill Floridians are already prohibited from buying guns. If the governor signs the bill that number is expected to drastically increase. If signed into law, the mentally ill would be prohibited from buying a gun after July 1st.
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May 6th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in December, State leaders promised that “everything” was on the table when it came to guns and school safety.
Efforts to put a guidance counselor in every school to spot trouble, require schools to hold more frequent lockdown exercises…or a bill to arm teachers all died when lawmakers went home.
Representative Dennis Baxley chairs a committee that heard some gun bills. We asked why more gun bills, pro or con, didn’t pass. “Definitely a sense of not over reacting to some of the spectacular things that happened like Sandy Hook” says Baxley.
The NRA’s lobbyist was in the gallery when the only gun bill..out of 15 introduced…passed.
The bill clamps down on the ability of the mentally ill to buy a gun. Sponsor Audrey Gibson says it passed because the NRA supported it. “At lease we are at the table talking about it..and we should continue to talk about other ways to make sure we stop gun violence” says the Jacksonville State Senator. After a law enforcement memorial for fallen police officers, Fraternal Order of Police President James Preston says they would have liked some clarification to the controversial Stand Your Ground. “If there is an opportunity to recede or back away from the violence, that would be our preference, but if you have to protect yourself, then by all means, the public needs to be able to do that” says the FOP President.
The bill that would have done that never got a hearing. “We never even had the discussion about stand your ground” said State Senator Chris Smith, the sponsor of legislation to prohibit someone from pursuing someone and then claiming Stand Your Ground.
But the NRA says lawmaker looked and decided nothing was broken that needed fixing.Last year a task force held seven public hearings on Stand Your Ground and made minor recommendations to tweak the legislation, but even that bill was not heard by lawmakers.
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April 30th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
State lawmakers have sent the Governor a bill closing a loophole that has allowed mentally ill people to purchase guns. The legislation requires those who voluntarily commit themselves to sign away their firearm rights until they are well. The legislation is the only bill dealing with guns that will be approved by lawmakers during the 2013 legislative session. Sponsor Audrey Gibson calls it the beginning of a conversation. ”It’s something that is a rallying point because of the some of the incidents that have happened in our country. And as I told Marion , at least we’re at the table talking about it. And we should continue to talk about other ways to make sure we stop gun violence” says the Jacksonville Demcrat.
At the beginning of the session there was great speculation the Stand Your Ground law would be reviewed. NRA’s Marion Hammer, who watched today’s bill pass, says there was not need for a review. “There is nothing wrong with the legislation. There are problems with the way people are interpreting it, and that’s an easy fix. So, there was no “Stand Your Ground” or Castle Doctrine legislation” says the longtime NRA spokesperson.
A Stand your ground task force held meeting across the state and made several recommendations on stand your ground changes, but no legislation was heard.
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April 25th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
Legislation named the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act” was signed into law today. The measure requires law enforcement agencies to get a search warrant before flying over your home or property with an unmanned drone. Supporters say it’s better to have rules in place before most law enforcement agencies are flying over your house.
By signing legislation requiring police to get a search warrant if they want to fly an unmanned drone over your property, the Governor says he and lawmakers are protecting fourth amendment rights. “We want our own privacy. We believe in a fourth amendment. Now, there are exceptions”says Governor Scott.
There are three exceptions to the ban on drone use: The first is if police are stalking a suspected terrorist. Drones can be used if evidence has been presented to a judge and a search warrant issued. The third is swift action is needed to save a life or prevent serious property damage.
Only two law enforcement agencies in Florida are known to now have drones. Sponsor Joe Negron, says having rules in place before more own them is important. “There is an industry that wants to sell hundreds and thousands of these drones all over the country and before they’re up in the sky, hovering around, monitoring people in their cars and their backyards, I think it was a good idea to say, here’s the rules we’re going to have in Florida on that.”, says Sen. Negron, R-Stuart.
Most law enforcement agencies initially opposed the limitations on drone use until they saw how much legislative horsepower was behind it.
House Sponsor Rich Workman (R-Brevard County), likens to use of drones to the early days of wiretaps. “It was pretty well willy-nilly used. It seemed like a good way to find the bad guys. But it also invaded people’s privacy that weren’t guilty.”
One of the biggest fears has been that police would use drones to monitor neighborhoods, and farm lands looking for crimes being committed. The ban takes effect July first.
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April 20th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
Increased health care for up to a million Floridians remains up in the air tonight as legislators in Tallahassee push drastically different plans. The end result could be no additional coverage for anyone.
Under a plan being pushed by the state House, 113,000 low income Floridians would pay a 25 dollar monthly co-pay for private insurance. A plan favored by the Governor and State Senate, would cover ten times more people. It’s funded completely by the federal government for the first three years. But it is that federal funding where House Republicans are drawing the line.
Rep. Charles McBurney R-Jacksonville, told the panel “What the government giveth, the government taketh away.” Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, called the Feds record into question “Furthermore the federal government does have a demonstrated check record of being an unreliable funding partner.”
In pushing for the larger coverage, Democrats made a reference to Boston, where first responders rushed to a crisis. Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg says Florida should be rushing to solve a health care crisis. “We lend a helping hand. That’s what America is all about” said Rouson.
Despite the plea the committee shut down the federal money plan on a party line vote.
Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, says the GOP is still angry they lost the election “It’s really not about providing coverage under those plans, it’s simply about saying no to the Affordable Care Act.”The decision not to take federal money sets up a very real possibility the lawmakers could leave the State Capitol in two weeks and do absolutely nothing to expand health care.
Doing nothing says House Speaker Will Weatherford, would be profitable to taking federal money. “If it’s taking federal money that we can’t count on going home, I think we would prefer to go home” Weatherford said in an exclusive interview.
The plan being pushed by the House Speaker, gives eligible enrollees two thousand dollars to buy coverage of their choice. The House plan does not cover single, childless adults, which is one of the major differences from the Medicaid expansion favored by the Governor. His plan also saves the state an estimated 430 million dollars on money it now spends on the medically needy program.
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April 19th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
Internet Cafe Ban “Too Broad”
The Florida Arcade Association, made up of two hundred amusement centers is filing a law suit, saying the law that closed internet cafes was so vaguely crafted, it had the unintentional consequence of also shutting down legitimate businesses who cater to seniors. Trimmel Gomes says the arcade association want the law declared unconstitutional.
“Senior arcades, this is for seniors, they go it’s a place for good, clean entertainment and we’re not internet cafes and that’s the problem here. We should not have been lumped in to the internet cafe ban” says Gomes.
One consequence of the law is that it bans amusement machines that take anything but coins.
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April 17th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
In the summer of 1989, Floridians were horrified over the death of two year old Bradley McGee at the hands of his stepfather. The child had been dunked head first in the toiled, beaten and tortured for weeks before dying. Thomas Coe was sentenced to life, but under the law at that time he is entitled to a parole hearing. Today was that hearing.
Bradley McGee spent most of his life in foster care…returning home just two moths before being beaten and tortured to death by his step father. Thomas Coe received a life sentence. Cheryl Coe served nine years. Under the law at the time, Coe is entitled to parole. Polk County State Attorney Jerry Hill described the crime to the Parole Commission this way: “I think this is the worst case I’ve ever appeared on. I promise you is far and away one of the saddest.”
At the time, Bradley became the poster child for change. His foster mother Pam Kirkland lead the charge. ”I think we’re tired of children paying the price that we adults have the responsibility to protect these children.”
Kirkland has now passed and is buried next to Bradley. Her daughter came to tell the Parole Commission the world has no use for Thomas Coe ”And the anger and the mentality he has will never change because there’s no remorse today.” Another family friend, Dorine Parsons, nearly broke down from rage. ”This morning Thomas Coe got up and he breathed. This baby did not.”
The Commission denied parole…and set a lengthy seven year period before the case can be heard again. The decision satisfied the Samantha Campbell. ”It’s a shame that Sheryl got to walk because of overcrowding which is very sad, but God will take care of that not us.”
Bradley McGee would be 26 had he survived.
Posted in Children, Civil Rights, Crime, Crime and Parole, Criminal Justice, Education, Health, Mental Health | No Comments »
April 3rd, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
A Bradenton couple, arrested last month for growing marijuana for medical reasons has learned the charges were dropped.
The arrest came the same day a poll showed overwhelming support for legalizing medical marijuana. In a memo, prosecutors say they were assured Cathy Jordan has Lou Gherigs disease and that marijuana is the only thing that relieves her symptoms, so she and husband Bob qualify for what is called a medical necessity in Florida. Bob Jordan says the couple has been vindicated.
“We were doing this for sixteen years and you know now finally it went through the legal system and they’re saying that we’re right all along. I’ve been saying that there is no pharmaceutical can do what the plant does.”
The couple said they planned on applying for a permit to grow marijuana. A provision of the medical necessity law says “the evil sought to be avoided was more heinous than the unlawful act perpetrated to avoid it”.
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March 6th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
Health insurance companies call intravenous chemotherapy “treatments” and oral medications that do the same thing “prescriptions”, and that has lead to drastically different co-pays for many patients with the life threatening disease. Efforts are underway at the state capitol to make fairness part of the equation.
The future of cancer treatment is a pill taken orally. There’s just one problem. Most insurance companies pay for the intravenous chemo as a treatment with a low co-pay. But doctors say paying for pills is another matter. “If the best cancer care is in a pill form. It shouldn’t cost more than it would cost them if they were getting it in a IV form if it were available.”, says Dr. Wayne Taylor, Hudson Internist.
The discrepancy brought Luke Webb of Miami to the Capitol on a mission to change the law. Five years ago he was diagnosed with cancer. “The drugs that I was taking at the time are about three thousand five hundred dollars per month. I was having to pay out-of-pocket for them in order to acquire them to stay alive.”, says Webb.
State Representative Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach) is championing the change. She lost her husband to cancer in 2008. “They should not be discriminating between oral cancer treatment and an IV cancer treatment.”, says Rep. Mayfield.
Opposition here is coming from managed care providers or HMOs, who worry it could raise their cost.
Another legislator, David Wood of Daytona Beach, is currently taking oral cancer medication. He says the time has come for treatments to be handled equally. “Somehow is cheaper to do it with a doctor and a nurse than to do it with a pill that makes no sense. It’s counter intuitive.”, says Rep. Wood.
Intravenous and oral treatments are equally expensive. At least 21 other states have decided cancer patients needed to be treated equally when being prescribed one of the two.
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December 12th, 2012 by Mike Vasilinda
Disturbing video tonight from a privatized Juvenile Justice facility in Milton Florida just outside Pensacola. On August 9, Officer Shannon Abbott is seen leading a teen inmate at the Milton Girls Juvenile Residential Facility when she suddenly bangs her head against the wall, and then tosses the inmate to the ground. In a prepared statement, the Department of Juvenile Justice says
“We are deeply concerned that the incident as depicted in the video we released today in response to public record requests by the news media seriously contradicts its description to us by officials representing the facility. We are also troubled that the facility did not officially report the incident to DJJ until two days after it occurred, and only when the victim called the DCF Abuse Hotline. This lapse is inexplicable.
Officer Abbott was charged with battery on a juvenile victim. The Department of Children and Families and the Santa Rosa County Sheriff investigated the incident. The juveniles name is being withheld. The facility is operated by Gulf Coast Youth Services. The Milton facility is one of seven run by the company.
Watch a portion of the video here
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