Peltier column: With budget done, Gov. Scott moves on to other matters POLL

MICHAEL PELTIER

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— Following his stamp of approval on a budget that includes $615 million in vetoes, Gov. Rick Scott last week turned his attention to growth management, gun rights and health care as he approved other measures that had been priorities for him and the Republican-led Legislature.

But while the ink from Scott’s Sharpie was drying, critics, as expected, began the march to the courthouse doors in what is likely to be a repeated exercise in the weeks ahead on such issues as elections, abortion, drug tests and what physicians and their patients can discuss during visits.

In a nod to gun owners, Scott approved a pair of bills pushed by the National Rifle Association, whose stalwart lobbyist Marion Hammer flexed her substantial political muscle throughout the 60-day session.

One measure prevents local governments from enacting stricter gun ordinances than state law provides. The other prevents doctors in certain situations from asking patients if they own guns and have them in their homes.

Scott also penned his name to a pair of bills that backers hope will change the way Florida’s $20 billion Medicaid program is run. The proposals would funnel most of the state’s 2.7 million Medicaid recipients into managed care programs. The state must now convince the federal government, which picks up most of the Medicaid tab.

Scott did a little whistle stop tour Friday as he signed a measure to clamp down on pain management clinics that distribute legally obtainable prescription drugs to “patients” for handsome profits under the nose of law enforcers who can do little to stop the often deadly transactions.

Apparently, Scott had drugs on this mind. Earlier in the week, he signed legislation requiring recipients of temporary cash assistance to pass drug tests before being allowed to collect benefits from the federal program that replaced traditional welfare in the 1990s.

The bill requires applicants to pay for the drug tests, the cost of which will be reimbursed if they pass. Florida becomes the first state in the nation to require such tests of all recipients, a distinction that will likely send the case to court in the very near future.

While Scott was busy signing bills into law, others were equally occupied with attempts to undo things that have already been done.

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida filed a federal lawsuit in Miami arguing Scott could not require all state employees to take drug tests, saying the blanket requirement of new hires and the periodic testing of current employees amounts to suspicion-less drug tests that have been frowned upon by the courts.

On Friday, the ACLU filed another lawsuit, this one challenging a law enacted in May that critics called a “trifecta of voter suppression” that makes it harder for voters to cast ballots in the much-anticipated 2012 presidential election.

The bill reduces the number of earlier voting days, makes it more difficult to cast provisional ballots and places tougher restrictions on voter registration groups, a move that promoted the League of Women Voters to say it would cancel registration efforts in the state.

The flurry of legal activity is not unprecedented. Previous governors have been confronted with courtroom challenges for their actions. Jeb Bush, arguably the last major reform-oriented governor, was challenged on a number of fronts for changes he sought in education and employment.

Scott’s office has said the governor is comfortable that all the bills he signed will withstand court muster.

Email Michael Peltier at mpeltier1234@comcast.net.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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