Gov. Rick Scott issued his first substantive veto on Thursday, striking down a measure that passed two Senate committees and both houses of the Legislature unanimously.

Scott has vetoed a handful of budget conforming bills and some line items, but the target of his first veto not related to the budget was Senate Bill 1992, a measure intended to fix a problem stemming from legislation passed in 2010, which toughened background check requirements for people who work with senior citizens. SB 1992 was introduced as a committee bill, which is generally a sign a measure has the support of legislative leadership.

According to legislative staff analysis, last year’s changes led to fewer people signing up for Meals on Wheels and other volunteer programs because of the cost and hassle associated with the tougher background checks. This year’s bill created some narrow exemptions intended to address that problem, waiving the requirements for people who had less than 15 hours per week of direct contact with patients, as well as for certified nursing assistants and “law enforcement officers who have a good moral character.”

In his veto message (.pdf), Scott said those exemptions were not worth the risks.

“I feel strongly that we have an obligation to ensure that these vulnerable members of our communities are protected, especially within their homes,” he wrote.

He also pledged to issue an executive order creating a working group to scrutinize and streamline that background screening process, which S.B. 1992 also would have done.

State Rep. Mark Pafford, a Lake Worth Democrat, blasted Scott’s veto in a statement issued today:

SB 1992 passed the House and Senate unanimously. Community service agencies and AARP did not oppose this legislation. Governor Rick Scott’s veto of SB 1992 makes it very clear that he does not have either the information or the knowledge to make consistent decisions when it comes to executing bills passed by the Florida Legislature.

An example of the irony and inconsistency here is that Governor Scott signed SB 2144, which authorizes nursing homes to decrease nursing staffing, and he knowingly signed a state budget which will leave thousands of seniors on waitlists for services that could keep frail and low income seniors from entering nursing homes.

Update:

The Palm Beach Post is reporting that the AARP is also critical of the veto.

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