When he signed the budget on Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott also vetoed a handful of conforming bills, which are technically supposed to help implement the budget but aren’t always directly tied to appropriations. State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had been calling for one of those vetoes — H.B. 5305, a bill that would have eliminated the Correctional Medical Authority, which oversees health care in state prisons.
Lake Worth Democratic Rep. Mark Pafford was among those who called for the veto. He pointed to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued this week, which will require California to relieve crowding in its prisons because inmates weren’t receiving adequate health care. In a letter to the governor, Pafford warned that eliminating the watchdog for prison health care could expose Florida to similar lawsuits.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, Democratic Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa and Republican Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey had also raised concerns about the measure. It’s not clear how the state will keep the authority running without a specific appropriation to fund it, but the Times notes that state corrections chief Ed Buss seems committed to keeping it alive.
In his veto message, Scott noted that the watchdog agency was created in the 1980s in response to a lawsuit over inadequate health care in Florida prisons, and that if the bill were to become law it “could cause public health and safety risks if appropriate health care is not provided to inmates in the state prison system.”