Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Friday, January 21, 2005

Legislators, Gov. Bush Seek Cooperation

Nov. 14, 2004

Legislators, Gov. Bush Seek Cooperation

Lloyd Dunkelberger

The plan at the beginning of the 2004 Legislature was to strike a deal among the House and Senate leaders on their pet projects to smooth the way for a more harmonious session.

They struck the deal. The bill, which funded $30 million in leadership projects, was passed and approved by the governor. But the session dissolved into one of the Legislature's more acrimonious endings, with House and Senate leaders fighting to the end and the governor shunning the closing-day ceremonies.

As incoming Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and incoming House Speaker Allan Bense, R-Panama City, prepare to take over the new Legislature in an organizational session Tuesday, lawmakers and Gov. Jeb Bush are predicting a more cooperative spirit.

"I'm optimistic that there is a real awareness of the importance of communicating and working together," Bush said.

As part of that cooperation, Bush wants legislative leaders to fix the way last year's leadership projects were funded.

It was a three-way deal:

** House Speaker Johnnie Byrd,

R-Plant City, got $15 million for the

Department of Elder Affairs to support the Alzheimer's Center and Research Institute at the University of South Florida, which had been one of his top priorities.

** Senate President Jim King, R-Jacksonville, got $6 million for the Department of Health to fund the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program, which was named after his parents.

** Senate Majority Leader Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, got $9 million to create a chiropractic school at Florida State University.

Bush said he had agreed to the projects, but he did not agree to the way lawmakers funded them. But, while expressing his reservations, Bush let the bill become law anyway in the ill-
fated attempt to bring harmony to the session.

What Bush opposes is that lawmakers used the bill (SB 2002) to fund their projects on a permanent basis outside the annual budget process.

Nearly all state spending has to be authorized in the annual budget bill, which this year reached $57 billion. But that means all the spending is subject to legislative debate, amendments and, ultimately, the governor's line-item veto power.

But the 2004 leadership projects were different. Using money from the state's liquor taxes, the bill funded the projects permanently -- unless the law is changed -- outside the budget process.

Bush, who has made fiscal restraint one of the hallmarks of his administration, said that's not right.

"When I signed that bill into law, I expressed deep concerns and opposition actually to how they appropriated by [law] rather than in the budget bill," he said. "I think that should be undone."

While he said he committed to the projects, he never wanted the funding not to "go through the budget process ever again."

Legislative leaders say they don't object to putting the projects in the annual budget bill, which will likely be done when lawmakers convene in their next annual session in March.

But a bigger issue may loom for the FSU chiropractic school.

The state Board of Governors, which oversees the university system, did not put any funding for the school in its budget proposal for 2005-2006, the new fiscal year.

The board maintains it has to approve the new school.

And the group, Floridians for Constitutional Integrity, which spearheaded the constitutional drive to create the Board of Governors, has announced plans to file a lawsuit challenging the chiropractic school.

The group has hired former House Speaker Jon Mills, D-Gainesville, and Dexter Douglass, a former legal counsel to Gov. Lawton Chiles, to handle the lawsuit.

The group contends that the chiropractic school is illegal because it sidesteps the constitutional authority of the Board of Governors, which was endorsed by voters in 2002.

Senate President King and other supporters of the chiropractic school maintain the facility was proposed long before the new board was created, meaning the board has no say in its creation.