Scott draws heat from AARP for veto of bill easing background checksby John Kennedy | June 24th, 2011
Gov. Rick Scott‘s veto of legislation easing background screening for volunteers working with seniors drew heat Friday from the state’s leading advocacy organization for seniors — AARP.
“No one wants older Floridians exposed to abuse. However, we believe the vetoed legislation struck a balance between protecting the clients of community service agencies and the capability of those agencies to provide needed services,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP’s interim director for Florida.
Scott killed SB 1992 Thursday, warning that relaxing the background screening could pose a risk to seniors.
But community organizations and senior advocates had sought the change, saying that a 2010 law revamping background checks left Meals on Wheels and other groups struggling to pay the costs of additional screening or having to ask volunteers to pay close to $45 each out of their own pocket for the check.
Johnson also ridiculed Scott for endorsing the Legislature’s decision to reduce the level of mandatory staffing at nursing homes, even as the governor contended he was watching out for seniors.
“It is odd that Gov. Scott vetoed this bill, but signed legislation that puts frail seniors more at risk — the law allowing nursing homes to reduce nursing care for the frailest of all Floridians,” Johnson said. “There is an abundance of evidence that cutting nursing-home staffing standards leads directly to serious, even tragic, health problems for nursing-home residents.”
Scott in his veto indicated he was planning to sign an executive order intended at reviewing the state’s policy for background screening. He suggested this might lead to some help for caregiving organizations facing shortfalls in both money and volunteers.
But Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, also said Scott was off-base with his veto. Pafford, who develops business partnerships for The Lord’s Place shelter in West Palm Beach, said the veto, “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.”