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Ronda Storms’

Senate surprise: Ronda Storms won’t come back

Friday, May 25th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Republican firebrand Ronda Storms is dropping her state Senate reelection bid and instead will run against embattled Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner.

Storms, a lawyer and former Hillsborough County commissioner, had two years left before she was term-limited out of the Senate. But she said the porn scandal surrounding Turner prompted her to abandon the legislature and instead try to oust her fellow Republican.

“As a Republican I have a responsibility to make sure that he has an opportunity to be held accountable to the Republican voters,” Storms, R-Valrico, said.

Storms’ exit makes her District 10 seat another battleground for a Senate leadership battle between Republicans John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

Although Storms is a conservative Christian who consistently supported anti-abortion efforts, she bucked Thrasher and other Senate leaders and joined forces with Latvala and moderates on several key issues, and was instrumental in helping to kill a prison privatization effort.

Storms, chairwoman of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Services Committee, has been an ardent advocate for children and a harsh critic of the Department of Children and Families. Among other battles, she has waged a war against the administration over its use of psychotropic medications on youth in state custody. She intensified her scrutiny of the agency in the aftermath of the tragic death of Nubia Barahona, whose adoptive parents are accused with her murder and the abuse of her twin sibling Victor.

Storms said the caustic atmosphere created by the leadership maelstrom over who will succeed incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, contributed to her decision to leave the chamber early.

“I was going to have to find an exit ramp at some point. So this was the point. It would be dishonest for me to say that it hasn’t been difficult to have this swirling tension all the time,” the passionate Storms, adding that “believe it or not, I don’t like conflict,” said.

“It is wonderful to think that I can go in and make changes and be an administrator and manager and say, ‘Here’s the way we’re going to behave’ and carry it out and cause it to happen all from the top without 10 people above your or ahead of you saying ‘no’ or creating dissension,” she said.

Storms said her possible replacements include former Senate President Tom Lee, state Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview and Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa.

House won’t make it harder for state to put foster kids on psych drugs

Thursday, February 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Sen. Ronda Storms’ bill that would make it harder for doctors to put foster kids on mind-altering drugs passed another milestone in the Senate today, but its future is bleak.

The Senate Health Regulation Committee unanimously approved Storms’ measure (SB 1808) and sent it on its way to its final committee this afternoon. But the House has yet to hear a similar proposal and, with the 2012 session midpoint approaching, appears unlikely to budge.

“The House is killing it,” Storms, R-Valrico, said. “It’s a source of extraordinary frustration and a disservice to the children of Florida.”

Storms’ launched her psychotropic drug crusade after the 2009 death of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers, a Broward County foster child who hanged himself while under the influence of several psychiatric drugs. Storms’ bill includes many of the recommendations given by a Department of Children and Families workgroup in the aftermath of Myers’ death.

A 2008 Congressional report found that children in foster care in Florida were far more likely to be on mind-altering drugs than children in the general population. With 12 percent of the state’s foster children 17 and younger on at least one psychotropic medication, a drop of 10 percent three years ago, DCF officials say they have improved protocols for monitoring foster kids’ prescription drug use.

Senator demands financials from DJJ on psychotropic meds

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 by Dara Kam

After blistering Department of Juvenile Justice officials earlier this week in her own committee, Sen. Ronda Storms again took the agency to task over its use of psychotropic medications, this time during a budget presentation in the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee.

The department is conducting an internal investigation into the use of drugs after The Palm Beach Post revealed that agency has plied jailed kids with heavy doses of psychotropic medications and that one in three DJJ psychiatrists had taken payments or gifts from the makers of the drugs.

Storms compared DJJ’s use of the mind-altering medications to that of the Department of Children, Families and Elder Affiars, which her committee oversees and with which she has also butted heads on the use of the meds.

“We have children who have been scalded and burned and had acid poured on them, who have been starved, who have been beaten, who’ve had bones broken, who have had horrible things happen to them. In that population, only 14 percent of the population is medicated. Of your population, over 34 percent of your population is medicated with psychotropic drugs,” Storms, R-Valrico, told DJJ director for administrative services Fred Schuknecht. “As you know, the ongoing invetstigation is whether or not the department was using psychotropic drugs possibly as a result of bribery or as a result of discipline.”

Storms ordered Schuknecht to come back with a financial analysis of DJJ’s spending on psychotropic drugs “for your entire population for whatever the reason.

“And I would like that post-haste,” Storms added.

“We’ll do it,” Schuknecht assured her.

Senator evokes Barahona case in appreciation for kids’ guardian ad litem

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 by Dara Kam

State Sen. Ronda Storms paid homage on the Senate floor to a guardian ad litem whose advice was ignored in the adoption of two children, one now dead and the other facing years of rehab.

orge and Carmen Barahona have been charged with the murder of 10-year-old Nubia, found dead in a plastic bag in the bag of her father’s truck in West Palm Beach. Her twin brother Victor is recovering from chemical burns.

The children’s court-appointed lawyer Paul Neumann expressed reservations when the Barahona’s adopted the twins, Storms said without naming the attorney as she introduced a resolution honoring the state’s guardians ad litem, lawyers who work for free to represent abused and neglected children.

Storms began by recalling reports of the grim discovery of Nubia Barahona’s body.

“Maybe you looked away. Maybe you said, ‘Oh no don’t tell me. I don’t want to hear it. I can’t hear it.’ Maybe you can’t hear it and it hurts your heart more than we can stand,” said Storms, R-Valrico, chairwoman of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee.

“The guardian ad litem in that case, that stood for those little children, and although the guardian ad litem was not heard in that case, although the recommendations were not followed, that guardian ad litem was a watchman on the wall,” she said.

“All of these volunteers, these watch people on the wall, to say for these little people, these little bruised and broken and hurt people, they stand there. And they do what you and I can’t do. Because when we see it on the news, we can’t finish our supper. We can’t listen to it. We can’t read about it. But they do,” Storms said.

The resolution (SB 1134) was approved unanimously.

Florida Senate signs off on gambling deal

Thursday, April 15th, 2010 by Dara Kam

The Florida Senate approved a $1 billion gambling deal that could transform the state into the Las Vegas of the Southeast, leaving just one more step until the state’s compact with the Seminole tribe is finalized.

The Senate debated briefly before a 29-9 vote on a compact that the tribe has sought for more than two decades and which lawmakers twice rejected in the past two years.

The agreement struck by GOP lawmakers, Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminoles would allow the tribe to have Las Vegas-style slot machines at each of its seven locations and run blackjack, baccarat and chemin de fer at five of their operations.

The lynchpin of the deal is the five-year agreement with the Seminoles giving them the exclusive rights to run banked card games, including blackjack, at five of their seven facilities, including their lucrative Tampa Hard Rock casino that brings in at least half of all the tribe’s Florida gambling revenue, according to Galvano.

Most important for the tribe is the prohibition against any of the state’s pari-mutuels outside of Broward and Miami-Dade counties to run the card games.

Sen. Ronda Storms spoke passionately against the measure and criticized the lack of money going to gambling addiction programs.

“This is a sad day in the state of Florida where we…won’t even fund treatment. You can call the hotline and they’ll say, ‘Well, we’re sorry about that. Bummer for you,’” Storms, R-Valrico, said. “I say the Florida Legislature is making a mistake and the governor of the state of Florida is making a mistake by going down this road and expanding gambling.”

The bill’s sponsor Dennis Jones defended the measure (SB 622), saying it “doesn’t even expand gaming” because the Seminoles are already running the banked card games at their Tampa and Hollywood Hard Rock casinos.

“What this does..it stops an illegal activity that’s already taking place,” said Jones, R-Seminole. “Let us basically put this issue to rest and move forward.”

Storms: Hold on the train! We’re moving too fast!

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 by Dara Kam

Sen. Ronda Storms complained repeatedly about the rushed special session schedule and what she said is not enough time in a three-hour committee meeting held today to vet a 49-page bill dealing with a variety of rail issues.

She said she’s spent more time shopping for a computer than was devoted to the bill during the three-hour “workshop.”

“As a professional I want the chair to know that I object to the lack of time that we’ve been given,” Storms, R-Valrico, began her line of questions.

Storms likened the omnibus package to the federal bank bail-out package that was pushed through, she said, at the 11th hour and failed to result in the economic boost it promised.

She then launched into an attack on bill sponsor Sen. Jeremy Ring’s contention that the 15,000 who use Tri-Rail every day – two thirds of whom take it to work – will lose their jobs without the Tri-Rail fix included in the measure.

“Suddenly they’ll just be flopping around out there without transportation? That does not speak to me,” Storms said.

Storms prefaced each of her questions with gripes about the rushed scheduled slammed up against the Christmas holidays.

Transportation Committee Chairman and SunRail supporter Andy Gardiner had enough.

“Sen. Storms, I’ve heard the comment. We’re familiar with your position on this. The summary of this bill was sent out on Monday. This is a workshop…there is time over the weekend to review this,” Gardiner, R-Orlando. “I’ve heard ya. And I understand that. But please understand this is just the first opportunity.”

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill on Tuesday.

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