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Health News Florida

Florida Surgeon General Confirmation Hearing Delayed

A confirmation hearing for state Surgeon General John Armstrong was delayed Tuesday, with the chairman of the Senate Health Policy Committee saying the panel simply didn't have time to get to the nomination.

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, said he pushed back the hearing to make sure the committee had time to fully consider a controversial abortion bill and several other pieces of legislation. Bean, who backs Armstrong, said the hearing would be rescheduled.

"We are going to do it as soon as we can," he said.

Armstrong came under fire from senators last year amid a fight between Gov. Rick Scott, who appoints the surgeon general, and the Senate over whether to adopt a plan to expand health coverage for low-income Floridians. He has also been criticized for Florida having the highest new HIV infection rate in the country.

"At a time when we are (at the) beginning of the era of a functional cure for HIV, it's unconscionable for our state surgeon general and governor to bury their heads in the sand," said Michael Rajner, a Broward County resident with HIV who was allowed to speak to the committee Tuesday about the nomination because he had traveled to Tallahassee.

Bean said he believes Armstrong has the votes to get approved by the committee, and blamed the trouble Armstrong has faced in part on the health-care debates that consumed the latter half of last spring's session.

"Had it been earlier or later, I think it would have just slammed through," Bean said. "I think it would have been a boring committee hearing. We would have passed him without any questions."

Armstrong must be confirmed by the Senate this year to keep his position.

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