LISTEN LIVE

Opioids, Wildfires, PTSD Among Florida Cabinet Priorities

Jan 16, 2018
Originally published on January 16, 2018 1:31 am

Attorney General Pam Bondi wants new laws to protect people who report sexual misconduct; Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam wants to make sure the state is prepared for a higher-than-normal risk for wildfires; and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis wants to expand worker compensation benefits for first responders so that it includes coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder.

While Florida's three Cabinet members can't sponsor or vote on bills, or sign them into law, they hold important leadership roles in state government and each is working with lawmakers to pass legislation and make budget recommendations.

The Associated Press interviewed each of the Cabinet members to discuss their 2018 legislative priorities:

ATTORNEY GENERAL PAM BONDI

Bondi's top priority is fighting sexual misconduct. She wants to amend a state law dealing with the misuse of office by elected and appointed officials to include language that sexual harassment, intimidation or misconduct is an ethical violation.

"Right now it's not an ethical violation, believe it or not," Bondi said.

She also wants to do more to protect victims who come forward with allegations.

"I want it to be all encompassing to protect these women and to make sure there's due process," she said.

Her No. 2 priority is addressing the opioid crisis. She's pushing for a bill that would create new regulations for prescribing opioids. Doctors would have to limit prescriptions to a three-day supply, or seven-day supply in cases of acute pain. They would have to write "medically necessary" if they prescribe more than three days of opioids. They would also have to take a continuing education course on prescribing opioids and check patients' prescription records before writing a prescription.

"When we have 175 people dying a day throughout this country, we have to do more," Bondi said.

She also wants to make it illegal for drug dealers to possess pill presses that are used to make counterfeit drugs.

AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER ADAM PUTNAM

Putnam believes Hurricane Irma has potentially created a higher risk for wildfires because trees, branches and plants knocked to the ground during the storm will be dried out and plentiful.

"We're forecasting a dry spring. We believe that this spring will also be a very active wildfire season with an abundance of fuel because of the hurricane," Putnam said.

He's seeking to upgrade firefighting equipment and is working with Gov. Rick Scott to get raises for Florida Fire Service firefighters.

Putnam is seeking $75 million for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which preservers agricultural and conservation land, and $17 million to research citrus greening, a bacterial disease that kills citrus trees.

Putnam also wants to tweak a law that addresses the illegal use of credit card skimmers in gas pumps. The department has inspectors that make sure pumps dispense the correct amount of gasoline who often come across skimmers. Right now, when they find one, they have to shut down the pump and call in law enforcement.

Putnam is pushing for a bill that would allow inspectors to seize skimming devices without interfering with a criminal investigation.

CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER JIMMY PATRONIS

His top priority is a bill to expand workers compensation benefits so first responders can get coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder. Patronis, who serves as the state's fire marshal, has toured the state, meeting with firefighters and talking about traumatic experiences they've had.

"They see some horrific images that can't be taken away and the dark side of that profession is the suicide that takes place," Patronis said.

The bill would also cover law enforcement officers.

Patronis is also seeking a measure that would help veterans who were trained in firefighting in the military become firefighters when they leave the service.

He's also working to streamline fingerprint requirements for certain professional licenses, so that if someone has paid a $50 fee for one license, they can apply it to multiple licenses.

PATRONIS AND PUTNAM

Patronis and Putnam are working together on a bill to ban fees when people freeze credit accounts that have been compromised by data breaches.

"I had three credit cards hit in the same week. As I'm starting to realize that there's a fee that could be charged and it wasn't even my fault ... I said, 'You know, this isn't right.' We shouldn't put a hurdle in place for you to freeze your credit, to protect your credit worthiness."