Florida's last legislative session may have ended without the victory FAMM wanted to see, but we're not giving up -- and neither is state Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff, whose sentencing reform bill we supported. She isn't quitting, despite a disappointing veto of her bill by Governor Rick Scott. This Tampa Bay Times article shows her fighting spirit:
It took six long years for Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff to pass a law intended to help a few people deal with their drug addiction in state prison.
It took Gov. Rick Scott only a few seconds to wipe it out.
Scott last Friday vetoed a carefully crafted bill that had the support of almost every conservative Republican in the state Legislature.
In an election year, state lawmakers are especially leery of voting for anything that an opponent could distort into a "soft on crime" attack.
This bill didn't do that. It passed the Senate, 40-0, and the House, 112-4, and had the backing of business groups, too.
"I'm phenomenally disappointed," said Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican who could not convince Scott that the modest reform in the bill would save taxpayers' money by reducing the chance that inmates would re-offend by getting them the help they need.
"He said it was a 'public safety' issue. No, it's not," she said. "These are nonviolent drug offenders."
Political leaders have to get past what she called the "garbage" of mindless "tough on crime" talk, Bogdanoff said.
She said Florida cells are full of people whose only crime is an addiction to drugs, and if they don't get help, they'll soon be back on the streets, committing new crimes to support the habit that flourished in prison.
But that's not how Scott saw it.
"Justice to victims of crime is not served when a criminal is permitted to be released early from a sentence imposed by the courts," Scott wrote in his veto message. "This bill would permit criminals to be released after serving 50 percent of their sentences, thus creating an unwarranted exception to the rule that inmates serve 85 percent of their imposed sentences."Governor Scott's opposition to the reform bill seems particularly unjustified because (1) the reform would have benefited only a relatively small number of nonviolent drug offenders, (2) who are these "victims" Governor Scott is talking about in the cases of nonviolent drug offenders?, and (3) supposedly, Florida is trying to save money right now. Not only did the bill pass overwhelmingly through both houses of the legislature, but it was supported by business groups and conservative outfits like the Florida TaxWatch Center for Smart Justice.
Further, a recent Pew poll found that huge majorities of voters strongly support reducing prison time for low-risk, non-violent offenders for a variety of reasons, including completion of programs such as the ones Senator Bogdanoff proposed, good behavior, closing budget deficits, and re-investing resources in alternatives to incarceration. In light of that data, and in light of Governor Scott's campaign promise to cut $1 billion from Florida's bloated Department of Corrections budget, his veto of this "smart on crime" reform is simply dumbfounding.
But we'll be back. Thankfully, so will Senator Bogdanoff.
Florida Project Director