Worst Governor Ever: Florida's Rick Scott

March 9, 2011

Florida's Governor, Rick Scott, a crook who stole billions in Medicare and Medicaid money from the Columbia Hospital chain, makes Governor Fitial look like a governor who is destined for the Governor's Hall of Fame for best leaders.

Yesterday in cities across Florida from the Panhandle to Miami, there were Awake the State rallies to protest the governor's budget, union breaking proposals and SB 736. The budget would cut education funding by 10% or 1.75 billion dollars. The governor would require state employees to pay 5% of their retirement while at the same time giving huge tax breaks to large corporations and property owners.

In Orlando union teachers, firefighter, police officers, nurses and other public employees marched from the union hall about a mile to the Beth Johnson Park where other protesters were already gathered. The crowd of about 1,000 listened to speakers from several professions.  Former Congressman Alan Grayson, a hero to the middle class also addressed the crowd.

I have been in many protest marches, but have never seen people so utterly angry and fired up.  Signs reflected their sentiments: "I am a public servant, not a public enemy", "test scores don't determine good teachers", "Hey, Rick, forget cutting education and we'll forget the largest fraud settlement in  history", "education dies, while corporations thrives", "Rick Scott, go rogue and quit early", "stop attacks on the middle class" and others.

Scott has been in office less than two months and is already the most hated governor in Florida's history. There are cries to recall him.  He turned down billions in federal money for a high speed rail project that would have brought jobs and business to the state. He is backing a plan to make public employees pay 5% of their pension plans.  For decades Florida's public employees have been told to accept poor salaries as a trade off for the excellent benefits that we receive. If the legislation passes, those benefits will be lost and we will end up with poor salaries and poor benefits. Pension, health care and salary should be viewed as one package when considering fair compensation.

Florida is ranked 5th in the nation in educational quality. We were marked down in two areas, getting a C for supporting teachers, and an F in funding for our school funding. Florida is expected to be ranked  47th in the nation in teacher salaries. Why will anyone want to teach in Florida?

The governor also refuses to address the serious issue of pill mills.

Florida has become a destination for drug users as much as for tourists. In 2009, Florida dispensed more than half a billion dose of oxycodone. There are hundreds of pill mills labeled "pain centers" and "pain clinics" run by crooked doctors who dispense ocycodone and other highly addictive pain pills. Criminal drug dealers and drug addicts from all over the U.S. are coming to Florida to buy these drugs.  The pill mills have created a class of drug-addicted people from teenagers to adults in every walk of life. Even school children are hooked on Roxies, the street name for the pain killers.

Last month local and DEA officials raided six pill mills in south Florida. The clinic owners and operators were indicted on charges that "they conspired to illegally dispense more than 660,000 doses of oxycodone, netting $22 million in profits."

From a DOJ press release:
According to the indictment, the defendants operated the clinics as pill mills that offered patients prescriptions for oxycodone and other controlled substances where there was no legitimate medical purpose and not within the usual course of professional medical practice. The indictment alleges that the defendants marketed the clinics through more than 1,600 internet sites, required immediate cash payments from patients for a clinic “visit fee,” directed the patients to obtain MRIs that the defendants knew to be inferior, over-aggressively interpreted MRIs in order to justify prescriptions, and falsified patients’ urine tests for a fee to justify the highly addictive pain medications.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A .Ferrer stated, “According to recent estimates, Florida prescribes ten times more oxycodone pills than all other states combined. Operation Snake Oil is part of our concerted effort to keep South Florida from drowning in pill mills. Working together with our state and local partners, we are shutting down these shady storefronts through the systematic prosecution of doctors, clinic owners and operators who deal drugs while hiding behind a medical license.”

“Prescription drug abuse is our country’s fastest growing drug problem, and pill mills such as those in Florida are fueling much of that growth. As a result, citizens in communities across Florida and around the nation are faced with growing drug addiction that is accompanied by pain, suffering, and even death,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Rogue doctors who run these operations violate their professional oaths and are, in fact, drug dealers. Florida today is “ground zero” in the fight against pill mills, and we are determined to continue to aggressively pursue those who are responsible for this nationwide epidemic.”

IRS Special Agent in Charge Daniel W. Auer stated, “We are pleased to have lent our financial investigative expertise to this investigation. IRS-CI’s role was to trace the flow of the monies derived from the illegal operation of these pill mills, to identify the individuals who profited from these illegal activities and to help seize any assets purchased using the ill-gotten gains.”

According to the indictment, demand of oxycodone has grown to epidemic proportions in South Florida and other parts of the United States, where drug dealers can sell a 30 mg oxycodone pill on the street for $10 to $30 or more. Oxycodone has a high potential for abuse and can be crushed snorted, or dissolved and injected, to get an immediate high. This abuse can lead to addiction, overdose, and sometimes death.
Scott has delayed laws that would make it more difficult for physicians to practice at pill mills and has opposed a drug data base to monitor use. Some of the physicians who are dispensing drugs like candy at these pill mills have felony criminal records! The tracking system opposed by Scott and some Republican legislators would prevent drug dealers and addicts from going from clinic to clinic in one day to collect a year's supply of pills.

These sleazy pill mills, that don't even try to hide their criminal element, are creating a health and public safety crisis in Florida. Still Governor Rick Scott refuses to back a proposed drug data base to help track prescriptions for certain addictive drugs like oxycodone. He claims it would cost too much.  Mother Jones calls Scott "Florida's Drug Fraud Enabler."

Despite the fact that Scott claims that there is money for a data base, he is recommending that large corporations receive a $1.4  billion tax cut. He is the most unethical, governor ever! Scott made his fortune on Medicare fraud. Instead of spending time in prison, where he belongs, he divided his profits with the federal government in a settlement where he paid fines of $1.7 billion.  (I guess the U.S. taxpayers paid the rest of the fraud bill?) Why should we be surprised that this criminal is backing pill mills?

Mothers and survivors of relatives who died from oxycodone overdoses are picketing outside of the drug outlets/pain clinicsOxycodone kills seven people a day in Florida. Let this governor answer to the families and friends of those who have died and those who have become addicts.

How horrible is Governor Scott? Stephen King, the renown author of horror novels, said at the Sarasota Awake the State rally, "Maybe my next horror novel will star Rick Scott." He sure creeps me out...

Photos from the Orlando rally:

Bag pipes and drums led the march

Ready to march to the rally

Fire fighters support public education

Public servants protest budget proposal, union busting and dangerous legislative proposals

Nurses rally for patients and union rights

Attacks on Scott

March from union hall to park.