Senate Power Struggle Strangling Session

Following the death of Martin Lee Anderson in a Panama City boot camp, state lawmakers vowed to make this the year juvenile justice in Florida got real money and attention.

But an internal power struggle in the State Senate just cost the program 12 million dollars because of who was behind the money.

After the boot camp videotape became public, embarrassed lawmakers pumped an additional $33 million into Juvenile Justice. Providers were getting the first raise in years. Then suddenly overnight after a vote that killed vouchers, Senate leadership pulled 12 million out.

The reason is Tampa State Senator Victor Crist backed the wrong man in a fight over who will lead the Senate in years to come. The missing money was news to even Crist.

“I spoke with leadership. I has assurances that under no circumstances would they go below 30 million. It looks as if they did. I don’t know why. Those questions are gonna need to be answered.”

Gus Barreiro of Miami worked hard to get the additional money into Juvenile Justice and he’s livid leadership would use kids to gain retribution.

“You know, you can punish certain individuals and you can try to go after the chairmanships. But you should never go after the funding for the kids. At the end of the day, the people that are gonna get hurt most are the kids, not the senators who are sitting in the chamber.”

Roy Miller of the Florida Children’s Campaign said the loss of the cash put programs that serve trouble kids in a real bind.

“Programs are meeting in an emergency mode today to decide how they’re gonna pay their insurance bills, how they’re gonna pay their food bills. This is gonna have major impacts all across the state of Florida.”

Just three days remain in the session; the search for conspirators behind every desk is expected to get worse before it gets better.

Juvenile justice funding isn’t the only issue derailed by the Senate power struggle. The governor’s plans to rescue his voucher program and undo the class size amendment were also derailed by the political infighting.

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