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Coley reflects on session


Rep. Marti Coley tells members of the Republican Club of West Florida about
efforts to pass an economic development bill in the last minutes of the
just-concluded session.- Mark Skinner/Floridan

By MORGAN CARLSON
Published: May 11, 2011


Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, has called the 2011 Florida Legislative
session the most difficult she has ever been in, but she is overall
satisfied the legislature was able to balance a more than $70 billion
budget without raising taxes.

Coley spoke at the Republican Club of West Florida meeting Tuesday and
discussed the outcome of the session and her reaction.

As the chairperson of the Florida House Pre-K-12 Appropriations Committee,
Rep. Coley and her committee had to go line-by-line on spreadsheets and
find places to cut education. She said there were some lines deleted that
had been funded for years.

Coley said they focused on the "primary mission of education and that is
the classroom." However, classrooms still received the largest funding cuts
they had in "many, many years," Coley said. She added it was sad the cuts
were under her watch, because education is her passion.

"As a former teacher, it was very difficult for me to inflict the cuts on
education that I knew I had to make in order to balance our budget," Coley
said.

Despite the significant cuts across the budget, Coley said the legislature
was "still able to pass some good legislation," including several laws that
"focused on life," she said.

She specifically pointed out a bill she co-sponsored that makes parental
notification mandatory in order for a minor to have an abortion. Coley said
she was pleased this bill was "finally" passed in Florida.

"A girl can go into an office and ask for an aspirin for a headache, but
she couldn't get it without parental permission," Coley said. "But she
could get an abortion without parental permission."

She also highlighted legislation that she said will "curtail problems
around the state with pill mills" and prevent deaths. She said pill mills
aren't just a South Florida issue and that surrounding counties are
starting to have problems.

The legislation limits the ability of doctors to dispense prescription
drugs and makes the penalties for illegally dispensing prescription drugs
more strict.

Coley also said she is still "puzzled" why the Senate didn't take up the
septic tank inspection repeal. Coley has been fighting to have a law passed
in the 2010 session requiring inspections of septic tanks repealed, saying
it is an "over-regulation" on citizens.

The repeal bill she sponsored quickly passed in the House, but the Senate
version of it got stuck in a committee and ultimately died.

In anticipation that the Senate wouldn't pass the bill, Coley filed an
amendment requiring the Florida Department of Health to draft a plan to
develop rules and have it approved by the legislative budget commission.

She said for now, citizens will be "safe" and no one will be coming on
their property to inspect septic tanks. She added that one person came to
her and said if someone comes to his home to inspect his septic tank, his
"gun will be waiting."

Coley said she will file another bill to repeal the law for the next
session and "we'll fight that battle again."

Coley also discussed the state institutions that many people in the
community thought might be privatized this year. She said Florida State
Hospital and the Sunland Center in Marianna will not be privatized, but
their budgets were cut, along with all other agencies.

She added the Department of Corrections can privatize health services at
its facilities if it turns out to be more cost-effective.

An audience member asked about the future of the North Florida Youth
Development Center, formerly the Dozier School for Boys. Coley said "I
don't know exactly where they're headed with Dozier."
Rep. Marti Coley tells members of the
Republican Club of West Florida about efforts
to pass an economic development bill in the
last minutes of the just-concluded session.-
Mark Skinner/Floridan