Thursday, March 17, 2016

Editorial: Aid for frail elders; gun bills blocked

Strong, but not enough

The adult guardianship reform bill — approved by the Legislature in the just-completed session and signed into law last week by Gov. Rick Scott — mandates landmark protections for the frail elderly in Florida.

Yet the new law is only one step toward effective oversight of the extensive system of caring for adult wards. More steps must be taken.

The new law, sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, builds on a law Detert helped pass last year that aimed to curb abuses in adult guardianship, including regulating public guardians appointed to care for poor elders who are physically or mentally incapacitated.

The regulations and oversight are now extended to private guardians, requiring them to undergo background screening and meet training requirements. The new law also establishes a state Office of Public and Professional Guardians to monitor the system, investigate complaints and take disciplinary action.

Detert points out that Florida now has “the strongest laws” in the country for protecting adult wards, and we hope our state continues to set an example for dealing with a nationwide problem.

But even Florida’s laws aren't as strong as they should be. The Legislature should continue to build on the foundation that Detert and other lawmakers have laid.

The major flaw with the new law is the minimal funding allocated: $822,000 to establish the state monitoring office and hire six full-time employees. In a state of 20 million residents, 20 percent of whom are 65 or older, those resources seem far from adequate.

Compare the statewide program with the guardianship-monitoring system recently established in Sarasota County. The county, with a population under 400,000, has its own full-time employee — and some experts suggest that’s not enough.

Not all counties in Florida are populous enough to require a full-time guardianship monitor, but larger counties serving cities like Miami, Orlando or Tampa would probably need several to provide adequate oversight. And the statewide expense for such a system would be commensurate.

There’s no question that new regulations and the statewide monitoring program mark crucial progress. But more steps — and a realistic assessment of the funding necessary — are needed to provide the most effective protection of Florida’s adult wards.

Dodging bullets

Floridians concerned about the state’s loose gun laws and the threat of deadly weapons proliferating in public places owe a debt of gratitude to state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla.

The Miami Republican used his power as chairman of the Judiciary Committee to block the Senate’s consideration of “open-carry” and “campus-carry” gun bills passed by the Florida House.

The open-carry proposal would allow owners of concealed-carry permits to openly display their weapons in public. The campus-carry bill would let permit holders bring their guns onto college campuses. A third bill, which would have allowed the permit owners to bring weapons to meetings of local governmental bodies or the Legislature, also died during the session.

Diaz de la Portilla deserves congratulations for standing up to the powerful National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups, which strongly supported the proposals and have tended to get their way in the Legislature in recent years.

The chairman obviously listened to the college administrators, faculty, students and police who opposed campus carry, and the Florida Sheriff’s Association, which fought open carry. In addition, the League of Women Voters and other nonprofit political groups mounted an effective campaign against both measures.

This year, Florida — already notorious for its “stand your ground” self-defense law and lax concealed-carry permit requirements — stood its ground in support of gun safety.

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Editorial: Aid for frail elders; gun bills blocked

1 comment:

StandUp said...

The need for this program is there. The problem will be funding of course. The elderly always get the short stick. I am grateful to Senator Detert for all she has done for guardianship reform.