Department of Children and Families Secretary Jerry Regier was confirmed Friday by the Senate over objections of Democrats who criticized his religious views, deaths of children in state care and the speed at which the agency is moving toward privatization.
The vote was 25-12.
Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Regier in August to replace Kathleen Kearney after the department came under fire over the disappearance of 5-year-old Rilya Wilson of Miami from foster care. Regier then came under criticism over news reports about articles he wrote or was associated with that described conservative, Bible-based views on child discipline and women's roles in families.
Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, mentioned those articles in arguing against his confirmation, pointing out one that said spanking a child to the point of bleeding or causing welts was okay. "Does that sound like someone who should be in charge of an agency that looks after neglected and abused children?" Wilson asked.
Passed in the final hours
Among the bills that completed passage through both houses Friday and were sent to Gov. Jeb Bush:
MINIMUM WAGE LAWS: Local governments wouldn't be able to set minimum wages higher than the federal one for private businesses. The measure (SB 54), which passed the House 84-32, doesn't affect ordinances that require cities or counties to pay a certain wage to their own employees or companies that contract with government.
UNIVERSAL KINDERGARTEN: Both the House and Senate voted unanimously for a bill (CS-SB 1334) that would require a study of Florida's prekindergarten programs and recommendations on how to implement universal prekindergarten. Recommendations are due back from the state Board of Education and legislative analysts by the end of the year.
RODMAN DAM: The Rodman Dam received a reprieve when a bill passed to create a state reserve around it that could keep the state from removing it and draining its reservoir. The House approved it 92-26. Bush wants to remove the dam and restore the Ocklawaha River and may veto it.
FARM REGULATION: A measure that was a priority of cattle producers and chicken farmers (SB 1660) passed the House unanimously. It would prevent any local government in Florida except Broward County from regulating agriculture any more than the state or federal government. The measure pitted farmers who say they're overregulated against local residents who say state and federal laws regulating factory farms near their homes are too lax.
CARD ROOMS: The stakes in poker rooms at racetracks could be increased under a bill (HB 1059) that passed the Senate 27-11. Currently, card rooms have a $10 per game pot limit. The bill replaces that with a $2 bet limit and a maximum of three raises per round.
Dead on adjournment
These were among bills that were left unacted upon:
SEAT BELTS: The Legislature potentially passed up money from the federal government by failing to take up a measure that would have allowed police to pull over motorists solely for not wearing a seat belt. A measure expected to be approved in Congress could provide $40-million to Florida for making its seat belt law a matter of "primary enforcement."
HUMAN CLONING: This bill would have banned all human cloning for the purpose of reproduction in Florida. It was amended in the House Wednesday to allow cloning for some medical research, but was never taken up for a final vote.
For information about legislation, call toll-free 1-800-342-1827 or 1-850-488-4371 during business hours. The Legislature's official Web site: www.leg.state.fl.us