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Senate restores 'Doc' to Myers

The Republican's medical license lapsed, but lawmakers passed a bill to allow him to practice again without having to undergo medical exams.

By JO BECKER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 9, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- After revoking a state senator's medical license more than two years ago, the Department of Health now says it will not protest a law the Legislature passed this session to give it back to him.

Sen. William "Doc" Myers lost his medical license in 1998 for failure to renew it. Before adjourning last week, lawmakers passed a bill that allows him to once again practice medicine without having to undergo medical exams and a potentially rigorous interview to determine whether his poor health would prevent him from safely treating patients.

"If the Legislature feels like giving this courtesy to Dr. Myers due to the long and distinguished career he has had in the state Senate, we're not going to say anything about that," said Bill Parizek, a Department of Health spokesman.

Health Secretary Robert Brooks is himself a former legislator.

If Gov. Jeb Bush signs the bill into law, Myers, unlike other doctors in his position, will be able to simply reactivate his license. And the Hobe Sound Republican could do so without having to meet the same renewal standards required of every other doctor in the state.

The provision relaxes the requirements only for "any licensee who is a member of the Legislature" whose license has lapsed. Myers, 69, and in his last year as a state Senator, is the only man in Florida at the moment to meet the definition spelled out in the law.

The provision surfaced in the state Senate last week, the final week of the 60-day session. It passed with no public debate, though a Tampa-based medical consumer group called the provision "absurd" and doubted the full Legislature would have the "gall" to pass it.

But it cleared the House and is headed to the governor.

Justin Sayfie, spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush, said Monday he was surprised that the provision ultimately passed. The governor's office thought that it had been attached to another bill that ultimately failed.

But Myers' Senate colleagues dropped the amendment into a number of bills in an effort to ensure its passage.

Bush may have a hard time vetoing the Myers' exemption.

It is tacked on to a major bill that provides for new regulations on deputy boat pilots, geologists, athletic agents, veterinarians, auctioneers, engineers, embalmers and other professions.

The bill is just one example of friends in the Legislature helping one another as they are forced from office by term limits. Earlier this session, one lawmaker floated a bill to give a $125,000-a-year salary to Sen. John Grant when the Tampa Republican takes a state job heading a new guardianship program. Bush, who appointed Grant to the position, quashed the idea.

Sayfie said Monday that the governor has no hard and fast position on laws that single out elected officials for special treatment. "But the more he sees this kind of thing, or once he has a chance to review this law specifically, he may have more to say," Sayfie said.

Myers' office was closed Monday, and he could not be reached for comment.

Myers, who uses a wheelchair and is in poor health, told the Times last week that his health prevents him from treating patients. With term limits forcing him from office, he hopes to get his license back in order to go to work as a medical administrator for an HMO. But the license he receives will allow him to practice any kind of medicine.

Myers, a legislator since 1978, contends that he never received any notification from the Department of Health that his license was about to be declared null and void because he failed to renew it. According to the Department of Health, he received two warnings over a period of almost 18 months before he lost the right to practice in 1998.

Other doctors in Myers' position have to reapply for a medical license and meet the same standards required of any new doctor. That means taking a medical exam and going through an extensive background check to ensure that the doctor can practice medicine safely.

Under the provision written for Myers, he will be allowed to renew his license without having to meet the same practice and continuing medical education standards required of all other doctors.

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