Florida Legislature Continues Efforts to Divest State Funds

TALLAHASSEE, FL- Continuing to pave the way on divestment of state funds from rogue nations, the Florida Legislature on Friday passed a bill making it easier for Florida's citizens to exercise economic pressure against terror-sponsoring states. The bill, SB 538 sponsored by Senators Carey Baker (R-Eustis) and Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton), requires fire and police pension funds to divest from Iran and Sudan and requires the State Board of Administration to provide a "terror-free" option for state employees participating in the State's defined contribution retirement plan.

In 2007, State Senator Ted Deutch sponsored the Protecting Florida's Investments Act, making Florida the first state to divest its pension funds from companies engaging in business with Iran and Sudan. Since its passage, Florida - which has the nation's fourth largest pension fund - has divested over $1 billion from scrutinized companies.

"The state of Florida has made it clear that it will not aid the genocide in Darfur or Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program," said Sen. Deutch. "Today, we reinforce the commitment of our state's citizens to not support companies who choose to put profit over international security."

"As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I know firsthand of the atrocities that occur because of the support and funding of these terror-sponsoring countries," said Sen. Baker. "Our state's workers will not continue to have their hard earned dollars used to aid those who seek our destruction."

SB 538 requires police and firefighter pension funds to identify any holdings they may have with scrutinized companies and divest these securities by 2010.

"I am proud that we have worked in a bipartisan fashion to create this innovative investing option for state employees," said House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, who worked with Sen. Deutch to pass the Protecting Florida's Investments Act as well as SB 538. "This further reinforces Florida's commitment that we are not investing funds in companies that finance terrorism and threaten America's national security."

Since Florida became the first state to divest, 18 other states have adopted terror-free language. Wall Street has also followed suit, creating terror free index funds, and on a federal level, the Financial Services Committee of the United States House of Representatives this week considered the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act to help other states expedite divestment efforts.

SB 538 now awaits the Governor's signature.

Senator Deutch and Senator Altman Announce "Protecting Florida's Health" Legislation

Tallahassee, Fla.  – Senator Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) and Senator Thad Altman (R-Viera) today announced sweeping legislation aimed at reducing the burden on Florida’s Medicaid program caused by tobacco use by targeting all tobacco products sold in the Sunshine State.

Sponsored by Senator Deutch, Senate Bill 1840, now named “Protecting Florida’s Health,” is a multi-pronged approach to tobacco use: not only is it intended to deter new tobacco users, but also to increase the amount of revenue available to cover associated health care costs by levying an increased surcharge on all tobacco products, such as cigars and snuff.

The legislation is backed by the Florida Chapter of the American Cancer Society, which joined the lawmakers in supporting the broadening of the original bill. Other lawmakers in attendance included Senator Nan Rich (D-Weston) and Senator Durrell Peaden (R-Crestview).

“This bipartisan legislation is about protecting health and promoting responsibility,” said Senator Altman, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance and Tax.  “Our committee has conducted several workshops aimed at identifying policies that impede tax fairness. I believe this legislation is an excellent first step. It brings accountability and fairness to our system by reducing the burden currently borne by non-tobacco users.”

Medical studies clearly show the impact of tobacco use on the body.  But while cigarette smokers have traditionally been the primary focus, research clearly shows a direct link between those using other tobacco products such as cigars and chewing tobacco and higher risks of certain cancers and other illnesses.

For example, tobacco products taken orally contain 28 cancer-causing agents and increase the risk of developing cancer of the mouth and pancreas. The health care costs associated with treating these tobacco-related illnesses are largely covered through the state’s Medicaid system.

“Tobacco use is a personal choice,” said Senator Deutch.  “Yet that choice impacts non-smokers in the form of increased health care costs, which are currently borne by all Floridians.  We are able to recoup these otherwise unrecovered Medicaid costs by holding users responsible for their actions. This legislation will also help to prevent young people from taking up smoking, and ultimately lead to a healthier future for our state.”

The additional revenue the state collects will be directed not only to Medicaid costs associated with tobacco use, but to other areas of critical need within Florida’s health care budget.





Ted Facilitates Changes in Florida Prepaid College Program

 Boca Raton, Fl- A child’s prepaid college plan is now better protected against parental abuse thanks to the efforts of State Senator Ted Deutch(D-Boca Raton).

  The Senator demanded that the Florida Prepaid College Program revise a rule allowing only one person to be designated the purchaser of a Prepaid Plan.  The new rule now allows a co-purchaser to have greater rights regarding the use, termination and refund of any benefits.

“The change allows parents and guardians to ensure that a child’s education funding will be properly protected, no matter the status of the parental relationship,” said Senator Deutch.

Senator Deutch began working on the rule change after he was approached by a constituent whose husband had cashed in her child’s Prepaid Plan after divorce proceedings.  The new rule requires the co-purchasers to provide written consent for any changes to a plan, ensuring this will not happen to others.

The new rule took effect on February 1, 2009.  Anyone who purchased a plan prior to that date may send a written request to the Prepaid College Plan Board requesting new benefits.

Ted Passes Resolution in Support of Israel

Tallahassee, FL- The Florida Senate on Friday threw its support behind one of our most important allies, unanimously passing a bi-partisan resolution in support of the state of Israel.

SR 66A, sponsored by Sen. Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) expresses solidarity with Israel and support of its right to defend itself from Hamas attacks. The resolution, sponsored in the House by Majority Leader Adam Hasner, reaffirms Florida's commitment to those who fight terrorists around the world.

"I am honored by the overwhelming support of my colleagues in both the House and Senate. Israel has a right to defend herself at a time when it has endured consistent rocket attacks by Hamas. We must stand tall, together, in support of Israel's actions to defend and protect her citizens," said Sen. Deutch.

The vote comes on the heels of the passage of a Congressional resolution calling for an immediate cease fire in Gaza, but also voicing support of the right of Israel to defend itself.





Ted Files Milestone Public Health Initiative

Tallahassee, FL – Seeking to dramatically improve both Florida’s healthcare system and the state’s financial outlook, Senator Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) today filed legislation that will make Florida the nation’s leader in fighting cancer.

Senate Bill 1840 is intended to curb smoking and reduce the incidence of tobacco-related illnesses by levying a dollar a pack increase in the state’s cigarette tax. Currently at 33.9 cents per pack, Florida’s tax is the 6th lowest in the nation.

The increased revenue – estimated at more than half a billion dollars annually – will in turn prime the pump of the state’s lagging economy by investing the proceeds generated by the tax increase in biomedical research including cancer research and related infrastructure projects.

“This is first and foremost a public health bill,” said Deutch. “Yet it also provides us an opportunity to leverage Florida’s growing biotech sector to make Florida a national leader in fighting the diseases directly related to the use of tobacco.  These clean, high-wage jobs are what Florida needs right now.”

While the Boca Raton senator’s primary objective is to persuade more Floridians to “kick the habit” and deter others from starting, he acknowledged the Legislature’s growing interest in effectively targeting the revenue generated from this landmark legislation in light of the state’s dire fiscal straits.

“Economists have estimated that a dollar increase in the cigarette tax would generate more than $600 million in net revenue, even after the recent federal cigarette tax hike of 61.6-cents” Deutch said. “This money can and should help save lives by protecting the Medically Needy and the Medicaid Aged and Disabled Programs while giving the Legislature an excellent opportunity to provide critically needed funding for our state’s challenged medical capacity and healthcare infrastructure.”

Deutch announced his action today on the steps of the Old Capitol. He was joined by 500 volunteers from the American Cancer Society.  The American Cancer Society and other leading health organizations back the senator’s proposal, citing the likelihood of significant reductions in adult smokers, and even greater prevention results by deterring kids from tobacco use.

Dr. Michael Kasper, a Boca Raton oncologist applauded Deutch’s efforts. “Tobacco use causes nearly one-third of all cancer deaths,” Kasper said.  “This bill would prevent so many of these deaths that are completely unnecessary.”