Today, the Department of Health issued a final order that began implementation of the prescription drug monitoring program. Stopping pill mills has been my top priority since I took office, and this program is an important tool in combating this crisis.
My top legislative priority right now is providing law enforcement and health regulators with the tools they need to shut down pill mills. Prescription drug abuse claims the lives of seven Floridians per day. Startling statistics show that among young people, ages 12-17, diverted prescription drugs have become the second most abused illegal drug with marijuana being first.
The doctors who knowingly prescribe drugs for illegal use or sale are nothing more than drug dealers in white coats. With enhanced civil, criminal, legislative, and preventative solutions, we can stop these pill mills. I have seen great concepts from both the House and Senate and I am optimistic that we will come up with a solution to protect Floridians.
Another top legislative priority of mine is separating the restoration of civil rights from the evaluation of applications for an occupational license. This reform is an important complement to the Clemency Board's recent decision to require an application and a reasonable waiting period before a felon's rights are restored.
I believe that the sooner convicted criminals meet the terms of their sentences and reintegrate into society, the less likely they are to reoffend. We can better protect Floridians and help ex-felons reintegrate into society by ensuring that occupational licenses are issued by the appropriate licensing authority based on a thorough and individualized vetting process.
Our Legislature has shown great leadership on this issue. Senator Chris Smith sponsored a decoupling bill that the Senate passed, and just this week, the House of Representatives Bill 449, sponsored by Representative Dwayne Taylor, passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously. I hope that the Legislature continues to show such tremendous support on this issue.