Rick Scott begins the Tough on Crime part of his re-election campaign

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Two years ago the GOP-led Florida Legislature voted nearly overwhelmingly in both houses (116-4) to support a bill that would have allowed low-level, non-violent inmates in Florida prisons to receive drug treatment after serving at least half of their sentence. But it was vetoed by Governor Scott, who boasted about it as he kicked off his "Let's Keep Florida Safe" tour this morning at Patrick's Uniforms off of Adamo Drive in Tampa this morning.

"I'm going to oppose any changes to the 85-percent mandatory minimum law," he told a group of reporters and well-wishers who gathered at the retail business, which provides uniforms for law enforcement and public safety employees. "Meaning if you get 10 years in prison, you're going to serve 85 percent of that time. That's part of the reason why we have a historic low in our crime rate."

At the time of that veto in 2012, Fort Lauderdale-based state Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff blasted the governor, expressing “phenomenal” disappointment about legislation that she said would ultimately save taxpayer money by helping improve the chances that inmates wouldn’t wind up back in prison.

But Scott was unrepentant, when asked about his veto by CL.

"We're at a 43-year-low in our crime rate because we have an 85-percent mandatory minimum sentencing law, and I believe in that. I've talked to law enforcement, I've talked to sheriffs, police chiefs, they agree with me, and I'm going to continue to stand up for that."

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gaultieri told CL he didn't remember the specifics of the bill, but generally supported Scott's rejection of that legislation. "I support the 85-percent rule. It's proven to be effective. It is a deterrent." But he added that inmates need to get treatment and need to be rehabilitated. "But you also have to pay your dues, and do your time."

And Gaultieri said that while some may contend that drug offenses might not be a huge issue compared to violent crimes, he said they can lead to bigger crimes. "There's other violent crime involved with that, and so I think having the 85-percent rule is a good thing."

During the formal news conference Gaultieri lavished praise on Scott, saying the governor generously provided funding for seven new troopers in his department. "It's all about responsiveness, and we're seeing that at the state level that we never did before in prior years."

Holmes Beach Police Chief William Tokajer said Scott "gets it" when it comes to supporting law enforcement agencies up and down the state. "He understands the dangers of the job. Governor Scott believes once someone is arrested and convicted, they have to be held accountable for their crimes, and serve 85 percent of their sentence before being released."
Going back to Scott's veto of the bill in 2012, then-Senator Bogdanoff (she was defeated that fall but is running again this year) was quoted in the Tampa Bay Times as disputing Scott's comment that his veto was a public safety issues. "No, it's not," she said at the time. "These are nonviolent drug offenders." And she said it was time for politicians to transcend the "garbage of 'tough on crime'" talk.

Scott's press conference coincided with the announcement that the Florida Police Chiefs Association officially endorsed him in his bid for re-election.

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