PolitiFact | Did Rick Scott close 30 women's health care centers?
Democrats have been counting on a gender gap to win races in 2014, and Democrat Charlie Crist is part of that trend, lobbying hard for the women's vote in his battle against Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Crist has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood PAC (despite his own mixed record on abortion in the past), has vowed to push for equal pay for women and now is attacking Scott's record on funding rape crisis centers.
Crist has also enlisted endorsements from Democratic women, such as U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach. Frankel recently penned a campaign fundraising email attacking Scott that was emailed out by the Crist campaign.
"If Rick Scott wins, the next four years are going to be rough for Floridians," Frankel said in an email on Sept. 12, adding, "Recently he closed 30 women's health care centers across the state."
This claim warranted a thorough check-up from the Truth-O-Meter -- and we quickly diagnosed the heart of the problem in Frankel's words.
Women's health care centers
We reached out to both Frankel and the Crist campaign. Neither could provide evidence for closed health care centers.
The Crist campaign admitted the statement was an error. "That should have read 'He cut funding to 30 rape crisis centers across the state,' " Crist campaign spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said.
Frankel's spokeswoman Majda Sarkic sent us this response: "The issue here is not about email wording. It is about Rick Scott denying Florida women and more specifically victims of sexual violence the healthcare they need and deserve."
So the statement that Scott closed 30 women's health centers is completely wrong.
We decided to then look at what happened to funding for rape crisis centers under Scott.
The state funds rape crisis centers through various pots of money. A portion comes from the Rape Crisis Trust Fund, which comes from fines assessed on felony criminal defendants. Since not all of the defendants pay what they owe, advocates have sought an additional stream of dollars from the Legislature. For several years, programs have shared a recurring amount from the Attorney General's Office and in some years the Legislature and governor approved additional money.
Based on our interviews with women's advocates and state officials, here is the amount of state dollars that went to rape crisis centers statewide:
-- 2007 (Crist), $400,000 from state attorney general (usually from general revenue), $0 from other general revenue, $1.5 million from trust fund.
-- 2008 (Crist), $400,000 from state AG, $0 from other general revenue, $2 million from trust fund.
-- 2009 (Crist), $250,000 from state AG, $0 from other general revenue, $2 million from trust fund.
-- 2010 (Crist), $250,000 from state AG, $0 from other general revenue, $1.8 million from trust fund.
-- 2011 (Scott), $250,000 from state AG, $0 from other general revenue, $1.8 million from trust fund.
-- 2012 (Scott), $500,000 from state AG, $0 after Scott vetoed $1.5 million approved by Legislature, $1.4 million from trust fund.
-- 2013 (Scott), $500,000 from state AG, $2.5 million from other general revenue, $1.3 million from trust fund.
-- 2014 (Scott), $500,000 from state AG, $2.5 million from other general revenue, $1.3 million from trust fund.
So why did Scott veto $1.5 million in 2012 but then approve $2.5 million in 2013 and again in 2014?
In 2012, Scott's veto during Sexual Assault Awareness Month drew some scrutiny. The Huffington Post quoted Scott's spokesman at the time, Lane Wright. "This new funding of $1.5 million would have been duplicative, since, as a state, we already fund sexual violence programs," Wright said. "There was no information suggesting any needs in this area weren't already being met."
Representatives of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence met with state staff after the veto, said Jennifer Dritt, the nonprofit group's executive director.
"There were a number of people in the Legislature who spoke with the governor's office about the need, and in 2013, there it was in his recommended budget," Dritt said. "We were never in any governor's recommendation for funding until Gov. Scott recommended $2.5 million in 2013."
A spokesman for Scott's campaign cited a 2013 statement by Dritt praising Scott's recommendation for $2.5 million. "This appropriation will make a world of difference in the lives of Florida's citizens, and we're grateful for his commitment," Dritt said.
The increase in money has allowed some centers to hire additional staff which helped reduce waiting lists and expand services.
For example, the Nancy J. Cotterman center in Broward used the $255,000 in new money over two years to hire a full-time crisis intervention specialist, part-time crisis intervention counselors and expand community outreach including to hospitals.
Dritt said Scott's veto did not cause any of the 30 rape crisis centers to close in 2012. Two centers have since lost certification and one chose to give it up while one new center was added, bringing the current total to 28.
In a fundraising email sent out by the Crist campaign, Frankel wrote that Scott "closed 30 women's health care centers around the state." Crist's campaign said that the email should have said that Scott cut money for rape crisis centers, but even that smaller claim isn't accurate.
More importantly, the statement that Scott closed 30 health centers is completely wrong.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire!