NDN: Aaron Bean steered $1 million to friend's business
Blockbuster from Arek Sarkissian at the Naples Daily News:
A state senator helped a friend's business obtain $1 million hidden in the state budget after the two discussed how the lawmaker would promote the business, budget documents and emails show.
Sen. Aaron Bean helped secure a $1 million special appropriation in this year's budget for an early mental health screening program run by Catherine Drew, the wife of Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew. Bean and John Drew have been friends for more than a decade and have supported each other politically.
The Drews operate Florida Psychological Associates in Fernandina Beach in northeastern Florida. They used the state money to start a pilot program that conducts early mental health assessments for schoolchildren and criminal defendants. Part of the program includes the development of a Web application named “Celphie.”
Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, initially asked legislative leaders to add nearly $700,000 as a line item in the state budget for the program, but that request was knocked down to $100,000 and eventually rejected by House members, records show.
Drew then discussed with Bean seeking the money through other House and Senate channels, emails show. And a lawmaker said Bean asked him to make a separate $1 million request for the program that was hidden in the Florida State University College of Medicine budget.
The $1 million secret appropriation, which is not subject to the governor's line-item veto, is among $315 million in special requests granted through universities to lawmakers over the past seven years, with no specific mention of them anywhere in the budget, according to a compilation of the payments by the Naples Daily News. Those special requests were at the center of a clash before this year's session between House and Senate leaders, who resolved the conflict by allowing the requests to continue under certain restrictions.
Read story here.