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Democratic Leader Takes Aim At AHCA Choice

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday touted his choice to run the state Agency for Health Care Administration, noting she left a post running the Medicaid program in the Trump administration to take the job in Florida. 

But, appearing after DeSantis at an Associated Press event at the Capitol, Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, questioned whether DeSantis’ pick, Mary Mayhew, is the right person to run the agency.

Gibson noted that Mayhew headed Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services when the federal government conducted an audit of the state’s community-based developmental disability waiver program.

The waiver program helps people with developmental disabilities to live in community-based settings instead of institutions. The federal government requires incident-reporting systems to ensure the safety of participants.

The federal audit of Maine’s program between 2013 and 2015 showed no reporting system and that the health, safety, and welfare of the 2,640 developmentally disabled children were jeopardized.

‘We have a responsibility to make sure that if we already know what the background is of an individual from whence they came, they’re bringing that same attitude and work ethic to the state of Florida. And that is totally unacceptable,” Gibson said.

Attempts to contact Mayhew for comment were unsuccessful. Mayhew and other Florida agency secretaries must be confirmed by a majority of the 40-member Senate.

If they aren’t confirmed the first legislative session following their appointments, they are given a second chance. If they aren’t confirmed a second time, they must resign.

This year’s session starts March 5. While it’s rare that a governor’s appointee to a secretary post does not get confirmed, it does occur.

The Senate in 2016 refused to confirm then-Department of Health Secretary John Armstrong. Gibson told reporters Wednesday that Mayhew’s appointment to AHCA transcends politics.

“I just want to make sure that not only my (Democratic) caucus – but the Republican caucus and the people of the state of Florida – pay attention to who could potentially be the AHCA secretary and the scathing audit that goes with her," Gibson said.