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Dems Fume As Florida Surgeon General Appears Before House Committee, Doesn't Take Questions

Florida state House Democrats are furious after Surgeon General Scott Rivkees appeared before a chamber Health Committee, outlined his role, spoke sparingly about the coronavirus pandemic and wasn’t allowed to answer questions from lawmakers. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) questioned that decision.

“I’m disappointed he [Rivkees] can’t answer questions publicly, and I think that it just contributes to the perception that this process is a sham if we can’t ask legitimate questions to the top public health official in this state.”

Committee Chairman Will Robinson, Jr. justified the decision saying the committee was short on time and had a lot of items to get through. He also took issue with Guillermo-Smith's characterization of the process as a "sham."

"Ranking member, like I said, you're more than welcome to get your questions answered, and I obviously disagree with your perception this is a sham. We have a robust agenda to get through," he said.

Committee members were told ahead of the meeting that they wouldn't be allowed to question the Surgeon General. Rivkees told lawmakers they could call his office to schedule a meeting.

In the last few months, the surgeon general has only been seen and heard sporadically as the governor’s office has taken greater control over messaging. The flare-up over Rivkees’ appearance comes amid efforts to vaccinate seniors—a process rolling out unevenly across the state.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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