Jeanette Nunez’ bill pokes stick into the eyes of Florida optometrists

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Among the most contentious insider-y issues facing the Legislature this session is the debate over the scope of practice issues involving optometrists and ophthalmologists – or as these issues are commonly referred to, ‘The Eye Ball Wars.’  
              
On these issues, Florida is twenty years behind the times because of the obstruction of convicted political operative Alan Mendelsohn (queue the dramatic music).  However, Mendelsohn is out of the picture and new players are now involved in this debate (queue the uplifting music).                          
              
On one side, you have the  the Florida Optometric Association with its small army of powerful and connected lobbyists (most prominently David Ramba), along with all of the accompanying PR pros and grassroots firms which come with an issue as, um, lucrative as this one.  On the ophthalmologist side, there are new hires Ballard Partners and Nick Iarossi (two real heavyweights). 
              
Then there are the lawmakers.  For Team Optos, you have Garrett Richter following the lead of last year’s sponsor (the Senator from Niceville, President Don Gaetz), along with Rep. Caldwell in the House — who is rumored to have the support of leadership.  Certainly not a bad line-up.  

For Team Opthamologists, there is Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R – Ihopeshehasnooptosinherdistrict), who has filed a bill, so far without a Senate sponsor, that is nothing short of stick in the eye to Florida optometrists.  The bill tells a doctor of optometry that they cannot be called a physician.  

If you walk into an optometrist’s office, you call him ‘Doctor Bill Jones.’  But if this bill passes, you might have to address him as just Dr. Bill, but not refer to him as a physician.  That’s just confusing and insulting. 

The bill also says optometrist can no longer crape an eye to do a test, or remove an ingrown eyelash.  

Really? An eyelash? That’s what these scope of practice wars are being fought over?  

To give them all credit, there has not been a scrum like this in nearly a decade.  But that appears to be changing. No doubt, this is occurring because of the fall of Mendelson and the involvement of uber lobbyists such as Ballard, Iarossi, and Ramba.       

The first hearing on this will be this Thursday in House Health Quality.  

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.