Senate budget chief plans opioid fact-finding in Palm Beach County

Updated July 19, 2017
Florida Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, at a budget conference in Tallahassee in May 2017. A potential Republican candidate for governor, he has set a fact-finding meeting on opiods for Aug. 8 at Palm Beach State College, the week before he is scheduled to announces whether he will run for governor in 2018. (George Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Senate Appropriations Chairman and potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, has scheduled a roundtable discussion on the opioid crisis for Aug. 8 at the Lake Worth campus of Palm Beach State College.

Latvala said he’s been urged to hold such a meeting by two Palm Beach County Democrats — state Sen. Kevin Rader, of Delray Beach, and County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who represents the county’s west from Wellington to the Glades. Latvala also said he wants to be “on top of the issue” when he oversees spending levels for next year’s budget.

»RELATED: The Post’s coverage of the opioid crisis

“It’s fact-finding,” Latvala said in a Wednesday interview with The Palm Beach Post. “I don’t really understand a whole lot about this issue. I hear about it from the members over there, I hear about it from the commissioner there who’s my friend…It seems like Palm Beach County is the epicenter of the problem in Florida.”

Latvala said he wanted to schedule the opioid discussion before his planned Aug. 16 announcement on whether he’s running for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018.

»RELATED: Read The Post’s coverage of the Florida Legislature

“I want to get this done before that so it doesn’t get tied up in politics,” Latvala said. “It really doesn’t have anything to do with the governor’s race.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam opened a Republican campaign for governor in May. Putnam’s campaign has raised $2 million for the race and the pro-Putnam Florida Grown political committee began July with $10 million in cash on hand.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, have also shown interest in GOP bids for governor.

Latvala today called the race for the GOP nomination “a wide-open situation” and said that in addition to the elected officials mulling the race he expects some wealthy candidate to seek to emulate Gov. Rick Scott and President Donald Trump and launch a self-financed bid.

Latvala’s opioid roundtable is scheduled for Aug. 8 from 9:30 a.m. to noon in Room PSD 108 at Palm Beach State College at 4200 Congress Ave., west of Lake Worth.