May 13, 2011; Source: St. Petersburg Times | No doubt many people saw her father's influence at work when hearing how a nonprofit run by the daughter of a man the St. Petersburg Times describes as an "uber lobbyist" was awarded $1.5 million from the Florida legislature. Maybe so, but as the newspaper reports, neither Lauren, who runs Lauren's Kids, or her dad, Ron Book, asked for the money.
Not at least for that purpose. Instead the Books had been lobbying for money for a program to protect victims of sexual abuse by helping them relocate to where they'd be safe. But the $1.5 million given to Lauren's Kids must now be used for a hotline and sexual abuse prevention in schools. Curiously those are two programs the nonprofit already offers but pays for without state assistance.
Some state lawmakers opposed the request for the sexual abuse relocation program out of fear it would cost more than projected. Cost overruns, they worried, would necessitate taking funds from an existing program that offers relocation assistance to victims of domestic violence. According to the St. Petersburg Times, legislators replaced "the $3 million with $1.5 million – and changed how the money was to be used" in the waning days of the legislative session.
The elder Book said he supported this last-minute switch even though he knew it might raise eyebrows. Said Book, "I don't want anyone to think it's simply plopped down without a need. This is one of the most underfunded and neglected areas of Florida's budget." Perhaps, but there are probably a lot of other holes in the Florida budget thanks to $3.8 billion in cuts this year.—Bruce Trachtenberg