Florida has also had success reducing tobacco use among our young people. Since 1998, smoking rates have declined by 57 percent among middle school students and 37 percent among high school students.
Budget constraints put this important program in jeopardy last year. This year we need to make the program, and the funding to support, it a permanent part of Florida's Department of Health. This money is important, but the real power comes from thousands of teens across our state who recognize the dangers of smoking and encourage their peers not to start.
This year, once again, you will have the opportunity to create a prescription drug tracking system that will allow us to punish unethical providers, prevent addicts from obtaining the drugs they abuse, and protect the privacy of patients in Florida. I urge you to pass legislation to define this system, fund its creation, and help us fight prescription drug abuse in Florida.
Next year, we'll add voluntary universal Pre-K, and I urge you to provide the resources we need to train 9,600 pre-school professionals this year, and to create the framework for a comprehensive high-quality program focused on critical early literacy skills. As we increase the number of children ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, we decrease the number who will struggle, be retained, and require remedial help in higher grades.
From the River of Grass to Florida's springs to the oceans that roll up on our shores, Florida will continue to protect the natural bounty and beauty of our state. We are carefully balancing our growth and environmental protection--to create the best quality of life and business climate in the country. As a result, Florida is regularly on the short list for companies looking to expand or relocate and we are winning more of these competitions every day.
We're actively looking for the right families, and streamlining the adoption process to remove the obstacles and frustrations that have been part of the process for far too long. I ask you to support these new families by approving the funds required to support adoption in Florida.
We are committed to supporting Florida's families, but government will never be the full answer to their needs. Our state is blessed with an incredibly strong network of community and faith-based partners that offer a helping hand, provide counseling, and teach skills required to build strong families and hold them together.
In addition to Medicaid, KidCare includes other valuable programs--specifically Medikids, Healthy Kids, and CMS. These non-Medicaid programs provide the critical safety net many parents need to ensure their children are protected. They are not offered as cheaper alternatives for parents who currently buy coverage through their employers. Florida received additional federal funds in January, a bonus for fully using the federal dollars to serve Florida's children in need. The new money will allow us to serve even more children.
We must acknowledge the great debt we owe patriots like [our lost soldiers]. We should honor their service by ensuring that our actions, both in and out of this chamber, are worthy of their sacrifice. We must serve this state as honorably and effectively as they serve this country. I believe we are on the right path.
We are stronger because we recognize that government isn't the sole answer to the most important questions, and we welcome community and faith based organizations as partners to serve the needs of Florida families. Florida is in a better position to serve our people and face our future, and I thank the members of the Legislature for creating that opportunity.
The above quotations are from 2004 Governor's State of the State speeches.
Click here for other excerpts from 2004 Governor's State of the State speeches.
Click here for other excerpts by Jeb Bush.
Click here for a profile of Jeb Bush.
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