When Sedrek Singleton, a career criminal with a violent past, checked into Nueva Vida assisted living facility, caretakers at the cluster of cottages in Miami-Dade never took steps to protect other residents.
They never had to.
Months after moving in, the 30-year-old man flew into a rampage, beating his roommate to death with a brick nearly tearing off the disabled mans ear before bolting from his new home.
The brutal assault came just weeks after Florida lawmakers rejected a bill that would have put the burden squarely on ALF owners to safeguard people in their homes when accepting residents with criminal histories.
But the defeat in 2008 to bring more protections to vulnerable residents was just the beginning.
Over the next three years, lawmakers rejected sweeping plans to toughen Floridas ALF law often at the urging of industry leaders while stripping away enforcement powers that left hundreds of residents to fend for themselves in dangerous conditions.
While frail residents were dying of abuse and neglect in ALFs across the state nearly one a month lawmakers pushed three dozen pieces of legislation since 2007 to cut crucial protections that had been in place for a generation.
The changes in Floridas ALF law created even more gaps in a state enforcement system that was already failing to investigate dangerous practices and shut down the worst offenders.
• Lawmakers said state regulators no longer have to report abuses and deaths to the Legislature, instead allowing them to keep the cases secret.
• Even as homes were caught breaking the law including caregivers beating residents, doping them with powerful tranquilizers and locking them in closets lawmakers rejected a plan to crack down on rogue operators.
• Though abuse cases have risen over the past five years, lawmakers blocked efforts to heighten checks on bad homes including inspections every 15 months saying they were too expensive.
• As the state was finding hundreds of people languishing without proper care, lawmakers stripped the authority of inspectors to call doctors and get them removed leaving the decision to ALF operators.
The moves to change the states historic ALF law one of the oldest in the country came as abuse and neglect cases were rising in ALFs.
Led by Floridas largest industry group, a dozen lawmakers stepped forward in the past five years to create 36 pieces of legislation to remove regulations including parts of the Residents Bill of Rights that guarantees safety and protection to vulnerable adults.
The effort peaked this year, with legislators pressing 23 bills, including a plan by Sen. Rene Garcia a powerful Hialeah Republican who chairs the Senates health committee to overhaul ALF law.
The 37-year-old lawmaker, whose district includes more than 100 ALFs including some of the most heavily fined homes in Miami-Dade pushed to cut back penalties against caretakers and reduce the states power to close troubled homes.
Garcia said he was simply pressing for changes raised by industry leaders who were working with the states chief regulator Agency for Health Care Administration. This was just the beginning of a long process, he told The Miami Herald. You file a bill. Some things stay, some things dont.