The bill, HB 1037, is proposing to allow optometrists to perform certain laser and non-laser procedures after undertaking and completing a training course and passing an examination to become a “certified optometrist in ophthalmic surgery.” It does prohibit certain procedures, particularly invasive procedures or ones that require general anaesthesia, however, it would also expand optometrists’ powers to prescribe certain types of medicine.Supporters of the bill, such as the Florida Optometric Association, have said it increases patient access, especially in rural areas. Meanwhile, its opponents say it would put patients’ health at risk, as they believe trained and licensed medical doctors should only do surgery.Mr Salvatore DeCanio, a South Florida optometrist with 32 years experience, told investigative news service the American Media Institute that optometrists can do more than just ask patients to read eye charts.“I am part of a group that is comfortable with some mildly invasive procedures. As an optometrist, the cornea and lens of the eye is not a strange animal for us,” he said.“The fact is we are the primary care for the optics of the eye. We know far more about optics and prisms in the eye than ophthalmologists. They have a different speciality.”However, a leading opponent of the legislation, Dr William Mallon, said allowing optometrists to perform surgery was an unacceptable risk to patient safety.“It takes a minimum 12 years of schooling and training to perform eye surgery. Medical school. Supervised residency. The night before my surgeries, I go for a run and get a full night’s sleep. I know that if I lose focus for even a single second of surgery, my patient’s life could be permanently changed.”Fellow veteran ophthalmologist Dr Jaime Mbrey echoed his sentiments: “If you live long enough, you will get cataracts and eventually need corrective surgery. Allowing optometrists to do this kind of surgical procedure is like allowing the mechanic to fly a fighter jet.”Support for the bill has followed a concerted push by optometry-funded lobbyists, who have raised more money for Florida lawmakers than any other health care group in the state.According to FloridaPolitics.com optometrists spent US$2.1 million (AU$2.8 m) in the last election cycle, while public filings show ophthalmologists were able to raise less than one-tenth of that figure.House Bill 1037 passed the Health Quality Subcommittee with an 8-7 vote in mid-March and is now in the Health and Human Services Committee.