Republicans Run Amok in Florida

State Legislature Left in Shambles After State House Closes Up Early
Nobody home: Looks like a good place to hold a legislative session. Photo: Aaron Deslatte of the Orlando Sentinel

When the going gets tough, what do the tough do? They get going. And that’s exactly what Florida state House members did. They walked out in a huff, with three days remaining in the state’s annual legislative session.

You had one job, Florida House Republicans — to approve a budget. And you didn’t even come close.

Technically, there is no lack of leadership, it’s that the leaders are mainly Republicans, and this is what Republicans do. Let’s all be clear on that.

Republicans in the Florida House disagree with Republicans in the Florida Senate over Medicaid expansion. And the Republican governor keeps changing his mind.

For states unlike Florida, not run by Republicans, this is a non-issue. What’s not to like about getting more Medicaid coverage for your poorest residents, with most of the bill footed by the federal government?

Tea partiers and Republicans can’t look beyond the fact that the expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act, and they have painted themselves into a corner in which the only way out is to take swings at Obamacare. Unfortunately, Obamacare ducks, leaving them red-faced and winded and shouting at each other.

In Florida, Republicans have tied themselves in knots trying to ignore the ACA even as it refuses to go away.

GOP/Tea Gov. Rick Scott was against Medicaid expansion before he was for it, but under tea party pressure, he’s against it again. He originally opposed it because over time, participating states will pick up more of the tab, incenting them to control costs. Now he is suing the federal government for what he terms “coersion” because as part of ACA reforms, another program called the Low Income Pool (LIP) will go away.

LIP reimbursed hospitals for indigent care dispensed mainly through emergency rooms. Obamacare uses that money to provide Medicaid coverage so people can get preventive care and hopefully avoid more expensive emergency care. States have known for years that LIP was being phased out, but the program was extended to give Republican-controlled states time to figure out how to get on board with the ACA while remaining true to their “principles,” which mainly consist of mindlessly opposing Obama.

With the LIP extension about to run out, Gov. Scott sued and Florida House members walked away. That leaves the Florida Senate with three days to do nothing, since bills require passage by both houses. The Tampa Bay Times, in an editorial, was among those breaking the news to Florida residents.

The surprise move by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli of Merritt Island and his puppet master, Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran of Land O’Lakes, to shut down the chamber Tuesday reflects their callous attitude toward this state’s most pressing issues. They are all about the hardball politics of pleasing the most extreme wing of the Republican Party, and they are willing to go to any lengths to avoid working with the Obama administration and creating health coverage for low-income Floridians.

If that sounds a lot like tea party Republicans at the national level, it should.

The Herald Tribune went further, laying the blame at Gov. Rick Scott’s feet.

“This is a case study in what happens when you have a lack of leadership,” said longtime University of South Florida political science professor Darryl Paulson…

It is a long way from last November, when Republicans looked to be in an enviable situation, Paulson said. They had won all four cabinet seats, Scott won re-election and the GOP expanded its overwhelming majorities in the Legislature.

“The battles are no longer with the other party, but within the party,” said Paulson, a Republican.

Technically, there is no lack of leadership in Tallahassee. All the slots are filled, even though there are no longer any butts in the seats at the Florida House. The problem isn’t a lack of leaders, it’s the fact that the leaders are mainly Republicans, and this is what Republicans do. Let’s all be clear on that.

There is a bright spot in this mess, and it’s that the state will be spared the truly awful legislation Republicans were about to pass. That included hijacking money voters approved last fall in a constitutional amendment to protect threatened environmental lands and help restore the Everglades. Florida Republicans intended to take that money and use it to pay for interests of agribusiness like Big Sugar. They were also planning to raid more public education money for charter schools.

Since a special session — estimated to cost taxpayers at least $100,000 — is now inevitable, Republicans can try again to resolve their internal issues and govern. Whether Florida will be better for it is doubtful.

One comment

  • April 30, 2015 - 5:51 am | Permalink

    The only other bright spot in the walkout was that a bill allowing the concealed carry of guns on college campuses died because it wasn’t passed by both chambers. I always say the best thing about the Florida legislature is, it’s only in session for 60 days a year, thereby effectively limiting the amount of mischief it can perpetrate.

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