We elect our state legislators to do one thing: go up to Tallahassee for a few months every year to make laws. The Republican leaders of the Florida House announced today that they have no more interest in doing that right now. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, abruptly adjourned the House today three days before its scheduled end, leaving several unresolved bills in purgatory.
The decision has nothing to do with Democrats, who are virtually powerless in Tallahassee, and everything to do with GOP infighting between Republican leaders in the House and their counterparts in the Senate.
The main issue: expanding Medicaid coverage under Obamacare by accepting federal money. Senators had included $2.8 billion in federal money in their budget to do just that. House leaders, however, stand ideologically opposed to the idea and are not willing to compromise.
“This House is not interested in expanding Medicaid,” Crisafulli told reporters according to Political Fix Florida.
The move comes just a day after Crisafulli penned an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times explaining his anti-Medicaid position.
"Those who claim we should expand Medicaid to get Florida's money back should note that we already receive over $15 billion more each year than we send to Washington," he wrote. "It's deficit spending. The national debt burden today is $145,000 per household. Medicaid expansion would not be financed with the hard-earned dollars we have already sent to Washington — it would be financed by mortgaging our children's and grandchildren's future."
However, pro-Medicaid expansionists point out that the move could benefit more than 800,000 to 1 million uninsured Floridians. Also at play is a federal program called the "Low Income Pool." The feds pay hospitals to treat uninsured patients, and Florida's cut of the pool is scheduled to come to an end in June. Senators see Medicaid expansion as a way to avoid fallout. The Obama administration is clearly in favor of seeing Florida expand Medicaid coverage. Gov. Rick Scott has signaled that he's against the idea.
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Today's move means that all unresolved business in the House is also dead, including about $690 million in tax cuts.
Crisafulli claims that the House has gotten considerably more work done and bills passed on the floor than the Senate this year, and he doesn't think that the two sides are going to come to an agreement on the budget issues anyway. A special session to hammer out the budget was widely expected, but this move essentially hit the reset button on the entire session.
The current fiscal year ends on June 30. The two chambers would have to come to a budget agreement by then to avoid a state government shutdown.
The move caught many — Democrats, lobbyists, and even rank-and-file Republicans in both houses — completely off guard.