Citing “blatant political maneuvering and a disregard for the wishes of voters,” few lawmakers can take pride in the 2015 legislative session, says Pamela Goodman, president of the Florida League of Women Voters.
Her primary concerns in the recently ended special session were notable failures in accepting federal Medicaid expansion money to cover more than 800,000 of the state’s uninsured poor, as well as falling short on environmental funding passed overwhelmingly by Florida voters last November.
“The 2015 Legislature kicked the healthcare ball down the road to 2016 after flicking a finger at the Florida Constitution by ignoring the wishes of 4.2 million voters who approved funding for land and water conservation,” Goodman said in a statement marking the end of the special session.
Florida lawmakers finished the 20-day special session this evening after approving a near $79 billion state budget, which will guide the state’s spending for fiscal year 2015-16.
The spending plan – passed by the Senate unanimously and by a 96-17 vote in the House – offers some reasons to cheer: a $780 million increase for public schools.
But while public schools won, the clear budgetary loser was Florida’s environment.
“Not only did the Legislature ignore the will of the voters who approved Amendment One by 75 percent, it allocated even less money than last year for land and water conservation,” Goodman’s statement said. “Sadly, too many lawmakers did not abide by their oath of office and disobeyed specific mandates of the Florida Constitution.”
Goodman did point out one lawmaker for recognition, Senate President Andy Gardiner. The Orlando Republican stood out as “having the vision and determination” to at least try and get things done for the benefit of all Floridians, she added.
“We applaud President Gardiner’s attempts to get a healthcare plan approved,” Goodman said. “Unfortunately, his efforts and those of Appropriations Committee Chair Tom Lee were doomed in the House, which showed an inability to identify with the plight of the 800,000 without healthcare insurance.”
Goodman concluded by reminding the Legislature’s members “who turned their backs on pleas to help the uninsured” that taxpayers footing the bill for health insurance for legislators themselves include those same uninsured working poor.
Once approved by Gov. Rick Scott – with some expected line-item vetoes — the state’s new spending plan will go into effect July 1.