Jack Latvala calls attacks on state senators and their spouses who work in health care ‘reprehensible’

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The battle over Medicaid expansion in the Florida Legislature was an intense, emotional issue for many in Tallahassee this year. It was an internecine battle, as House Republicans fought Senate Republicans over expanding healthcare coverage and a Senate fix to the Low Income Pool program.

At times the battle got personal, with some ascribing less than noble motivations on the part of some Senate Republicans who are directly employed in the healthcare industry. Those legislators include Senate President Andy Gardiner, Health Care Budget Chairman Rene Garcia and Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean. That reality was noted several times this spring, including in places like POLITICO, Florida Politics and the Florida Times-Union.

Financial reports published this week allowed the Tampa Bay Times’ Michael Auslen to list the actual salaries that those officials make in the industry, however, and that has Pinellas County state Sen. Jack Latvala hopping mad. Particularly the listing of the salary of Julie Galvano, the wife of Manatee County state Sen. Bill Galvano, has irked the veteran lawmaker, who has no direct connection to the medical/hospital industry.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Latvala said that it’s time to lay off on ascribing illegitimate reasons why nearly everyone in the state Senate supporting expanding health care (which it should be noted was also strongly supported by the people of Florida).

Here’s his statement in full:

I condemn the continued attacks on senators and their spouses who work in the healthcare industry. These political assaults are reprehensible and an affront to the service provided by members of the Florida Legislature. Members of the Senate and House are citizen legislators who work and live in the local communities they represent. The last thing Floridians want is a full-time legislature that’s full of career politicians.

I’m especially appalled by recent attacks on the spouse of Senator Bill Galvano. Those who hold elected office learn to develop a thick skin but their wives or husbands should never be attacked because of their career choice. This is out of bounds. I know Senator Galvano and his wife Julie to be honorable, decent people. I fully stand in support of them and other Senators who have been attacked. What has happened to civility and common decency?  The legislative debate over the Senate’s FHIX plan has been fought. Thirty-eight Senators voted for the plan, most of whom have no ties to the healthcare industry. I strongly supported it. The House and governor did not. That’s the legislative process. The war on this issue with other government branches should be over. I call for an end to these counter-productive attacks and urge those of us who serve this state to focus on the needs of all Floridians.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.