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Jeff Brandes bucks Senate, votes ‘No’ on revamped FHIX healthcare plan

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The Senate’s FHIX 2.0 health care insurance plan carried the day in the upper chamber by a vote of 33-3 Wednesday afternoon after an hours-long session of back-patting and exhortations to the House to join them on their quest for a healthcare “revolution,” as one senator called it.

Warm feelings and high-minded speeches rang out across the chamber from a chorus of pro-expansion senators.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes was not among them.

The Transportation Committee chairman’s fiscal politics always did have affinities with the House, and Brandes explained his differences with his colleagues came down to money. Specifically, where it comes from.

“My friends have worked really hard on this plan, but I fundamentally don’t agree with the premise that the federal government is going to provide long-term solutions to this,” said Brandes, pointing to the federal debt and deficit.

“They have $18 trillion in debt and a $500 billion deficit this year, and we see that growing into the future,” Brandes continued. “Everybody understands that something has to be done with entitlements in the future, I don’t believe anybody thinks that means they should be growing them.

“Growing this system at this time is just not a responsible plan for Florida.”

Asked about comments that former Senate President Don Gaetz made on the Senate floor against budget purists that “the ship had already sailed” and in fact the House had already irrevocably “lost their virginity” on the issue due to some one-third of their proposed funding originating in the federal government Brandes stayed on message, but with a theoretical edge.

“The unfortunate part of that argument is that we’re borrowing all this money. There isn’t some magical pot of money, there’s no Confederate gold underneath the federal Capitol. We’re borrowing every one of these dollars from future generations. And it’s unfortunate that we have these discussions like this like we’re not.

“Every one of these dollars is borrowed from my kids, my grandkids, and we’re going to be paying the huge debt of this country for years to come.”

In a press gaggle following the Senate’s approval of their health proposal, President Andy Gardiner was asked whether he was “disappointed” the vote was not unanimous.

“Not at all. They’ll go back to their districts and explain their votes to their constituents and we’ll all just go from there,” Gardiner said.

After a rough and contentious Regular Session and no graceful end in sight to the Special Session it necessitated, there are a great number of lawmakers in exactly that same boat.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

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