To understand this day at the state capitol one needs to take a long view of a 60-day Legislative Session. Think of a production of a play – the Florida Legislature spent the first half of a session putting all the pieces in place for one heck of a show. The climax will come either in a couple of weeks with the House and Senate resolving the differences in their proposed state budgets and end the 60-day session on time or it will come later this summer in a sequel, I mean, special session.
Rep. Richard Corcoran, the House Appropriations Chairman, rejected the Senate’s LIP fix to balance a state budget in a fiery floor speech Thursday in which he said the House has no intention of “dancing” with the Senate “this session, next session,” or even next summer on Medicaid expansion.
Corcoran was reacting to House Democrats statements favoring the Senate plan which replaces money lost when the federal government ends a hospital reimbursement program with Medicaid dollars.
“Right now the House basically needs to understand that they are somewhat isolated in this ideological debate,” said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford. “We have a willing federal partner who can help the state of Florida get this budget settled. We have a willing Senate that is ready to work with the House. They’re looking for a partner,” said Pafford.
And later Senate President Andy Gardiner deflected a question about the language coming from the House but did say if the issue is not resolved soon then a time crunch will present some problems. That’s the diplomatic Gardiner’s way of suggesting there may be a special session.
Sen. Thad Altman has 13 years as a lawmaker, has participated in at least eight special sessions and sees another one in the making. Altman was in the House in 2003 when lawmakers met in special session five times, taking up among other things, the emotionally charged case of Terri Schiavo and a contentious medical malpractice plan.
“Those issues were nothing like the issues we are facing today, nothing even comes close to what we’re facing now, said Altman. “The potential health care crisis we’re facing. It is a very, very serious public policy issue and people would suffer. It’s worth standing our ground it’s worth taking a stand.”
Here’s more on the epic budget showdown that is brewing.
A second dispute with next year’s state budget involves money earmarked by Amendment 1 for environmental conservation. The House said its spending proposal includes more than $200 million for the Florida Forever program. Environmentalists say it actually contains only $10 million. The details are here.
It’s becoming very clear that Floridians have a very high threshold for outrage. The Attorney Generals office announced Thursday that the FBI in Jacksonville has arrested two state prison employees in a conspiracy to kill a black inmate. Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones said the employees were “part of a white supremacist group” that targeted inmates. There is more here.
Gov. Rick Scott and county supervisors of elections are battling behind the scene over legislation allowing people to register to vote online. That story is here.
Sen. Nancy Detert is tough. This morning she told a couple lobbyists associated with the Koch brothers that “you people serve absolutely no purpose. ”
I’ve seen Detert delivered a couple of tongue lashings over the years and boy there is no mistaking her Chicago roots – she’ll make Ditka proud.
Michael Auslen has the video here. Enjoy.
Lawmakers have left the state capitol for the Easter weekend. They will return Monday for week six of the 2015 legislative session and we’ll see whether the House will dance with the Senate or go to war against the status quo.