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The Day That Was in Florida Politics — March 11

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OK folks, get your notecards ready because it’s going to start getting complicated quickly. When people say politics is all about the money they are right. The only reason the state Capitol represents a village during the 60-day annual legislative session is because billions of dollars are at stake – everyone wants a piece of the pie and the bakers are in the kitchen firing up the oven.

Two big issues are starting to roll. What they are depends on whom you are talking too – one issue to some is closing a $2 billion shortfall in healthcare or to others something that looks like Medicaid expansion by another name. The second issue is a comprehensive water bill or to others it is implementing Amendment 1, which has money that can go to a comprehensive water bill.

The four topics are really just two and that is why you need a notecard when walking the halls of the state Capitol.

Think about it this way; the process forces linkage of different components of similar issues. It’s not unlike how some parents negotiate with a teenager; if the kids keeps his grades up and agrees to get a part-time job then you sign the forms for him to get a driver’s license.

Mastering geometry has nothing to do with being able to make a K-turn and flipping burgers doesn’t translate into being able to park straight but parents often link the two – so do policy makers.

The healthcare issue is triggered by the end of a federal Low Income Program that reimburses hospitals for caring for the uninsured. Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday LIP and Medicaid expansion are two separate issues and that a constitutionally required balanced budget does not mean Florida will be forced into expanding Medicare.

“LIP is completely separate from Medicaid expansion. You go look at Texas, you go look at California; one expanded Medicaid and one didn’t and both are getting significantly more dollars under LIP than what Florida is getting today or ever gotten,” said Scott. “Those things are not tied.”

However, the Senate budget writing is in a stalemate until the healthcare issue is resolved and Wednesday its Rules chairman touted a plan to expand health coverage.

“I hope our colleagues in the House see that. It is not a case of expanding Medicaid. It is a case of expansion of the free enterprise system,” said state Sen. David Simmons. “(The) challenge is to give a hand up, not a hand out. That’s what people want. We need to improve the economy in the state of Florida, and we need a healthy Florida to do that. I look forward to obtaining passage of a bill that ensures Floridians are healthy and stay healthy.”

More on Simmons’ remarks here.

The House has been blocking Medicaid expansion since 2012. However, this year a comprehensive water bill tops Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s agenda. He sent a House measure over to the Senate last week that has different ideas of what comprehensive means.

The art of negotiation involves being able to walk away from a deal. The idea is to appear to have less at stake than the other person. Here’s how Crisafulli fielded whether the House and Senate can bridge the divide on water.

“I’m not gong to pass a bad water bill – if we have a bill that is in play that is just not good for a clean sustainable water source for the future of our state – we don’t need to pass a bad bill,” said Crisafulli Wednesday. “If we can work something out, great; if not, then we gave it our try and we’ll come back next year and try again.”

Let the negotiations begin. After the House adjourned for the day Democratic Leader Mark Pafford mused about the emerging differences between the House and Senate concerning water, implementation of Amendment 1 and response to the nearly $2 billion shortfall in the healthcare budget created by the scheduled end of LIP.

Pafford was asked whether the items are bargaining chips for the negotiations that will occur over the next seven weeks.

“It’s different priorities and I think anytime you have different priorities with billions of dollars attached and if you are in leadership you want to bring something home, then I think you have so many priorities it’s bound to happen,” said Pafford. “I think potentially there will be a lot of give and take.”

State Sen. Alan Hayes raised a few eyebrows Wednesday when he told a committee that Amendment 1 supporters might have misled people. More on that here.

Health Secretary John Armstrong explained how he’s handling a $6.9 million shortfall that led to a series of layoffs. That story is here.

And the House Wednesday backed a proposal moving the 2016 presidential primary to March 15. That is the first day when GOP rules allow a winner-take-all primary; the assumption is the move will provide a boost to a Florida favorite son candidate.

“I have two favorite daughters,” joked Speaker Crisafulli. “It’s a bill about Florida being relevant and that is really what it comes down to. “

The speaker noted the move would mean a lot of delegates for whoever wins, whether it’s Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or anyone else.

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