Florida's Legislature collapsed into chaos Tuesday as the House unilaterally ended the annual session with more than three days left, leaving dozens of major bills dead and escalating tensions between the House and Senate over their health care stalemate.
The state Senate responded by remaining in session for two more hours and announcing plans to return Wednesday, an attempt to send the message that they are willing to work through the impasse that has bitterly divided Republicans, and frayed emotions.
This is Republican-on-Republican political violence, mind you. The teabirchers in the House simply cannot abide poor people getting Medicaid.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, gaveled the legislative session to a close at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday. "We didn't get everything we wanted, and we won't get everything that we hoped, but we have done all that we can do for this session," he said. He then told House members to go home "until the Senate decides they are ready to negotiate."
It marked the first time in Florida's modern history that one chamber shut down and went home on a different day than the other in a regular session. Adjournment records go back only to 1971.
The House's early exit left unfinished major policy bills that would have rewritten the state's water policy, decided how to spend money from the Amendment 1 environmental measure, increased economic and educational options for people with special needs, reformed the state prison system, revised ethics rules at the Public Service Commission and provided financial benefits to charter schools.
Crisafulli makes it sound so mild. They adjourned without approving a budget, which they have no intention of approving with a Medicaid expansion. All their extensions have run out on the reimbursement to hospitals for poor people in emergency rooms, and so Florida needs to come to an understanding about how quickly poor people should be permitted to die without medical assistance.
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As part of the budget negotiations, the Senate wants to expand Medicaid and impose new requirements on low-income residents as it phases out LIP funds. The House rejects that idea, arguing that Medicaid is a "broken" program and prefers instead to rely on the federal LIP funds — at least for another year.
See how that works? The Senate realizes it's stupid not to take the federal money, but the Kochheads in the House want the impossible. Since they haven't received it, they're picking up their toys and going home.
That's not governing. It's a big, nasty loud temper tantrum.