Fla. House Dems stall session to protest Medicaid, GOP furious

TALLAHASSEE — The progressive party is slowing progress in the Florida Legislature.

Florida House Democrats are protesting Republican resistance to federal funding for Obamacare Medicaid expansion by demanding a line-by-line reading of bills before they can be debated on the House floor.

The maneuver came shortly after the Senate approved SB 1816, sponsored by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, a health insurance bill that does use federal funds.

It pushed a handful off bills off the House agenda Tuesday afternoon, and prolonged others.

The House broke for the day about 5:40 p.m., but not before Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, told representatives to report to work at 8 a.m. Wednesday, and issued a veiled warning about obstructionism.

When the session opened, Weatherford said, he predicted the House could “shrink together or rise together.”

With only three days left in the session, he said, “I hope we rise together.”

In a statement, House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, defended the delaying tactic and demanded a special session on the health-care issue:

“With the support of the 44-member House Democratic Caucus, today I have begun the extraordinary procedural step of requesting that every bill that comes before the Florida House of Representatives be read in full.

“By purposefully slowing deliberations at this critical juncture, I and other House Democratic Caucus members seek to bring greater public attention to our desire for legislative passage of the health coverage expansion plan that the Florida Senate approved earlier today. Specifically, I have applauded the Senate’s bipartisan approval of House Bill 7169 as revised to include a Senate plan authored by state Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart) that would accept federal funds for health coverage expansion.

“It’s unfortunate that we have had to take such unusual action today, but my Democratic colleagues and I believe that a drastic situation requires drastic tactics. The 1.2 million people who can be provided medical coverage under proposed legislation may not be aware of what’s transpiring in Tallahassee. Today, I want them to know that the 44-member House Democratic Caucus stands in support of them.

“In addition to the procedural moves that we are taking in the Florida House to draw public attention to the plight of Floridians needing health coverage, I have also urged Governor Rick Scott to be prepared to call a special session for passage of a health coverage expansion plan and to consider vetoing the state budget.

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