Democrats and Republicans clash over Medicaid expansion at Pinellas political panel

05/14/13 Janelle Irwin
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The Florida Legislature is still taking heat from people who want to see the state’s Medicaid system expanded under the federal healthcare law. The House’s failure to approve a plan that would have covered 1.2 million Floridians using federal dollars was the center of debate during a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club luncheon today in Pinellas County. State Representative Larry Ahern, a Republican, defended the House’s proposal.

"Because the House proposed a plan. We had a solution. But to compare it to what Uncle Sugar Daddy offering and to use real money, real state dollars in a balanced budget to be able to cover the parents of children Medicaid and all disabled adults with private health insurance – it’d been 120-0 on that vote, but this year the plan failed in the Senate. So, we really had a golden opportunity."

Tiger Bay member Diedra Roberts asked the next question.

"Mr. Ahern, who is Uncle Sugar Daddy?

"That would be our 16+ billion dollar in debt partner …"

Ahern’s comments were in response to an audience question.

Republican Senator Jack Latvala rejected implications that that was an act of hypocrisy.

But Representative Darryl Rouson, a Democrat, blasted House Republicans for leaving Medicaid expansion on the table.

House Democrats including Rouson had used a parliamentary stall tactic for two of the final days of the legislative session to compel Republicans to discuss Medicaid expansion. It required bills to be read in their entirety. At hundreds of pages each, House Speaker Will Weatherford turned to an auto text reader to do the job. Republican Representative Ed Hooper criticized them for the move.

Another controversial issue this year in Tallahassee was the second effort in a row to pass the Parent Empowerment bill – parent trigger to its critics. Both last year and this, the measure failed after a tied vote in the Senate. Former Pinellas County School Board candidate Jim Jackson pressed members of the Florida delegation who supported the bill on whether they had any examples where failing schools have been turned around by parents under similar laws.

Even though a lot of Tiger Bay members were critical of this year’s legislative session, many of them also praised lawmakers for their work in passing an election reform bill and including funds in the budget for teacher raises. House Democrat Darryl Rouson, however, called the elections bill a reform of a deform, referring to previous legislation that shortened the number of early voting days in the state.

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