Florida House Abruptly Adjourned, Goes Home 3 Days Early

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will have to return for a special session

In a surprising twist in the Legislature's budget impasse, the House abruptly adjourned and went home Tuesday, killing scores of bills and deepening a crisis surrounding the spending plan for the year that begins July 1.

In a surprising twist in the Legislature’s budget impasse, the House abruptly adjourned and went home Tuesday, killing scores of bills and deepening a crisis surrounding the spending plan for the year that begins July 1.

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – In a surprising twist in the Legislature’s budget impasse, the House abruptly adjourned and went home Tuesday, killing scores of bills and deepening a crisis surrounding the spending plan for the year that begins July 1.

While the Capitol had buzzed with rumors that the House might adjourn “sine die” — from the Latin phrase for “without day” — before Friday’s scheduled end of the annual session, the chamber’s leadership had shown few signs of the impending move.

House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said he only knew what was happening moments before House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, began addressing the chamber.

In his remarks to the House, Crisafulli blamed the shutdown on the Senate’s unwillingness to drop its insistence on discussing a Medicaid expansion alternative before agreeing to a budget. (See Crisafulli’s column below thet was published in the Tampa Bay Times)

The House has repeatedly refused to consider any plan that would use Medicaid expansion dollars, including a Senate proposal to tap those funds to help lower-income Floridians purchase private health insurance.

Steve Crisafulli

Steve Crisafulli

“I made a promise to you when you elected me to be your speaker that I’d never ask you to vote for something that I wouldn’t vote for myself,” Crisafulli said.

“Accordingly, I will not force anyone to expand Medicaid. And so for now, we stand at an impasse with the Senate. … I do not see a need to keep you here waiting around, away from your families, away from your businesses, until the Senate decides they are ready to negotiate with us.”

It was not immediately clear if the Senate would follow suit and end its session Tuesday, or if it would continue to meet through the week. It continued hearing bills Tuesday afternoon.

Either way, the Legislature will have to return for a special session before June 30 to approve a budget.

After a brief flurry of offers late last week, budget negotiations again ground to a halt over the weekend.

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The state is still waiting to hear back from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on whether the agency will approve a plan to extend the $2.2 billion Low Income Pool, or LIP, program pastJune 30.

LIP is largely used to cover the expenses of uninsured, low-income Floridians who show up at hospitals needing treatment.

The Senate and the federal government have said the fate of LIP is tied to whether the Legislature approves the Senate expansion plan. The House and Gov. Rick Scott reject that idea, and Scott has threatened to sue the Obama administration over attempts to connect the two issues.

Mark Pafford

Mark Pafford

Pafford said after the session that the House should have continued its work through Friday. But he said he did support the House closing out the regular session instead of extending it into the coming week s — and said the adjournment could help the Senate Medicaid proposal, which House Democrats support.

“Now, we can clearly come back and talk about the only item that apparently was so massive enough that it’s brought down business in the Florida House, which is health-care expansion,” Pafford said. “In a way, it might be the best thing, largely because now we’re going to talk about health-care expansion.”

Crisafulli: Why the Florida House Opposes Medicaid Expansion

By Rep. Steve Crisafulli, Special to the Tampa Bay Times

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the option to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and Florida has chosen not to expand.

There are principled reasons for declining to grow a program that currently covers 3.7 million Floridians at a cost of $23.5 billion per year, or about one-third of Florida’s budget.

We oppose expanding Medicaid because it is a broken system with poor health outcomes, high inflation, unseverable federal strings, and no incentive for personal responsibility for those who are able to provide for themselves.

Under current law, Florida provides for our most vulnerable: low-income children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled people.

Under federal law, other low-income Floridians have access to health care subsidies to buy private insurance for less than the average cost of a wireless phone bill.

In fact, if we choose Obamacare expansion, 600,000 will lose eligibility for their subsidies, of which 257,000 would be forced into Medicaid.

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