Gov. Vetoes Alimony Reform Bill As Lawsuit Looms Over Manufacturing Tax Cut Vote

May 1, 2013

Credit Chris O'Meara / The Associated Press

The Florida House ended a second day of political wrangling between Democrats and Republicans with neither side smiling at the end.

Democrats continued their protest of the House Majority’s refusal to take up a bill accepting $51 billion in federal Medicaid money to expand insurance coverage to an additional one million low-income Floridians.

The chamber continued reading bills aloud word-for-word with the computer software “Mary” the House’s Auto Reader who, in two days, has become a breakout star with more than 614 followers on twitter since arriving to the site…Tuesday.

At the end of Wednesday’s floor session Governor Rick Scott’s number one priority—a tax break for manufacturers came before the full chamber. It passed 68-48, with four Republicans joining with House Democrats in opposition to the bill.

But that doesn’t mean that tax break will stick around.

Immediately after the vote, House Democrats contested it, saying the tax break needed a 2/3rds vote to pass, and not a simple majority. The reason: it would have a financial impact on local governments.

House Speaker Will Weatherford seemed confident that the vote was Constitutional, but Democrats say a challenge is coming.

"Today, with blatant disregard for the Florida Constitution, Governor Rick Scott and House Speaker Will Weatherford plotted to put the special interests ahead of the rules governing the Florida Legislature," said Scott Arceneaux, Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party in a statement.

"This attempt to circumvent House procedure is a flagrant violation of their constitutional duty as law makers and elected officials. It's outrageous that Weatherford stands by his attempt to thwart the Florida Constitution while continuing to deny an up or down vote on a measure to provide health care to one million Floridians."

Shortly after the manufacturing tax break cleared the House, Governor Rick Scott went ahead a signed the ethics and campaign finance bills—eliminating fundraising slush-funds called “committees of continuing existences” and raising campaign contribution limits.

Weatherford said “it’s not coincidental” Scott signed the bills after getting his tax breaks. But the victory wasn’t enough to save another bill on the Governor’s desk: Alimony reform.

The proposal would have put an end to permanent alimony judgments in divorce cases and also placed caps on the length of time alimony awards could be paid out. The bill would have also revised the process for awarding custody.

Bill supporters said the state’s alimony laws were outdated and created a burden on the payee, but supporters said the bill would create a flood of new legal action and clog family courts.