Healthcare Fight Derails Session, Leaving 'Bad Blood'

May 1, 2015

In happier times: House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (l) speaks to Senate President Andy Gardiner prior to the 2015 legislative session.
Credit D.A. Robin / WFSU-FM

The calamitous ending of the 2015 legislative session is making state history books. The 60-day lawmaking period didn’t start off well—and ended in disaster, lawsuits and charges of backstabbing. Lynn Hatter puts it to music.

It’s no secret the Florida House of Representatives likes its songs. Three years ago former House Speaker Dean Cannon, and Tallahassee Democratic Representative Alan Williams debated the Lyrics of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems ” on the chamber floor.

“I think Jay-Z said it best, ‘I know my rights, your gonna need a warrant for that,’ He even went further to say, ‘aren’t you sharp as a tack, you a lawyer or somethin’? If you support Jay Z support this amendment.”

But that's not technically what Jay-Z said. And Cannon was quick with the comeback:

“I must respectfully disagree with a correction Representative Williams. It was the officer who said, ‘aren’t you sharp as a tack are you a lawyer or somethin’? You should try for a lawyer or somethin’. So I got you on that.” 

The legislature has dozens of problems this year—but it’s major one is the “frozen” relationship between the House and Senate over Medicaid expansion.  Frozen’s “Let It Go”  just happens to be the song most frequently heard playing in the House chambers.

There’s no sign of thawing between the House and Senate. The ice between the chambers is thickening  --driven by the Senate’s desire to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The House, and it’s Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran—say no:

“Here’s my message to the Senate. They want us to come dance? We’re not dancing. We’re not dancing this session, we’re not dancing next session, we’re not dancing next summer, we’re not dancing. And if you want to blow up the process because you think you have some right that doesn’t exist? Have at it.” 

But well before the legislature imploded over healthcare, tempers were already running short.  Senator Nancy Detert fired off at Americans For Prosperity. “You people serve absolutely no purpose. Keep sending out those mailers, my fans appreciate it," she said in response to mailers from the group opposing her. 

Senator Tom Lee railed against school testing and Jeb Bush’s education foundation during a fight over education policy: “Whoever those people are out there, whatever foundation you’re from, whatever testing groups they may be supporting, I’m over you.”

And Representative David Richardson tried to block amendments on bills: “This is on the venti cornucopia of colossal content," he said.

Meanwhile, Environmentalists channeled a voice of the 1960’s to rally support for getting lawmakers to purchase U.S. Sugar land South of Lake Okecheobee to help restore the Everglades.

“Governor, legislature do the right thing here. We want to buy some precious latitude south of the everglades," Buffet told a crowd gathered at the Capitol for an environmental rally.

Most of the state’s water and land conservation policy died with the epic session flame out, as did high-profile bills on prison reform, mental health, and disabilities.  House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardier each say the other is to blame for failing to compromise.

“I don’t see a need to keep you here waiting around, away from your families, away from your businesses, until the Senate decides to negotiate with us," Crisafulli said just prior to the House's early adjournment. The move left the Senate shocked.

“I’ve never been in a situation where you take your ball and go home. I think you stay here and you do your job, and that’s where we are," Gardiner said as he learned the House had left.