In the coming months, the Florida legislature will decide whether to go forward with optional parts of the Federal Healthcare Law. The state’s Republican leaders have adamantly opposed implementing health insurance exchanges and expanding the Medicaid program for low income people. But after the re-election of President Barack Obama and a Supreme Court ruling, state lawmakers are now taking up the issues.
Still, continued opposition to the federal healthcare law was clear Monday in a packed legislative committee room that, any other year, would have been relatively empty this early in the lawmaking period. At the start of the meeting, newly-elected Senator Aaron Bean, a Jacksonville Republican told Committee Chairman Joe Negron he’d received emails suggesting the Committee would take a vote on the law immediately:
“And I just want to make sure that we’re going to have a meeting that reflects the choices given and the pluses and minuses in engaging in those choices. Is that your understanding Mr. Chairman?"
To which Negron replied, "I always think it’s good to have a trial before you have a verdict.”
Homemade protest signs lined the walls outside the committee room as the Senate Committee charged with taking up the healthcare law began weighing its options on whether to implement a health insurance exchange and expand Medicaid program. And from the start it was clear the healthcare law’s fate in Florida will be one of the most heated discussions during the Spring lawmaking session.
“The federal government has absolutely no power, no right, to create a healthcare act. And if you want to discuss healthcare, it must be done on the state level, not through an exchange," said Tea Party Activist and Attorney KrisAnne Hall during the public comment portion of the committee hearing.
Hall decried the law as unconstitutional and also said, "Some claim it must be submitted to as the “law of the land” since the Supreme Court made its declaration from on high. This submits that we are not a collection of states, but a monarchy.”
That opposition was repeated by more than 10 additional speakers and even more who stood up in agreement. No one from the public spoke in favor of the law, but after its opponents stopped talking, Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith had his say.
“The federal government had to step in when Mulberry, Madison and Hamilton wrote in that Constitution that I wasn’t a man. The federal government had to step in because our constitution is an imperfect document," Smith said, but was cut off by boos from the audience.
"If it was perfect, you wouldn’t have Amendments to it," he finished.
Afterward the Committee’s Chairman, Republican Senator Joe Negron said he believed the critical comments of law reflected feelings of quote, “passion”.
“I think it got out because citizens care deeply about their healthcare and about the future of their healthcare in Florida and their passionate about their points of view," he said. " We did hear predominantly from one side of the argument and I’m sure as we go forward we’ll hear from the other side as well and I believe that’s healthy and productive.”
Negron didn’t lay out a timeline for the Committee to release its decision on the healthcare law. A similar committee will also be convening in the House.
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