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Lawmakers Looking For Progress In Between Border Battles

Committee meetings begin Wednesday.
Nick Evans

Lawmakers are converging on Tallahassee to begin debating next year’s legislation with little time to heal from a bruising series of policy fights.  Republicans are looking to turn the page on an ugly year.

For Florida’s part-time Legislature, the past year has been a tough slog.  House Majority Leader Dana Young (R-Tampa) lets out a long sigh as she explains, “This is always a week that we’re gearing up, and we’ve been in Tallahassee a lot lately with special sessions.”

She’s on her way back to Tallahassee for committee weeks.  After a regular session and two special sessions state lawmakers are understandably a little gassed.  It’s probably not just the long hours.  The year has been defined by a rancorous relationship between the chambers, and those differences haven’t been settled.  The primary dispute is healthcare.  But Senate Health Policy Chair Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) is pumping the brakes on another attempt to expand Medicaid.  He’s also making overtures toward House priorities built around reducing costs.  And that means Young is optimistic the chambers can bridge the divide.

“You know I believe that that is an area where we can work together, where both chambers can work together to create a better system,” Young says.  “So, yes, I think that that is a good opportunity.”

In addition to healthcare, Young says GOP lawmakers will be taking a look at water policy and how the state handles money from Amendment One.  House Minority Leader Mark Pafford (D-West Palm Beach) says Democrats are focused on the same issues—though they’re coming from different angles.

“Whether it be healthcare, an expansion of Medicaid and access and quality of care to Floridians who just don’t have healthcare right now,” Pafford says, “or how we’re going to react to lawsuits that have been filed, the one in particular when it comes to Amendment One and how we’re using those dollars to actually conserve land.”

Unlike Young, Pafford is hopeful the two chambers don’t patch things up.   He says it may be possible to gain traction if Republicans get back to fighting one another.  And he may be in luck.  Even if the House and Senate are beginning to come together on healthcare, an October special session to redraw Senate districts looms, and it could give the bitterness and distrust that has characterized this year another encore.