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House's Game Of Legislative Chicken Slows Pace Of Bills Passing

The slow pace of the Florida House continued on Wednesday. And that’s because House Democrats and Republicans were locked in a contest of legislative chicken to see who would blink first and call for a return to normal lawmaking procedures.

On Tuesday Democrats pulled a power play on House Republicans, citing a Constitutional rule that requires all bills to be read in their entirety.  Minority party members said they wanted to slow down the process in protest to Republicans not taking note of healthcare expansion.  That brought in a character known as Mary Reader, an automated speaking voice that read every bill, no matter no long it was. In response, House Republicans used the same tactic on Wednesday.  Political Scientist Susan MacManus, from the University of South Florida, said the retaliation was a taste of their own medicine.

“It’s tit-for-tat, it’s not wanting the accusations or tactics of the other party go unanswered,” MacManus said.

The expansion of healthcare has been one of the top priorities for Democratic legislators this session. And when Governor Rick Scott made his push for the expansion a few months ago, they were excited. But then the House voted down the expansion outright, and the Senate went with an alternative plan.  Democrats weren’t too pleased with that, so with only a few days left they brought in heavy hitter, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, to do some heavy lifting.

“If the end of this week comes and goes and the Republicans in Tallahassee refuse to insure a million more Floridians then they will have sickness, illness, and death that will be their responsibility and their legacy,” Schultz said to a group of Democratic Senators, Wednesday morning.

But Shultz wasn’t the only one to talk about healthcare expansion Wednesday.  House Democrats were determined to steer just about every floor debate towards the topic.  A debate about the Technological Research and Development Authority, drew debate from Democratic Representative Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach who said “Let’s have a late filed amendment, and I would like him to consider a license plate that says ‘expand healthcare today’ that’s what I’d like the plate to say,”.

Debate about a bill banning house parties where a minor is in possession of alcohol was slightly derailed by Democratic Representative Jose Rodriguez from Miami, who added “This is a bill relating to open house parties, so you might think that I’d use the occasion to discuss how the parties in this house are in open disagreement about the extension of healthcare coverage to a million Floridians; however I will debate the merits of the bill,”.

And Representative Kevin Rader said “Members, we don’t need segregating in our schools and we don’t need segregating when it comes to our healthcare, it’s for all Floridians. Thank you,” during debate over a bill giving parents a greater say in the learning plans for students with disabilities.

House Democrats are outnumbered by about 30 Republican seats, so why are they bringing up healthcare expansion again and again?  Political Scientist, Susan MacManus, said many of the Democrats are running for re-election or another office next year. According to MacManus, Florida Democrats are realistic.

“It’s about them showing their constituents back home that they’re not going to give up the fight, ever, for views that they believe need to be put into Florida laws,” MacManus said.

MacManus added that neither Republican or Democratic power plays go over well with Floridians, who already see the inability of parties to work together as a blemish on their public image.