Six days and counting, and the Legislature continues to make its priorities clear. It’s too bad that Floridians’ well-being and desires don’t appear to be at the top of the list.
▪ While 850,000 residents throughout the state live with enduring pain, undiagnosed ailments and debilitating conditions, unable to afford medical care, the argument to expand Medicaid continues to be a non-starter in the House. While Senate President Andy Gardiner has said that it’s past time for the state to accept billions in federal funds to insure these almost 1 million Floridians — and got a standing O from the entire Senate! — in the House, Speaker Steve Crisafulli stubbornly stands firm in opposition.
Gov. Rick Scott and the House have been deaf and blind to the unrelieved suffering of their constituents, offering lame excuses about not trusting the federal government instead of working to reach a deal that’s in the best interest of the state.
▪ And while they ignore the misery of 850,000 Florida residents, House lawmakers spread the pain to women who have made the heart-rending decision to have an abortion. On Wednesday, they approved a bill that requires women to wait at least 24 hours — and make two trips to the doctor. Their one exemption from this unseemly government intrusion? Women who can prove that they were victims of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking. Because a cowed and abused 15-year-old girl, raped and impregnated by her uncle, clearly is going to tell the police first thing, right?
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▪ Lawmakers have gotten stingy with funds raised through Amendment 1. These monies were approved by 75 percent of Florida voters last November, voters who had the audacity to think that protecting the state’s environmentally fragile land and waterways was of vital importance. Land that provides wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities; water in which we fish and boat. Water that we drink.
Pshaw! Florida leaders have said. The Medicaid impasse has dimmed the chance that legislators will increase the money used to buy land for conservation. According to reporter Michael Van Sickler, writing on the Herald’s Naked Politics blog, advocates say that the amendment, which helps fund Florida Forever, a state program created in 1999 for land acquisition, should have its authority to spend $300 million restored. But the House budget provides about $10 million for land purchases through the program. The Senate came up with about $17 million. Given that voters spoke with resounding resolve, why are lawmakers saying, basically, “So what?”
▪ Lawmakers did manage to confront increasing complaints about high-stakes testing in public schools — too many, too often, too traumatizing — and sent Gov. Scott a sweeping bill to reduce testing requirements. It gets rid of an 11th-grade English exam; caps the amount of time students can spend taking state-mandated tests; and delays the release of school grades and teacher evaluations until the new Florida Standards Assessments are deemed valid. Mr. Scott signed the bill last week, following through on his commitment to provide relief. But other “reforms” are lurking, ripped from the for-profit education industry’s instruction booklet. The most onerous forces public school districts to share voter-approved millage increases with charter chains so they can pay for and improve buildings the public doesn’t own.
And we can’t wait to see the damage done during a likely special session.