Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

House Stuck as Session End Nears; Democrats Move to Have All Bills Read in Full to Gain Health Care Edge

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

House Stuck as Session End Nears; Democrats Move to Have All Bills Read in Full to Gain Health Care Edge

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Dixon

TALLAHASSEE | After eight weeks of smooth sailing, the 2013 legislative session has run into a wall.

While a revamp of the state's pension system, a top priority for House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, was killed in the Senate, House Democrats put their heels in the ground to slow that chamber's business to a near halt.

They used a procedural move to force all House bills, which can be many pages in length, to be read in full. Generally only a bill's title is read on the floor to save time.

The move is being used to gain leverage for a Senate-authored health care expansion plan that uses $51 billion offered under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, to expand coverage to 1 million Florida residents. Democrats, the Senate, and Gov. Rick Scott support the plan, but House Republicans don't want to use the federal money.

"Once the Senate votes on the bill, we are looking for them [House leadership] to act in all due haste and bring the bill up," said Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville.

She is a top health care negotiator for House Democrats. Jones and Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, met Tuesday morning with Scott to urge him to veto the entire state budget if the Legislature does not pass the Senate's plan.

Jones said Scott "is keeping all options open." His office did not respond to requests seeking comment.

Weatherford said the procedural move was "unbecoming" of House Democrats and pointed to the fact that the Senate plan, in the form of an amendment, was heard in the House last week.

"We had that debate," Weatherford said. "It was a five-hour debate and it failed."

The House may now be less likely to accept the Senate's bill after that chamber killed legislation placing state workers on 401(k)-type retirement plans, one of Weatherford's top priorities. The Senate has a different pension bill that reformed the current system.

"They came up short, but I thought it was a great debate," Weatherford said. …

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