June 10, 2015

Dockery Hits a Home Run With Her Latest Columns - Gov. Scott, Senate vs. House - A Must Read!

George's Note: Paula's two latest columns point to an almost comical political drama were it not for the many who continue to suffer through this latest legislative debacle. I wonder how many of the 840,000 voted Republican?

The Florida House Is Proud to Deny Healthcare Coverage
It’s official. The Florida House followed through on its promise to deny up to 840,000 Floridians healthcare coverage. And House members are not apologizing for it.
Nope. They’re proud of their actions. They think they are principled. They think they are right. They think they are winning the political argument.
Despite the fact that the constituents they were elected to represent would benefit, they said no. It didn’t much matter that no state tax dollars would be needed until 2017, when states pick up a mere 5 percent of the cost. They said no. When the Florida Senate amended its legislation to address some of the House’s concerns, it didn’t make a difference. They still said no.
When polls showed that the majority of Floridians support expanded healthcare coverage for the working poor, they ignored it. When hospitals and business groups supported the Senate’s FHIX plan, they dug in deeper. When the Feds warned two years ago that the LIP funding was phasing out, the House stood idly by.
Florida has one of the highest, if not the highest, number of uninsured. It also has the largest enrollment in subsidized health insurance despite efforts by Florida’s elected officials to weaken the Affordable Care Act’s chance of success.
The state refused to create its own marketplace, forcing its citizens to rely on the federal exchange. It challenged the ACA all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
The Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate, but allowed the states to opt out of taking federal funds to expand their Medicaid coverage. The ruling created the potential for a coverage gap.
States with Republican governors initially refused the expansion funds but some came to realize that their refusal only hurt the working poor, the small businesses and the hospitals in their states.  Twenty-nine states have now taken the federal funds, including 10 states with Republican leaders.
The Republican-led Florida Senate wanted to do the same and responsibly crafted a plan that was distinctly different from traditional Medicaid. The Senate FHIX plan included a work requirement and was structured to allow individuals to purchase private insurance.
The House leaders adamantly refused to consider it and quit the regular session three days early -- without a budget and without making coverage available for up to 840,000 Floridians.
The House and Senate leaders agreed to meet for a 20-day special session to finish the annual budget. The House was expected to take up the Senate plan, amend it and vote on it.  To House leaders’ credit, they did give it a floor vote.
But, in what can only be described as a carefully scripted and orchestrated piece of political theater, one by one, nearly every Republican attacked the bill using the focus group-tested buzzwords that incite their political base -- “Obama,” “Medicaid,” “entitlement” and “able-bodied adult.”
In an ominous sign, no Republican representative agreed to carry the Senate bill.  It fell to state Rep. Mia Jones, a Democrat from Jacksonville, to present the bill, answer hostile questions and manage the debate for it. Perhaps no one in leadership specifically told them not to sponsor or support the bill, but the message was clear. Republicans did not feel free to support the bill.  In the end, only four did.
Such is the nature of the clubby atmosphere. No one wants to be on the outside of the leadership circle. It’s better for political aspirations to go along to get along.
House leaders were most grateful after the bill’s defeat, tweeting that there was no political pressure -- and they rewarded their members’ loyalty by praising them for their “principled stance”.
To House members, mission accomplished. You were loyal to your leadership. You followed the script. You participated in seven hours of political theater. You kept up the frat-boy mutual back-slapping. You impressed each other with your snarky tweets.
And as a result, there will be no $50 billion in federal funds for Florida. There will be no healthcare expansion for the working poor this year. Hundreds of millions of state tax dollars that could have gone to other purposes, including tax cuts, education, Amendment 1, and prisons will be needed to fill the hole in LIP funding to reimburse hospitals for charity care.
Apparently the House members think the majority of voters aren’t paying attention. They are probably right. They must also believe that doing nothing to help the uninsured won’t hurt their re-election. Again -- probably right.
They know House leaders will have their backs. Heck, Speaker Steve Crisafulli explained it in an op-ed appearing in Florida newspapers: We don’t need to insure more people; we need to eliminate unnecessary regulations.
Their calculus on the lack of political fallout is probably correct but their callousness about the human toll is shamefully wrong.
Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. She can be reached at PBDockery@gmail.com.   

Scott Holds Court in Orlando While Tallahassee Does a Slow Burn
While the Florida Legislature was meeting in special session to work out a budget plan, Gov. Rick Scott was 263 miles south at Disney World.
While some question why he wasn’t playing an active role in the negotiations between the House and Senate, I give him a pass for several reasons.
First of all, he has not only shown a lack of leadership, he’s actually been an impediment to progress by fanning the flames of dissent between the two republican-controlled chambers.  Perhaps it’s better for him to occupy himself with something else.
Second, he wasn’t there to visit Mickey; he was there to host an “Economic Growth Summit” -- one that had been planned for months. In fact, while planning the summit, he didn’t know for sure that the Legislature would be back in special session at the same time. So let’s cut him a little slack.
An economic summit sounds pretty good. Having some of the greatest economic minds gather to discuss what is best for the future economic prosperity of Florida and the United States could prove very beneficial.
I picture well-known and respected economic scholars and practitioners reviewing trends, showing charts and providing economic forecasts while financial experts and policy researchers discussed shared prosperity, sustainable growth and the global economy.
But that’s not what Gov. Scott had in mind.
His “Economic Growth Summit” was actually a political event. The speakers were neither academicians nor economists -- they were seven of the top-tier contenders seeking to win the Republican presidential primaries.
That’s right, the summit was actually a cattle call for the Republican presidential hopefuls.
With national and state media showing up in droves, 29 electoral votes to be won and a veritable who’s who of Florida’s fundraisers in the audience -- few candidates would turn down the governor’s invitation to attend such an event.
Surprisingly, the event was hosted not by the Republican Party of Florida but rather by Scott’s political committee -- Let’s Get to Work.
Ostensibly, the summit was to focus on jobs. Scott would be able to brag about the positive economic growth in Florida, the jobs created and the decline in unemployment. He would then offer a stage for seven of the leading contenders to talk about their economic platforms.
That stage included a banner, an incredibly large banner. Rick Scott’s name appeared across the top of the banner in gigantic letters -- so large that numerous media outlets felt the need to point out the enormous size. Underneath in much smaller type you could make out the words “Economic Growth Summit” and below that in even smaller letters was “Brought to you by Let’s Get to Work Committee.”
The event seemed to be more about Scott’s ambition, self-promotion, political posturing and interjection onto the national stage.
For their part, the candidates or soon-to-be candidates -- Marco Rubio (via video), Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush  -- sang Scott’s praises, kissed the ring, and launched into their campaign speeches.
Mike Huckabee -- in a statement of complete candor -- gave his rationale for attending Rick Scott’s Economic Growth Summit: “Anything I can do to suck up to him and his donors, by God, I want to do.”
Candidates then proceeded to discuss a plethora of issues such as states’ rights, their opposition to Obamacare, immigration reform, entitlement reform and, if they cared to, jobs and the economy.
After speaking, the GOP presidential hopefuls had the opportunity to move to an area with another Rick Scott-dominated backdrop where they fielded questions from state and national news media.
So it wasn’t really an economic summit advancing state business and it really wasn’t a Republican Party event, as the Republican Party of Florida was basically snubbed -- neither involved nor invited.
Instead, it was an opportunistic move by Scott to use his position as governor of a critical electoral state to help boost his profile and advance his future political aspirations, stoking speculation about his desire to be considered for vice president or a run for U.S. Senate in 2018.
One reporter tweeted: Will the national media question Scott for holding a beauty pageant amid tumultuous times in his state?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch -- aka Tallahassee -- Scott’s leading Medicaid official, Justin Senior, was snubbing the Florida Senate.
Senior appeared at the House committee the prior day with a bill analysis criticizing the Senate healthcare expansion plan. He didn’t see fit to share it with the Senate nor did he think it necessary to show up at the Senate committee hearing.
Senators were livid. Senior eventually appeared. Chairman Tom Lee minced no words, calling his information disingenuous and rightfully pointing out that he was doing the House’s bidding.
On the House side, Scott's proposed tax cuts were cut in half.
Perhaps it wasn’t the best time for the governor to host a political cotillion.
Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. She can be reached at PBDockery@gmail.com.  

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George Mallinckrodt