Reporting David Sutta
Legislative Session Coverage
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Florida House of Representatives started work Wednesday the exact same way they ended work on Tuesday, with a robotic computer program reading every word of every bill at the request of House Democrats.
Democrats are protesting what they believe is the legislature’s inaction on implementing Medicaid expansion and other federal healthcare requirements.
“We want to make sure that all of our people have adequate medical coverage,” House Minority Leader Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale said.
So, Democrats invoked a procedural move that forces all bills to be read in their entirety before they can be passed. Bills are passing, but the overall process is moving at a snail’s pace. All the while, multiple bills including the Miami Dolphins plan to renovate Sun Life Stadium hang in the balance.
And, Democrats and Republicans in the House seem unwilling to resolve their healthcare differences.
“We’re fighting for it,” Thurston said. When asked by CBS4’s David Sutta how long they planned to fight, Thurston answered, “To the end of session and through the special session if we have too.”
“Our thought is we spent five hours on it. I’m not sure we need to do it again,” said Speaker of the House Will Weatherford. “We understand the job of the minority is to hold us accountable. The job of the minority is to ask questions. We know that is important to them. We have a difference of opinion on it and it looks like the debate will go on longer than anticipated.
The legislators have not been easy on the Dolphins bill. From the initial 26 amendments proposed, about one-third have stuck.
As of now, the $3 million sales tax rebate the Dolphins wanted is out. The bill no longer has funding from the state. Instead the Dolphins will have to compete with other Florida stadiums and teams and to receive money, the legislators would have to approve next year.
Still on the table is the bill that would allow Miami-Dade to increase tourist taxes in an effort to raise some of the $289 million needed for renovations.
“We believe we have the votes on the House floor to pass this bill. The bill is a different bill. We are spending our time today educating all 120 members as to what the bill looks like today,” said veteran lobbyist Ron Book on Tuesday. “We are not in the two minute drill, or anywhere near the two minute drill. Ask me that question at noon on Friday.”
The Dolphins and the NFL have brought out the big guns to the Legislature. In recent days, both Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have been in attendance during the Senate’s final vote on Monday and during House proceedings.
The Fins hope the Sun Life bill can make it to a vote on the house floor by Thursday, if the House speaker can move enough business to get the bill to the floor.
“I’m not frustrated at all; in fact, I’m really happy with where we are,” said Speaker Weatherford. “We’ve passed a lot of bills. Senate president and I have passed three of our four top priorities thus far. We’ve got another one that’s on the way. I don’t think we could be in a better spot.”
Under the terms of a deal struck between the Dolphins and Miami-Dade county, for the Sun Life renovation plan to be completed, it must pass through the Florida legislature and the tourist tax increase must be approved by voters in Miami-Dade County. If any of those steps aren’t completed, the deal with the County will be canceled.