The 2014 Florida legislative session is nearly over and Florida House Democrats say the Republican-controlled Legislature is leaving too much business unfinished for Florida’s families. At a press conference earlier this week, several House Democrats raised concerns about education funding, college affordability, and the Legislature’s failure to expand health care and its refusal to provide a living wage to hard-working Floridians.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, the following are some of the House Democratic Caucus Member remarks:
Democrats decry “unfinished business” for middle class
House Democratic Leader Rep. Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale): “We’re spending the time squabbling back and forth and wasting time that we could be helping Florida families,” Thurston said the top neglected item has been expansion of the Medicaid program, for the second straight year. Gov. Rick Scott last year reversed his previous opposition and said the state should accept $51 billion in federal funding for expanding the health care program for the working poor, under the federal Affordable Care Act, but the GOP-run Legislature has adamantly rejected the idea.
Rep. Karen Castor Dentel (D-Maitland): “The Republican Legislature has the wrong priorities when it comes to both the budget and policies for our state… It’s a Republican priority to usher even more tax money, in the form of vouchers, to unaccountable private and religious schools instead of investing those dollars into making our public schools stronger.”
Rep. Cynthia Stafford (D-Miami) said neither chamber has even held committee hearings on a bill to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. “It’s not fair for someone to work full-time and still have to struggle to meet their needs and rely on government assistance for food,” she said. “We have a way, but we just don’t have the will.” Stafford said that if poor people earn more, “families win, businesses win, the economy wins.”
Rep. Mark Pafford, the House Democratic Leader-designate (D-West Palm Beach) said the legislative leadership has devoted extensive hearings to overhauling the Florida Retirement System. Conflicting bills in the House and Senate are likely to be compromised in the closing days of the session, but Democrats have insisted that the FRS is in no trouble and that GOP leaders are just trying to get the state out of the pension business by moving new employees into a market-based investment plan. “There is no issue,” said Pafford. “this is another example of something the Republican leadership has offered as a major issue. It’s pretty sad when politics is put over good policy.”
Rep. Joe Saunders (D-Orlando) said lawmakers have ignored discrimination against gay people in employment and public accommodations. There is still time to take up such legislation, he said, but there is no political motivation to do so. “You can be fired from your job, you can walk into a hotel holding your partner’s hand, and be asked to leave — and it’s legal,” said Saunders. He said major employers like Disney, Darden and Florida Blue have non-discrimination policies for gay employees and customers and “it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business.”