The annual session of the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature crashed to a halt Tuesday as the House adjourned three days early because of a budget impasse with the Senate over Medicaid expansion.
Bills covering everything from tax cuts to gambling and medical marijuana died as a result. The abrupt showdown also raises the possibility of a government shutdown if the House and Senate cannot agree to a new state budget by June 30.
Since the GOP won control of the Legislature two decades ago, the chambers have let their disputes derail the session only a handful of times.
On Tuesday, as House Speaker Steve Crisafulli banged his gavel to end the session, Republican House members cheered, some raising both thumbs in the air.
“He dropped the mic!” Miami Rep. Frank Artiles said.
House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford said that his party was warned that the House would adjourn early about “10 seconds” before it happened.
“Walking away from your responsibilities is questionable,” Pafford said. “This is a blemish on the Legislature.”
Crisafulli blamed the Senate for the awkward session end. The House has been adamantly opposed to expanding Medicaid to more than 800,000 Floridians, even though the Senate has proposed a plan that would allow the state to eventually require recipients to work or attend school.
Crisafulli said the House had made “genuine and legitimate offers” to end the budget stalemate only to have them rebuffed by the Senate.
“It was the right thing for us to do,” Crisafulli said. “We’ve made every effort we can to negotiate with the Senate on the budget. … I don’t think it’s healthy for the process to stay here and continue to talk about something that neither side is changing their view on.”
The fight over Medicaid expansion is linked to a $1 billion pot of federal money that helps hospitals that treat Medicaid and uninsured patients. The Obama administration has signaled they are unlikely to extend the hospitals funds if the state doesn’t expand Medicaid.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott says he will sue the federal government over the issue.
The Senate continued its session even after the House left, discussing a bill on hydraulic fracturing as House members filed out of their chamber.
The move means that the Senate must take any bills the House passed as they are or they will die. Any bills the Senate passes at this point also will die.
Republican House members took to Twitter to boast about the move.
“Maybe the Senate will get off obamacare expansion and get down to balancing a budget during special session,” Republican Rep. Rich Workman tweeted.
“The Florida House just sent a strong message about wasting your tax dollars. Adjourned #SineDie on Day 57. Headed home!” Republican Rep. Dane Eagle tweeted.
Lawmakers will now have to hold a special session to approve the state’s budget before July 1.