Democrats say ‘class warfare’ is part of the Fla GOP agendaby John Kennedy | February 20th, 2014
House Democrats on Thursday said they plan to use the upcoming 60-day legislative session to show Floridians what they have not been getting under almost two decades of Republican leadership.
Long waiting lists for elder and children’s services, lagging per-pupil school funding, and the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act are all issues Democrats plan to highlight during the session. While Republicans may be hoping to give Gov. Rick Scott smooth sailing headed into his re-election campaign, Democrats say they are willing to make the waters rough.
“For Florida to realize its full potential, the Legislature must recognize the needs of all Floridians,” said House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale. “We must change the direction in which our state is operating on certain issues.”
Democrats are vastly outnumbered in the Legislature. While Democrats can squawk, Republican Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, are really setting the agenda for the session.
The Republican leaders have outlined election-year proposals that embrace Gov. Rick Scott’s call for more than $500 million in tax and fee cuts, another round of sales tax breaks, and an uptick in funding for schools, social programs and the environment, helped by a $1.2 billion budget surplus.
Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said that’s not enough. He said Republican policies have polarized the state, doing little for working-class and poor Floridians.
“This is class warfare,” Pafford said. “We have a commitment by leadership to walk on the backs of Floridians, average Floridians, to gain power….and to historically benefit corporations in this state.”
“The people of Florida are ready for that type of discussion,” Pafford said.
Democrats last year used a range of tactics to combat Republican policies, including parliamentarian. At one point, House Democrats forced all bills going before the chamber to be read in full — a demand that ground action to a virtual halt.
Last summer, a 31-day sit-in at the Capitol by opponents of the state’s Republican-backed stand your ground self-defense law also earned the backing of many Democrats. A repeat of such actions is possible, Democrats acknowledged, if it helps make the case of the Legislature’s minority party and its voters.
“We’re here to make sure that when we leave…Floridians know that we were here,” said Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville. “That we made sure that their needs were met, and we were there for them.
“If that means we will use whatever we have in our arsenal to use, we will use that in order to make sure we do what is necessary,” she added.