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Politics / Issues

Pinellas Lawmakers Show "Fangs" at Suncoast Tiger Bay

latvala tiger bay.jpg
Bobbie O'Brien
WUSF Public Media

State lawmakers wrapped up the session less than two weeks ago and many have taken to the public circuit explaining their votes.

Eight members of the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation convened Tuesday to face questions from the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.

With a few exceptions, the state senators and representatives from both the Republican and Democrat sides of the aisle praised the bipartisanship mood of the 2013 session.

That noted, Rep. Ed Hooper, a Republican, said Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford didn’t deserve the Democrats move that forced every bill to be read in full.

“You guys disrespected Will with your trick on reading the bills in full,” Hooper said. “He (Weatherford) was hurt by that and I think he certainly had a right to be hurt.”

That brought a laugh and a sarcastic retort from Democrat Rep. Dwight Dudley.

“Will Weatherford is probably the nicest guy you never wanted to not shepherd your bills through committees,” Dudley said.

Dudley said Weatherford’s major failing of the 2013 session was Medicaid because it became a partisan and he believes a “preordained issue.” He took exception that Weatherford refused to hear from Medicaid experts suggested by the Democrats.

The state senate and governor backed expansion of Medicaid paid for by federal dollars.

But the Republican-led Florida House killed the bill saying taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize someone else’s health care.

But a report in the Tuesday Tampa Bay Times pointed out that taxpayers are subsidizing health insurance for many of those Republican House members who pay only $8 a month for their health insurance.

When that observation was posed to the Tiger Bay panel, Florida Sen. Jack Latvala defended his house colleagues.

“Eight dollars a month for insurance is - you know - it's an inflammatory thing. That's the reason it was on the front page of the paper to be inflammatory, to make people mad,” Latvala said. “But one thing I noticed about our budget this year is that every state employee, every elected official, every judge, got a raise except members of the Florida legislature.”

Florida senators, who make the same as House members, pay $50 a month for insurance individual insurance, the same as state employees.

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