Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Signs of progress in Tallahassee on health care, campaign finance

Just a week after an election that checked the Republican dominance in a decidedly purple state, two Florida politicians have signaled change in Tallahassee. On both the Affordable Health Care Act and campaign finance reform, there's reason for optimism.

Health care

After playing a role for years as one of the staunchest critics of the health care reform, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday told the Associated Press that he is dropping his strident opposition to Obamacare and is willing to engage in a conversation with Washington to implement the plan's required health insurance exchanges in Florida. Finally.

Scott read the electoral tea leaves, as have incoming legislative leaders Rep. Will Weatherford and Sen. Don Gaetz. They have been signaling for months a willingness to consider implementing the law, given the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding most of it and President Barack Obama's possible re-election. Floridians will be best served if they can access a state-run exchange, versus a federally run one, to obtain the mandated insurance coverage.

Now Scott, Weatherford and Gaetz also need to agree to accept the Medicaid provisions under the plan that would open the door for up to 2 million more uninsured, low-income Floridians to get coverage. The federal government would pick up 100 percent of the costs for the first three years and 90 percent of the costs thereafter. That's a good deal for Florida and its families.

Campaign finance

It's been a long time since someone in Tallahassee talked about turning off campaign finance spigots instead of just opening new ones, but that's just what incoming House Speaker Weatherford suggested Tuesday.

Weatherford's particular targets were the so-called Committees of Continuous Existence, the dubious fundraising committees controlled by individual lawmakers that often are more slush fund than genuine campaign account. Special interests can pump unlimited funds into the committees, which then can transfer money to various other third-party accounts, making it all but impossible to discern how those special interest contributions are spent.

Weatherford was short on specific reforms, except to say he wants to rid the state of the committees and raise the state's $500 limit on individual contributions to candidates' campaign accounts. That's a good start to a long-overdue debate in Tallahassee.


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