Governor Scott Meets With Black Caucus
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Members of the Florida Legislature's black caucus spent an hour Tuesday letting Republican Gov. Rick Scott know that they didn't think he was doing a good job, especially on the issues important to their constituencies.
Scott, however, didn't make any promises during the tense noon-hour session that was described afterward as a "loving confrontation," by Rep. Daryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.
"We believed at one point that he was certainly sensitive to us," Rouson said. "But we're not sure who he is answering to now."
Scott was blistered with criticism by many of the two dozen members of the caucus, all Democrats frustrated by what they see as a lack of interest in many issues such as the Affordable Care Act, judicial appointments and his role in changes in the state's elections' law that led to long lines at the polls in November and yet more unwanted publicity for the state's quadrennial problems on Election Day.
He was even chastised by the caucus chair, Sen. Arthenia Joyner, for not returning phone calls. But her admonishment was far more light-hearted than what followed.
While some members of the Democratic caucus demanded more minorities be considered for judicial appointments and others wanted Scott to revisit his attitude about restoring felons' rights, the governor was scolded for failing to veto a 2011 elections bill that some believed was designed to make it even tougher for minorities and young voters to register to vote or cast ballots.
Scott sought to distance himself from the measure (HB 1355) that he signed into law on May 19, 2011, although his administration spent $500,000 in legal fees to defend it against challenges. He was further criticized for not granting an executive order to extend early voting in some parts of the state where long lines created delays of several hours at some polls. The governor did concede that changes are needed to improve the state's elections.
Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, didn't buy Scott's explanation about his deliberation over President Barack Obama's health care reform package, known as the Affordable Care Act.
"It sounds like more foot dragging," she said. "The citizens have been waiting for this to be implemented. Right now the law of the land is the Affordable Care Act and we expect that the state of Florida should be registered."
Scott, however, defended his and the state Republican Cabinet's strong opposition to the reform.
"I can't support a health care exchange until I know what it's going to cost," Scott said. "Every decision we make on health care ought to be how to we reduce the cost of health care."
Florida was among plaintiffs in an unsuccessful lawsuit that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to find the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.
The caucus wasn't swayed by Scott's reliance on numbers and measurements in determining policy.
"There are human factors to being governor and governing that are equally important when you're taking care of the vulnerable and the middle class," Rouson said. "And we'll still be searching for those answers."
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