BRADENTON HERALD EDITORIAL | No reason to panic over state budget, raise shutdown talk

Some sanity ruled in Tallahassee last week. Not much, but some. Gov. Rick Scott signed some little bills into law, but the political situation could not be worse.

A special session of the Legislation is on the horizon over the failure to reach agreement on a budget, but lawmakers are optimistic. On the other hand, Gov. Rick Scott stands in full political meltdown mode with his unwarranted warning of a "government shutdown."

On Thursday, Scott ordered state agencies to write up lists of critical services that cannot be halted should the House and Senate fail to negotiate a budget by July 1. Those lists are due Monday by 5 p.m.

The governor hit the panic button.

This could simply be a political ploy to force the Senate to drop its reasonable and pragmatic modified Medicaid expansion plan that benefits hospitals and 840,000 poor Floridians lacking health insurance.

In announcing his precedent-setting call for contingency lists of "critical services needs" in the event of a government shutdown, Scott cited the Senate's strong support of the chamber's bill for a Florida-specific, market-driven, free-enterprise health care insurance plan.

This political desperation comes right on the heels of the governor filing a lawsuit against the federal government over health care money.

That suit claims the administration is coercing Florida into accepting Medicaid expansion dollars by refusing to extend a billion-dollar program that pays hospitals for indigent care.

Scott knew about the deadline, yet now claims otherwise and refuses to acknowledge a fundamental political mistake by not dealing with this earlier.

The governor doubled down on poor public policy by proposing hospitals pool profits to share in the costs of the loss of federal subsidies known as the Low Income Pool, an annual $1.3 billion contribution that will expire this summer and the subject of his lawsuit.

Those dollars only partially reimburse medical providers for taking care of the working poor who lack health insurance.

Scott's idea of hospital profit-sharing smacks of a redistribution of wealth, a socialist idea most unlikely to gain traction in this conservative state.

House and Senate leaders smartly shrugged off the governor's scare tactic of a "continuing budget" should an agreement on a state budget fail.

The very idea is not contained in the state constitution and one that baffles lawmakers. We do believe reasonable minds will prevail, and lawmakers will come to an agreement. The governor, on the other hand, continues to defy the idea of reasonableness.

New good laws

Meanwhile, the governor found the time to sign 27 bills into law over the past few days -- many good solutions to long-standing issues.

One of those new laws allows the sale of 64-ounce beer growlers. In ballyhooing this, the governor stated the measure eliminates "another burdensome regulation" and allows "more Florida businesses to succeed."

For years, those rationalizations for a sensible repeal of an unjust law have fallen on deaf ears in a Legislature, which has enjoyed big campaign contributions from powerful alcohol distributors.

Small craft brewers statewide -- including Motorworks and Darwin here in Bradenton -- will benefit from this new law. Those two young enterprises in the Village of the Arts are important to the growth of the neighborhood's reputation as an entertainment district as well as a cultural destination.

Those half-gallon growlers are a craft brewing industry standard and the consumer preference for taking these refillable jugs home. Now they can. The three-year battle over this old absurd law -- other jugs were permitted -- is now rightfully over.

Another new law bans cities from operating speed traps to ensnare motorists into funding police departments. The city of Waldo became infamous for this practice. Traffic ticket quotas on officers have been outlawed, and law enforcement agencies that fund more than a third of their budgets with traffic fines will be forced to report to the Legislature.

Unmanned drones cannot spy on Floridians where there is a "reasonable expectation of privacy." Like a back yard. Neighbors and others cannot legally monitor private activities.

The Legislature's special session, set for June 1-20, is focused on setting state spending. That should include a funding increase for public education as the top priority. A solution to health care for the working poor would be an unexpected but welcome miracle.