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My Turn
Other Views from Those in the Know
Allison Tant
Chair, Florida Democratic Party
Gov. Scott's Unwillingness to Stand for Legislative Priorities

Before the start of the 2013 legislative session Gov. Rick Scott was undergoing a dramatic shift away from everything he ran on in 2010. Suddenly he was for expanding Medicaid, for raising teachers’ pay, and possessed a newfound affinity for Floridians’ right to vote. Now, in the last week of the session, House and Senate Republicans have laid bare the governor’s inability to lead or even make an effort to defend his legislative goals.

Medicaid expansion? Rejected by the House. Undoing the damage wrought by the voter suppression act? Not even close. A $2,500 across- the-board raise for teachers? Nope. And the worst part is that Rick Scott has not even raised a finger to combat this erosion of his session agenda. That is what I call failed leadership.

So despite lofty rhetoric, Rick Scott has shown that he doesn’t possess the guts to even fight for his own electioneering gimmicks. House Speaker Will Weatherford, while taking time out of the session to speak at the right-wing CPAC convention in Washington, D.C., has been free to wage his war against common sense, putting Floridians’ lives and $51 billion in federal funding at stake, in his blatantly political rejection of Medicaid expansion.

Just over two months ago Rick Scott stated, “I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care.” Apparently the governor’s moral commitment to right this injustice ends as soon as the words leave his mouth. Why has he passively watched the House derail the possibility of nearly one million Floridians achieving that goal? How does that put Florida’s families first?

But maybe I expect too much from a governor who saw six-hour-long voting lines and 200,000 people walking away from their polling station and summarized the debacle by saying, “We did the right thing.” Now in 2013, with re-election on his mind, he joined House and Senate Republicans in condemning the voter suppression act they rammed through in 2011 over the objections of Democrats and voting rights groups.

So how did Republicans rectify this self-inflicted fiasco? A half measure that fails to mandate 14 days of early voting, shorter ballot initiatives, and early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. Rick Scott and the GOP have made it perfectly clear that party and ideology come before the most sacred right charged to citizens of a democracy, and it is beyond shameful.

And now, after three years of failed education policies, including slashing $1.3 billion from education, raising tuition, and creating an unaccredited, unfunded, and unneeded 13th university, Rick Scott is now trying to portray himself as a friend and ally of students and teachers. He boasted that his No. 1 priority for the 2013 session was a$2,500 across-the-board raise for classroom teachers.

Seven weeks later his abject failure to defend his top issue has allowed Republican legislators to cut that raise by 60 percent with a multitude of strings attached. So if there were any doubts left in the minds of teachers where Rick Scott really stands on education, his failure to fight for his own agenda betrays his true convictions.

This session Rick Scott has shown his inability to lead and unwillingness to stand for his legislative priorities. His repeated failures come at the expense of Florida’s families seeking health care, our teachers who have gone years without a raise and are forced to buy classroom supplies out of pocket, and to voters across the state who want nothing more than to show up and cast their ballot without having to wait hours in the sun. If these issues aren’t worth fighting for, what is?

Floridians know Rick Scott’s record and see through his sudden change of heart on issue after issue now that he’s running for re-election. Rick Scott is in trouble, and he knows it. His failed leadership this session only further solidifies this fact in the minds of Florida’s voters.

Allison Tant is chair of the Florida Democratic Party. She can be reached at [email protected].

© Florida Voices

Published Tuesday, April 30, 2013