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Reps. Evan Jenne and Bobby DuBose led a Special Session call.

Coronavirus in Florida

House Democrats demand Special Session dealing with coronavirus

Democrats want to tackle unemployment, Medicaid expansion and elections.

House Democratic leaders are calling for a Special Session dealing with the novel coronavirus despite reluctance from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Reps. Evan Jenne and Bobby DuBose, the incoming leaders of the Democratic caucus, wrote the Governor Thursday asking for a Special Session to take up three issues: unemployment, Medicaid expansion, and elections.

The Session, Democrats note, would need to happen either virtually or after Centers for Disease Control guidelines allow for gatherings of 100 people.

Democrats have called for expansion of unemployment terms and payouts, increased access to Medicaid, and moves toward as much vote-by-mail as possible.

“It is our understanding that Section 11.011(2), Florida Statutes, direct that these certifications will prompt a full poll on the Legislature to determine if three-fifths of the House and Senate concur in calling a Special Session,” the letter notes.

Democrats have called for Special Sessions in response to various crises since becoming the minority party at the turn of the century, but typically those calls are rebuffed along party lines.

However, hope springs eternal.

“This crisis is unlike anything Florida has faced in the last century,” Jenne said Thursday.

“Unfortunately, government isn’t meeting the needs of the people right now. We need to address these major issues, and put Florida on a path to recovery. All three of the ideas we are proposing will provide real benefits and safety to Floridians in need.”

Added DuBose, a Hollywood Democrat, “Floridians need to see their government working for them. They need to know that the fundamental bedrock of our nation, our elections, will be safe and secure. People shouldn’t need to weigh participating in our democracy versus the risk of a deadly infection. There are answers available, and time to implement them, but we must act soon.”

Those calls were joined by Democratic Reps. Shevrin Jones and Emily Slosberg, who added their own comments asking for a Special Session.

“The coronavirus pandemic has shined a light on healthcare access disparities experienced by communities of color in Florida,” Jones said.

“Expanding Medicaid is a commonsense way to provide relief, save lives, and save the state money. This idea deserves not only an honest conversation but it deserves our immediate attention.”

Slosberg’s request focused on Florida’s dysfunctional unemployment application system.

“The surge in unemployment has exposed deep, systematic flaws in the Reemployment Assistance Program,” Slosberg said. “Given the urgency and the unprecedented nature of the emergency we presently face, I believe it is incumbent upon the Florida Legislature to address the immediate needs of our state.”

Last week, the Governor said similar calls for a Special Session to balance the budget were premature.

“I think it’s more prudent to wait and see how things develop over the next several weeks,” DeSantis added. “I’m hoping we would not need to come back to do a Special Session.”

DeSantis said it “may require me to exercise a lot of vetoes, and there may be vetoes on things I personally support, but in this situation we’re dealing with something that’s unprecedented, and we just need to be responsible.”

Senate President Bill Galvano, likewise, has resisted requests for a Special Session.

Earlier this month, Galvano said he and state economists think the state’s $2 billion cash reserve should help weather the additional costs and lost revenue expected from the economic collapse the crisis is bringing about.

“While we expect to see significant decreases in general revenue collections beginning with the April General Revenue Collection Report through the end of our fiscal year, our current general revenue reserve cash balance, combined with other available state reserves, should alleviate any concerns regarding the need to cut the current year budget,” he wrote in a “Fiscal Update” memorandum.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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