It's no longer a debatable claim to say that the 2015 legislative session has ventured into uncharted territory.
The session jumped off the rails at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday when Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, told his 119 colleagues in the lower chamber that they were done and could go back home three days before Friday's scheduled end date. The Senate, caught off guard, now plans to finish up Wednesday.
It's the first time since the Legislature started keeping records that the chambers will end regular session on different days.
So how did we get here? Where are we going? We may not know for some time, but here is a guide.
The Florida House and Senate couldn't negotiate the one piece of legislation they are required to pass: a state budget. The House passed its $76.2 billion budget plan April 2, but it didn't include $4 billion that was included in the Senate's budget, which had passed hours earlier. For a month, the two chambers have not been able to agree on how to bridge that $4 billion gap.
There are two main reasons the House and Senate budget proposals were so different: a $2.2 billion federal-state hospital funding program known as the Low Income Pool, and Medicaid expansion. The LIP program provides funding to hospitals that treat large numbers of uninsured and Medicaid patients. It is scheduled to end June 30 under an existing agreement with the federal government. The Senate proposed a successor program and assumed the money would come through. The House did not include any LIP money in its budget. What's more, the Senate's proposed budget included $2.8 billion in federal Medicaid expansion money to provide health care coverage to more than 800,000 low-income Floridians. The House has long opposed that idea, likening it to an endorsement of Obamacare. Over the course of the session, the two sides refused to back off of their positions. They dug in even deeper this month when the federal government said it was more likely to approve a LIP successor if Florida expanded Medicaid.
This is all about Obamacare, isn't it?
Yes. For the past three years, Florida has refused $51 billion in federal money earmarked for expanding subsidized health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, making it one of 22 states to do so.