TAMPA (WFLA) – Florida legislators voted this week against holding a special session to address issues with the state’s broken unemployment system.
All but one Democrat in the state legislature voted in favor of the session. Every Republican voted against. A yes vote by three-fifths of both houses is required to authorize the session.
Democrats had been pushing for a special session to address three issues: the unemployment system, expanding Medicaid, and addressing voting concerns ahead of upcoming elections in August and November.
“When I have constituents calling my office crying because they’re out of money or don’t know where to get food, it really impresses upon me why it is that we do what we do,” said Democratic State Rep. Fentrice Driskell, who represents part of Hillsborough County. “We have to serve the people first. It’s a time to put partisanship aside, and we need to get on this.”
Republican State Senator Ed Hooper, who represents parts of Pinellas and Pasco counties, voted against the session.
“So far, we’ve spent about $120 million trying to fix a $77 million [system],” said Hooper. “So no matter what we did if we met, I think they’re fixing it as fast as they can. If it’s fixable.”
Tony Montellanico had two part-time jobs before the pandemic shut down Florida’s economy. One of them was as a cast member at DisneyWorld.
He was frustrated with legislators after learning of the vote.
“Feels like they don’t think I exist,” Montellanico said. “They think I’m just sitting here, trying to get a check. I don’t want to be here. I’d rather be at Disney working.”
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