Impending doom: Florida's possible government shutdown and you

Ahead of the June special legislative session in which the state House and Senate plan to fulfill their constitutional duty of passing a budget by the end of the month — kind of important, guys — Governor Rick Scott asked heads of state agencies to prepare plans for how to function barebones in the event of a shutdown, something that’s very rare at the state level (the feds, eh, not so much).

That’s because the two chambers are at odds over whether to accept federal Medicaid money or not, given that the money is part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. It’s a decision that’s especially important this year, because federal money that reimburses some hospitals that treat the poor through the low income pool program is probably going away this summer.

The Senate is open to taking the Obamacare money and setting up A Healthy Florida Works, a program that would make insurance affordable for nearly a million people who are just above the poverty line but don’t qualify for subsidies under the ACA.

The House is not having it, and neither is Scott.

Cue the looming state government shutdown.

If this were to happen, the Tampa Bay Times reports, a number of things could happen — or not happen, as it were. The state could lag on upgrades to roads and other infrastructure. A pre-kindergarten program could go unfunded. State workers could get furloughed. Child abuse investigations could slow down or come to a halt. Some highways, illuminated at night with help from Florida Department of Transportation dollars, could go dark.

So it sounds like a potential mess for many Floridians, except Scott and his ilk, who love the idea of government so small it can’t begin to do things like regulate industries or help the poor meet their basic needs.

In light of what could be a very trying time starting July 1, here’s our not-so-serious look at what a government shutdown could mean for us.

• With a barebones budget and staff, Florida Fish and Wildlife will be unable to carry out its controversial bear hunts slated for October. The bears, emboldened by the state’s inability to cull their supposedly burgeoning numbers, start wandering toward the coast, where a large bear family sets up camp in a luxury hotel.

• The state Department of Environmental Protection won’t have the equipment or manpower to clean up the toxic river sludge left behind by corporate polluters, and said sludge seeps into the groundwater. Among the tens of thousands who lose their health coverage because the state will no longer be able to participate in Medicaid, one drinks the contaminated mystery-sludge water and becomes Patient Zero. Zombies ensue.

• Child support payments, which are processed through a state-run system, come to a grinding halt. Would-be deadbeat dads become actual deadbeat dads and head to the nearest convenience store for a 30-pack, a carton of smokes and some lotto tickets. However, because the state-run Florida Lottery program has also come to a halt, the deadbeat dads can’t buy their lotto tickets and riot out of frustration.

• Since the state is no longer able to respond to emergencies, Tampa Bay is overrun with zombies and rioting deadbeat dads. Our only hope is the bears.
And the most unlikely scenario of all...

• Within a few weeks, the general public starts to notice something is amiss. Teachers have stopped showing up to work because they’ve stopped getting paychecks. Fish and Wildlife isn’t issuing fishing permits. The DMV is closed, like, every day. There are zombies, and no one is cleaning up after them. Collectively the general public begins to do some digging to find out what’s going on. They realize that not long ago, there was a day on which the people who caused this mess were elected (or re-elected) with the help of millions of dollars and slick advertising. Disgusted, nearly every single eligible voter vows to engage in the electoral process from here on out and vote in the next election, and each one thereafter. More candidates with integrity begin winning elections and making laws that actually help more people than they hurt, and we’re all better off for it.

Nah. Never happen. 

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