AG Candidate Gelber Goes After AG McCollum's 'Political Frolic' On Senate Floor

Mar 25, 2010

Dara Kam

Post On Politics- Palm Beach Post

Sen. Dan Gelber, a Democrat running for attorney general, sparked a mini-debate on the national health care package after he accused Attorney General Bill McCollum of political gamesmanship by filing a federal lawsuit over the reforms.

Gelber filed an amendment on an attorney general-related bill that would bar the AG from hiring private lawyers to challenge the constitutionality of the federal health reform act.

In what sounded a lot like a campaign speech of his own, Gelber accused McCollum, a Republican running for governor, of using his office to launch a headline-grabbing “ideological escapade” and “political frolic” to boost his popularity.

“This is nothing other than a political fraud,” Gelber, D-Miami Beach, said. “Yes, the the attorney general may have been the first one (to file the lawsuit). But he had a press conference every single day on this. It was nothing but a political issue…

The question we should ask ourselves is why is the attorney general…on this political frolic whose only purpose is to simply get headlines? It is wrong.”

McCollum is simply trying to “defend us from a mandate that has never before in the history of our country been done wherein we have to purchase insurance and if we don’t we have some kind of statutory violation,” said Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, the bill (SB 712) sponsor.

Thrasher said that if the attorney general stops defending the rights of Floridians, “then we ought to get a new one.”

“I share your view that we ought to get rid of the current attorney general if that’s what you just said,” Gelber quipped.

Gelber’s amendment failed, but the state senator-attorney general candidate debate didn’t stop there.

Tort reformer Thrasher’s proposal would cap the amount of money lawyers hired by the attorney general could make at $50 million.

Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Greenacres Democrat running against Gelber in the AG primary, objected that the measure would hamstring future attorneys general.

“I call this the polluters protection act,” Aronberg argued. “I wonder why we have so much faith in the current attorney general to assign contracts with private lawyers but we want to stop future attorneys general from doing the same thing.”

The Senate passed the measure anyway.

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Political advertisement paid for and approved by Dan Gelber.