A third-party group in the middle of an ultra-competitive Republican state Senate primary is continuing to make illegal immigration a centerpiece of the campaign.
The group, Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics, is targeting former state Rep. Aaron Bean for past votes. Bean is running for a Jacksonville-area seat against current state Rep. Mike Weinstein. Previously, we looked at the claim that Bean voted for "in-state tuition breaks for illegal immigrants." We examined the facts and rated the claim Mostly True.
Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics is doubling down with a different claim in a new TV ad, accusing "Mr. Bean" (a reference to the dimwitted British character played by comedian Rowan Atkinson, perhaps?) of voting to "also give health care subsidies to illegal aliens" in 2007.
We decided to see if the new attack has merit.
As evidence, the group cites HB 7189, a proposal considered during the 2007 legislative session about Florida KidCare, which houses federal and state subsidized health care programs for children.
The goal of this bill was to fulfill a plan by now-U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who was Florida House speaker in 2007 and 2008, to expand access to health care coverage for children. (It was Idea No. 86 in his 2006 book 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future.)
HB 7189 would have allowed anyone who is under 19, a Florida resident and uninsured to be enrolled in KidCare. The bill made a number of administrative tweaks to ease the application process.
More pertinent to our fact-check, the bill would have expanded premium assistance to two types of children, if the Legislature appropriated money for them: children of state employees, and "noncitizens" or "not qualified aliens."
The inclusion of "noncitizens" and "not qualified aliens" is the basis of the claim from Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics.
But that’s in error.
Non-qualified aliens and noncitizens isn’t code for "illegal immigrant."
States commonly use the terms to refer to other noncitizens who are lawfully present in the U.S.
Arizona’s Medicaid administration agency, for instance, breaks down three groups of noncitizens like this: qualified aliens, undocumented aliens (aka illegal immigrants), and non-qualified aliens, who are admitted legally for a limited time and include foreign students, business visitors, and temporary workers on visas.
Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who sponsored the KidCare reform push in 2007 and is running for state Senate this year, told PolitiFact Florida the bill was not written to subsidize illegal immigrants’ health insurance.
"Certainly the intent of the bill was not to expand KidCare to illegal aliens," Galvano said. "The thrust of the bill was ultimately to lessen the fiscal impact on the taxpayer while at the same time providing health care to those in need."
Like most bills, this legislation was written without the kind of detailed rulemaking delegated to state agencies. Had the bill become law, those rules might have been more explicit so that the subsidized premiums would not apply to illegal immigrants, though they are already banned under federal law from receiving government assistance.
To be fair to Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics, what "noncitizens" and "not qualified legal aliens" actually meant got lost on the Legislature as well.
During debate on the House floor, Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Port St. Lucie, introduced a late-filed, one-line amendment: "The Florida Kidcare Program shall not provide premium assistance for enrollees who are illegal aliens."
Her amendment spawned impassioned, and confused, debate, with some conservatives saying undocumented children should be eligible, too. "This is not about illegal children. It’s not about legal children. It’s about children in the state of Florida," said Rep. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, according to a couple news accounts.
Harrell did not have the support needed to bring the amendment for a floor vote. The bill passed the House 98-14, with Bean and Rubio among conservatives voting in favor (Bean, then House Healthcare Council chairman, voted for it in committee too). But drama over the amendment slowed the bill’s momentum in the final days of session, and the Senate decided not to bring the proposal to a vote.
"Unfortunately, some people thought the bill would have impacted undocumented kids," said Karen Woodall, executive director of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, who pushed for the bill in 2007. "That whole debate -- while it was in my opinion morally correct and good -- it made it seem like it was going to impact those kids, and that’s why it didn’t pass in the Senate."
Floridians for Ethics and Truth in Politics says Bean voted to give health care subsidies to illegal immigrants.
The group, however, misrepresents the bill’s intent by saying "not qualified legal aliens" is the same as "illegal immigrants." That’s not true. The bottom line is HB 7189 -- which never passed -- would have applied to children legally allowed to be in the United States.
We rate the claim False.