Nelson: Public Option An Option with Senate

TAMPA (2009-11-09) -

At least 60 votes are needed to pass a bill in the Senate, unlike the bare majority needed in the House of Represenatives. And that difference could signficantly alter the final version of a health care reform bill. So says Senator Bill Nelson, who spoke before a Tampa chamber of commerce meeting in Ybor City.

"I think what will pass the Senate is either you allow the state's under-law to opt-out, where they would not have that public option in the insurance exchange, or that there would be no public option," he says, "but there would be a set of criteria to see if the health insurance companies did not collude, and that they are vigorously competitive. And if they were not, then a public insurance option insurance plan would be triggered into action. "

Nelson says he supported the so-called "public option," but it was not included in the final version approved by the Senate Finance Committee. So it's far from certain that universal health care will come to pass.

Also, Nelson has been one the state's strongest opponents of offshore drilling, including co-sponsoring a bill in 2006 that would keep oil drilling at least 250 miles from Tampa Bay. But that could all be undercut by moves to allow oil and gas exploration in state waters - from three to 10 miles offshore. Nelson told a group of Tampa business leaders that they need to be vigilant to protect the state's biggest industry.

"For the state legislature to suddenly go into session and say that they want to pass oil drilling three miles off the coast of Florida," he says, "I mean people better think twice about what we're doing to our economy, and economy that depends on those tourists coming and enjoying our beaches."

Nelson says it's unlikely oil companies will find much oil or gas off Florida's coast. And even if they did, he says it would take a decade before that energy could be brought to the market.

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