Cretul will fight partner benefits
By JACK STRIPLING
Sun staff writer
Rep. Larry Cretul failed to pass a controversial piece of legislation last week, but he says he still opposes the use of taxpayer dollars to fund health-care plans that benefit partners of gay university employees.
"I'm not at all embarrassed or ashamed of the bill, and it will be a continued effort," said Cretul, R-Ocala. "I haven't given up on the issue. If I get re-elected, we will revisit the bill and revisit the issue."
Cretul's bill would have forbidden universities or community colleges from using state money to provide health care to the domestic partners of employees. He began pushing the legislation in December when the University of Florida approved a domestic partner health-care plan, which UF officials say doesn't use public money.
Cretul's bill passed through three House committees during the legislative session, which concluded Friday, but it failed to gain traction in the Senate. Cretul said he was confident the bill would have passed the House had he pursued a floor vote, but he pulled the bill from consideration when it became clear that a companion Senate bill wasn't going anywhere.
"That would have just taken time from bills that other members had, so basically we parked it," he said.
Cretul's fellow Republicans invariably supported the bill in committee, but several Democrats opposed it throughout the process. Rep. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, voted against the legislation in April.
"My thoughts were, if somebody wants to put their significant other on their insurance and pay for it, that's their business," Gibson said Monday.
When asked if she thought the bill was discriminatory, Gibson said "I felt like what the bill was getting at may have been."
Throughout his public campaign for the bill, which included news conferences and news releases, Cretul was careful to say he wasn't acting as an enemy of UF.
UF, or any other university or community college, should be free to run a domestic partnership benefit program as long as state money isn't involved, he said. Even so, Cretul said he personally objected to any such plans in principle.
Facing re-election in November, Cretul says he wouldn't be surprised if the bill became an issue in the campaign.
"Obviously, it's an issue that people who follow this and follow campaigns will know exactly where I am on that," said Cretul, 58.
McLin "Macky" Thurman, a 28-year-old science teacher at Dunnellon Middle School, has entered the race against Cretul as a Democrat seeking the District 22 House seat. The district contains areas of Gainesville that traditionally lean Democratic and heavily conservative swaths of Marion and Levy Counties.
Thurman could not be reached for comment.
In order to have a chance to push the bill again next session, Cretul will have to win back his seat.
"Sometimes it does take another session to get things accomplished," he said. "So I don't see it as a failure."