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Constituents quiet as 20-day special session begins on budget, health care

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – State lawmakers are back at the state Capitol for a 20-day special session after a fight over health care derailed budget talks. Plenty of special interests are bending lawmakers' ears, but few constituents are speaking out.

The House and Senate are expected to start talking about a budget deal this coming weekend, but neither side shows signs of changing their mind on expanded health care.

Americans for Prosperity buses left Lakeland and Orlando early Monday. They carried dozens of pastors to the Capitol. Margarita Romo came from Pasco County to counter claims that expanded heath care would only benefit those who don't want to work.

"We know that in Pasco County there are 28,000 people that would benefit from this, and that's the county that I'm from," Romo said. "Over 28,000. Why not? They're working people, they're not all sitting around."

The no tax group Americans for Prosperity is on the other side.

They're airing a TV ad that says, "Dumping more people on the broken Medicaid program is the wrong answer." They're also sending post cards to people in districts whose senators support Medicaid expansions.

"Floridians that have received mail from us are folks in the districts of senators that continue to claim that they are going to support a broken entitlement program," said Andres Malave, with Americans for Prosperity.

What is clear is that lawmakers aren't getting hit with a barrage of email on either the budget or health care. Several offices said they are averaging 50-100 a day, but few of those are from constituents.

Sen. Nancy Detert said she's only heard from about 20 of her 500,000 constituents.

"Those 20 people count, and it's important," Detert said. "If I get 2,000 not from my district, they don't count."

But on July 1, state government faces a partial shutdown if there is no budget, and the closer that date becomes, the more likely average people will start paying attention.