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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Abortion bill dies in divided Senate

5

March

A wide-ranging antiabortion bill that stirred controversy in the House last week will not be heard in the Senate, likely ending debate on the bill for this year.

A bipartisan coalition of senators Monday voted not to bring the bill up for consideration on the Senate floor. It would have created a 24-hour waiting period, required new clinics to be wholly owned by physicians trained in the procedure and required physicians to take three hours of unspecified ethics training, among many other things.

"The public is calling and screaming, pleading with us to concentrate on bills that give us jobs, put food on our table and lower our cost of living," said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, who forced a vote on whether or not to bring the measure to the floor.

While most bills are required to go through a series of committees, leaders also have broad powers -- with approval from two-thirds of the full Senate -- to sidestep that process. In most cases senators acquiesce. But for the second time in four days, a group of senators quashed Sen. John Thrasher's effort to bring a controversial bill languishing in committee to the floor.

Senators held an unusually long quorum call before the vote in effort to bring Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, to the floor. Her favorable vote still wasn't enough.

"It was a long quorum call, but quorom calls are at the pleasure of the president," Thrasher told the Times/Herald.

The motion on the abortion measure, SB 290, died 23-16. Five Republicans joined Lynn and the Democrats to defeat the move: Sens. Paula Dockery, Nancy Detert, Charlie Dean, Dennis Jones and Mike Bennett.

Democratic Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando voted with Republican leadership. Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, was ill and did not vote, but "we did not need it," said Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, who worked all morning to ensure she had enough votes to defeat Thrasher's effort.Though Thrasher denied it, Rich suggested some Republicans wanted to vote on an antiabortion bill to "show their conservative stripes" against tea party opponents back home.

"This is a nationwide issue right now and I think if the Republicans thought about it, they would realize that by not having this raw debate on the floor it actually will help them," Rich said, "because I believe that what's happening over contraceptives, and Rush Limbaugh and all that's going on in this country, the polls are beginning to show that's hurting the people who are trying to hurt women's reproductive health."

Another 23 bills were withdrawn from committees without controversy, including a proposed ban on Sharia law. Thrasher said he tried to bring the abortion bill, SB 290, to the floor at the request of sponsor Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, which is not unusual. He suggested Senate President Mike Haridopolos may call for a special meeting of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, where the abortion bill was to receive its next hearing.

With four days remaining in regular session, that's does not appear to be the plan. Haridopolos told reporters he considered the vote on Thrasher's motion a measure of how the Senate felt about the bill this year, though he personally liked the legislation.

"I think that vote expressed where they're at," he said.

On Friday a group of senators led by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Rich blocked Thrasher's attempt to free the "parent trigger" bill from committee and bring it up for a floor vote. Thrasher retaliated, calling an early Saturday meeting of the Budget Committee solely to vet and pass that bill, SB 1718.

-- Katie Sanders and Mary Ellen Klas

[Last modified: Monday, March 5, 2012 5:36pm]

    

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