Thursday, January 18, 2018
Health

Antiabortion bill blocked in Senate

TALLAHASSEE — A wide-ranging antiabortion bill that stirred controversy in the House last week was blocked by the Senate on Monday when a bipartisan coalition prevented the bill from being heard on the Senate floor.

"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, one of six Republicans to join with Democrats to stop the bill from being heard.

The bill, SB 290, would have created a 24-hour waiting period for abortions and required that new abortion clinics be owned by physicians. Physicians also would have been required to take three hours of unspecified ethics training, among other provisions.

Senators were able to block the bill from being heard because it had not passed the committees to which it was assigned. Senate rules require a two-thirds vote of the present members to bypass the committee structure.

Senators voted 23-16 to hear the antiabortion bill, short of the 26 votes necessary.

Democrats were joined by six Republicans in voting against hearing the bill: Lynn and Sens. Paula Dockery, Nancy Detert, Dennis Jones, Charlie Dean and Mike Bennett.

One Democrat voted to consider the measure: Sen. Gary Siplin of Orlando. Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, was ill and did not vote.

Another 23 bills were withdrawn from committees without controversy, including a proposal that would ban courts from using religious or foreign law in legal decisions. Rules Chairman Sen. John Thrasher said he tried to bring the antiabortion bill to the floor at the request of sponsor Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, which is not unusual.

He suggested that Senate President Mike Haridopolos may call for a special meeting of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, where the antiabortion bill was to receive its next hearing.

But with just days left until the session is scheduled to conclude on Friday, that's unlikely.

"I think that vote expressed where they're at," Haridopolos said of senators.

Last Friday, senators blocked another bill — one that would allow parents at low-performing schools to demand sweeping changes, including having the school converted into a charter school — from bypassing its committee stops and heading straight to the floor.

Republican leaders countered by holding a special Senate Budget Committee meeting, where the bill, SB 1718, passed so that it could be heard by the entire Senate.

Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau staff writer Tia Mitchell contributed to this report.

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