Sunday, April 22, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: The house that inanity built

How inspiring and uplifting it is to know that those stout-hearted members of the Florida House treasure children, who represent our future and most certainly our yada, yada, yada and, of course, our blah, blah, blah. Touching, is what it is. • Last week the Florida House voted to make it more difficult for women to get an abortion, voting 70-45 to pass a measure banning doctors from performing the procedure if the fetus might be viable outside the womb. A companion measure that would impose penalties on anyone convicted of a crime that harms a fetus also passed, 74-42.

That's the beauty of the abortion debate. It affords all manner of pols the chance to embrace motherhood and apple pie and pass themselves off as vanguards of the antiabortion community. There's plenty of votes to be found in candlelight vigils.

And that was especially true of state Rep. Marlene O'Toole, R-June Cleaver, one of the many co-sponsors. Taking to the House floor, O'Toole argued: "Every developing life deserves this, but certainly we can agree as a civilized society that a viable life deserves a chance. We owe our children better."

There is no doubt the abortion issue remains highly divisive.

But it is also axiomatic that while all these liberty- and freedom-loving Republican antiabortion elected officials will raise holy Cain over blocking a woman's right to determine for herself what she wants to do with her own body — once that fetus is born, the kiddo is pretty much on his or her own.

This is the very same Legislature has steadfastly refused to accept $51 billion over 10 years in federal money to expand Medicaid, which would have benefited about 1.3 million Florida families. Don't children have better lives when their parents have health care coverage? Weren't they fetuses, once?

This is the same Florida Legislature that when it isn't crusading against abortion burns the midnight oil undermining the state's public education system. This is the House that has long championed all manner of unaccountable voucher programs that divert public tax dollars for private school tuition.

Nor has this Legislature ever met a charter school initiative it didn't like, while hanging public schools out to dry. If the House has its way, about the only thing harder to get in Florida than an abortion will be a quality public school education.

So much for deserving a chance.

But perhaps nothing captured the dysfunctional disconnect with rationality more last week than the other major bill the House passed that will make it easier to carry a gun secretly.

Despite pleas from professional law enforcement not to pass inane laws such as "stand your ground" and concealed carry legislation, the Legislature has gone on to ensure Florida is awash with weapons right at the moment that society can be its most fragile.

What might as well be known as the Bring Your Gun to a Riot Act of 1860 would allow citizens to carry concealed weapons without a proper permit in times of evacuations caused by hurricanes or other forms of civic strife.

The Florida Sheriff's Association and in particular Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri called the plan "crazy" and "absurd," but the House approved the bill. It mattered not what trained and experienced law enforcement thought of The Ox-Bow Incident Act of 2014 as long as the National Rifle Association regarded it as a swell idea.

O'Toole voted for both measures, as did all but four of the Tampa Bay area legislative delegation, including Republican Reps. Larry Ahern, Richard Corcoran, Jamie Grant, Ed Hooper, Kathleen Peters, Jake Raburn, Dan Raulerson, Ron Schenck, Jimmie Smith, Ross Spano, Will Weatherford and Dana Young. Democrat Reps. Amanda Murphy and Carl Zimmerman also voted in favor of the gun bill but voted against the abortion bills.

So the same people who claim to be so-called "prolife" cavalierly dismissed the expert opinion of the folks with badges that removing prohibitions on concealed weapons during times of civil stress might be downright dangerous for human life.

So much for a "civilized society."

O'Toole raised a valid question. Don't we deserve better?

Alas, not when the Florida House is in session.

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