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  1. Florida Politics

Sen. Marco Rubio courted to take up ban on abortions at 20 weeks

Sen. Marco Rubio might sponsor abortion legislation supported by social conservatives.
Published Jul. 7, 2013

Marco Rubio's championing of immigration reform has caused him to lose some luster among some conservatives.

"The Jack Kevorkian of the Republican Party," Ann Coulter called him. A "piece of garbage," Glenn Beck said.

But as Florida's junior senator prepares for a widely anticipated presidential run in 2016, he may have found another issue to help him court social conservatives who play an outsized role in the all-important Iowa and South Carolina caucuses and primary: abortion.

Rubio is considering becoming lead sponsor of legislation to ban abortions 20 weeks after fertilization — essentially the same proposal that in Texas recently prompted a 13-hour filibuster by Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis.

Anti-abortion groups have asked Rubio to take the lead, and while his office says no final decision has been made, the senator is expected to sign on this week after returning from a family vacation.

The bill, which has zero chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, would make exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother — but not for cases when a mother's health is deemed in danger.

Rubio has been a consistent supporter of restricting abortions and has said he would support overturning Roe vs. Wade.

Health coverage debate continues

State Reps. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, and Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, appear on Political Connections on Bay News 9 today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Hooper, who is term-limited and expected to run for Pinellas County Commission, stands by his vote against accepting federal money to expand Medicaid coverage to 1 million Floridians.

"You've got a government that says, 'Trust us. We're going to foot the bill. For the first three years we're going to pay everything.' Now this is the government that's almost $17 trillion in debt," said Hooper.

Dudley lamented that in contrast to the Florida Senate that produced bipartisan support for expanding health coverage, supporters were barely heard and Gov. Rick Scott did little or nothing to encourage support in the House. He also said he would love to see former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

"Charlie would do a wonderful job. He's a statesmanlike gentleman," Dudley said. "We need his kind of leadership today."

Rubio's distractions affected VP chances

An except from Collision 2012, the new book by the Washington Post's Dan Balz:

"Everyone on the short list had issues, pros and cons. (Paul) Ryan came with all the controversy surrounding his budget and its radical changes to Medicare. (Tim) Pawlenty lacked the charisma that would help to energize conservatives and make them feel better about (Mitt) Romney. (Chris) Christie, in addition to pay-to-play, had a personality guaranteed to overshadow Romney. (Rob) Portman had the Washington experience that Romney lacked, but was tied to the Bush presidency. Rubio was talented but untested. But he had another issue. As a Florida legislator he had brushed up against a financial scandal involving the Florida Republican Party. In addition, then-representative David Rivera, a close friend and fellow officeholder, was under federal investigation for campaign finance irregularities. There was no evidence of wrongdoing by Rubio, but among at least some Romney advisers there was concern that Rivera could be indicted before the election, and if that were to happen the story would become a major distraction. (Beth) Myers said, however, that the issue did not keep Rubio off the short list of contenders. "Mitt received a number of completed vets, all of which were viable candidacies, and Marco was one of them," she said.

Those advisers wary of David Rivera/Rubio were clearly correct. Even without an indictment, the Rivera scandal popping with revelations in the Miami Herald practically every other day would have been an enormous distraction for the Romney campaign.

State Supreme Court takes up redistricting

In what promises to be a precedent-setting ruling over whether legislators can be shielded from testifying in a redistricting case, the Florida Supreme Court has agreed to hear a redistricting challenge brought by the League of Women Voters.

The League is asking the court to review an appellate court decision issued in May that allows legislators to be shielded from turning over documents and being questioned under oath by lawyers in a redistricting challenge.

On a 4-1 vote, with Chief Justice Ricky Polston and Justice James E.C. Perry not voting, the court set oral arguments for Sept. 16. Justices Barbara Pariente, Perry Quince, R. Fred Lewis and Jorge Labarga agreed to hold the hearings. Justice Charles Canady dissented.

Lawyers for the House and Senate successfully argued before the 1st District Court of Appeal that legislators and their staff enjoy blanket immunity from being forced to turn over their work papers or testify regarding redistricting.

Times/Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam Smith can be reached at asmith@tampabay.com.

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