A bill created to privatize 27 Florida prisons died on the state Senate floor Tuesday in a 21-19 vote. (more…)
The first of five abortion-restricting bills passed by the state Legislature was signed into law yesterday by Gov. Rick Scott. #
House Bill 97 removes coverage for abortions in health care insurance exchanges created by federal health care reform. The law provides exceptions for cases of rape, incest and a threat to the woman’s life. #
There were attempts to add broader protections for women in the bill before it went to a final vote. An amendment was introduced by state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, in the House and an amendment was offered by Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, in the Senate that would provide abortion coverage for women who face a “serious health risk” due to the pregnancy. Both attempts failed. #
Florida is among a long list of other states that have passed a similar law. Each are similar to a failed amendment proposed by former U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. This provision to remove funding for abortions stalled the landmark legislation toward the end of negotiations. The amendment did not pass, but states were given the ability to outlaw abortion coverage if they choose. #
Many states have taken advantage of this provision. Some states have even offered less protection for women than Stupak’s amendment did. For example, neither Louisiana nor Tennessee provide exceptions for rape, incest or to protect the woman’s life. Arizona and Missouri only provide an exception when the woman’s life is threatened. #
Scott is expected to sign another four bills aimed at limiting abortion rights in the state. #
The Florida Senate passed two abortion-restricting bills today that include language similar to House versions of the bills. A state constitutional amendment to ban public funding for abortions and the “Health Insurance” bill do not expand coverage to women who face “a serious health risk” if their pregnancy is carried out, as of today.
State Sens. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, and Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, introduced two amendments that would provide exceptions to the bans similar to those in the House. Exceptions now include cases “where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life-endangering, physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, which would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.”
Before a final vote on the House floor this week, state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, introduced several amendments that would expand exceptions to the proposed bans on public funding for abortion to a woman who faces a “serious risk to her health” — and not just to a woman who will die if she does not end her pregnancy. Each of them failed.
In a Senate committee meeting last week a similar piece of legislation was voted down. The measure did, however, receive bipartisan support.
The House will now have to vote on both bills with the amended language before Gov. Rick Scott can sign them into law.
On Tuesday the state Senate budget panel cleared a controversial elections bill that, unlike the House version, cuts Florida’s early voting period in half. At least one senator, though, gave his word that that provision will be modified as the bill moves forward. #
Members rejected amendments offered by Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, that would have restored the length of early voting. #
Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, and Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, both said they were willing to support amendments that would add two days of early voting to the seven provided in the bill, and increase the number of hours of early voting each day, so that the total amount of early voting time would hold steady. #
Diaz de la Portilla said he was planning to file the amendment but couldn’t get the wording together in time. During a previous discussion of the bill, he said early voting provisions were among those he was most willing to change, after supervisors of elections said early voting would be essential to accommodating the expected high turnout for the upcoming presidential election. #
Gaetz gave his word that if the amendment didn’t surface when the measure came to the floor, he would support other changes to restore early voting. #
About a dozen amendments were introduced by Democratic representatives yesterday. Most of them were aimed at providing more protection for women. Each amendment was voted down — mostly along party lines. #
Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, introduced seven amendments. Four of his measures sought to expand the exceptions for bans on public funding for abortion to a woman who faces a “serious risk to her health” — and not just to a woman who will die if she does not end her pregnancy. #
This exception has received bipartisan support in the past. State Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ocala, voted in support of a similar amendment introduced by Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, in the Senate during a committee meeting earlier this month. The amendment sought to provide more coverage for women under the health care exchanges created by the federal health care reform bill. Many states have followed suit in restricting the amount of coverage women receive for abortions under these exchanges. #
Randolph also sought to add language to the Choose Life, Inc. license plate bill. The amendment would require that “agencies that receive the funds [from purchase of the license plates] must use at least 70 percent of the funds to provide for the material needs of pregnant women who are making an adoption plan for their children committed to placing their children for adoption, including, but not limited to, clothing, housing, medical care, food, utilities, and transportation.” The bill’s original language does not specify how much of the funds should be used on actual services for women. #
A second amendment proposed by Randolph to the Choose Life, Inc. license plates bill, would require that “agencies that receive license plate funds must provide medically accurate information and materials with reference sources for any and all statements of a medical nature.” Crisis pregnancy centers in Florida that receive funds from Choose Life, Inc. have been found to distribute scientifically inaccurate information in the past. There was no provision in the original bill that required these agencies to support medically accurate information. #
Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, proposed an amendment to the mandatory-ultrasound bill that would require the state to “reimburse the woman the cost of the ultrasound … if the physician determines that an ultrasound is not medically necessary and the woman waives the right to view and waives an explanation of the ultrasound.” #
Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, sought to allow women who “state that they need an abortion performed” to waive the ultrasound requirement before an abortion procedure. #
Not one of these amendments were adopted. Each bill, with its original language, is set for a final vote today. #
Yesterday, Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, voted down an amendment in a Senate budget committee that would have provided more protection for women seeking an abortion whose life is threatened by a pregnancy. #
The Senate committee was considering an amendment that would allow pregnant women who face a “serious risk” to their health to receive insurance coverage for an abortion. The amendment was attached to Senate Bill 1414, which greatly limits abortion access for women who receive health insurance from the health care exchanges set up by the the federal health care reform law passed last year. #
Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, sponsored an amendment that provides an exception to the ban for cases of rape, incest or if the pregnancy is a “serious risk” to the mother’s health. #
Senate Bill 1414 is similar to the failed Stupak Amendment that almost stalled federal health care reform last year. Similar legislation is being passed at a state level all over the country. Some states, however, are proposing more extreme measures by not allowing exceptions to this ban for cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health. #
Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Nassau, said that Margolis’ amendment was “too broad” and could possibly justify exceptions that are beyond those stipulated in the Hyde Amendment. The Hyde Amendment provides exceptions for cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health. Margolis argues that her amendment was, indeed, the same as the Hyde Amendment. #
Once the amendment came to a vote, every one of the few women who sat on the committee, save Flores, voted “yes.” However, they were outnumbered by their male counterparts who placed “no” votes. #
Flores has voiced strong opposition throughout this session on the subject of public money funding abortions. This year she sponsored a state constitutional amendment that would ban public funding for abortions. She also led the charge to reintroduce the mandatory-ultrasound bill after it was vetoed last year by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. #
Margolis’ amendment failed. However, at the end of the long budget committee meeting, Margolis introduced an amendment that tightens the language to provide exceptions for “rape, incest… and physical illness, including an endangering physical condition arising from the pregnancy itself. And would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion was performed.” #
The bill passed with the amendment. Sens. Arthenia Joyner, Evelyn Lynn and Nan Rich cast “no” votes on the abortion-restricting legislation. #
A Florida Senate panel approved a sweeping set of changes to an election bill that bring it more in line with a House measure that has good-government groups up in arms over provisions they say would suppress voters’ access to the polls.
The changes, added yesterday afternoon in a 4,023-line amendment, would shorten early voting periods, restrict voters’ ability to change their addresses at the polls and place new regulations on organizations that register new voters.
Like the House bill, the changes attracted a parade of opposition from public interest groups and supervisors of elections. No one from the public has showed up to support either proposal.
Ion Sancho, the Leon County Supervisor of Elections, said the regulations would affect all sorts of groups that sign up new voters, from Eagle Scouts and Sunday school teachers to Realtors and nurses. That provision, he predicted, would likely get struck down in court, but the amendment includes a severability clause that would ensure other provisions remain intact.
Sancho also said that halving early voting periods from two weeks to one, “for some spurious reason called efficiency,” would reduce voters’ access to the polls. Early voting allowed supervisors to accommodate record-setting turnout during the 2008 presidential election.
“You’re having a record-setting turnout and you’re reducing access to early voting by 50 percent,” he said. “That is simply not serving the citizens of the state of Florida under any circumstances.”
Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, said the early-voting changes were “Machiavellian,” given the long lines at the polls during the last presidential election, and could lead to voter disenfranchisement.
Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, said he was open to changes, especially of the early voting provisions, but that the criticisms were unfair. Most of the changes were intended to enfranchise people.
“There’s so many good things in here that to just home in on the early voting, and what’s worse, to attribute any kind of a sinister or Machiavellian motive or something like that — I frankly take umbrage,” he said.
He noted that many of the provisions, such as increasing the time periods for which absentee ballots are available and when elections supervisors can start counting them, as well as requiring polling places to be included on voter registration cards, would help make voting more accessible.
But many of those changes were part of the original bill, not added by the amendment unveiled yesterday. Brad Ashwell of the Florida Public Interest Research Group said the amendment added today was, for all intents and purposes, a separate bill. The generally constructive original body of Senate Bill 2086 has now “become a train,” with troublesome provisions hitching a ride hours before they’e brought up for a vote.
The measure still has to clear one more committee. Sen. Diaz de la Portilla has pledged to meet with critics and make “tweaks” before the measure goes before the full Senate for approval.