This is the time during session when things are supposed to get a little dull. The frenzy of the first weeks has passed and lawmakers are supposed to settle in while budget planners take center stage for the next couple of weeks.
That may be what used to happen, but in this wacky tea party infused, pendulum swinging “Let’s-Get-To Work session, there is little evidence that idle hands will a devil’s workshop make as lawmakers weigh into heavy and controversial issues throughout the week.
Kicking things off Monday, a pair of Senate committees will take up abortion-related measures that Gov. Rick Scott has said he will deal with like a “pro-life governor.”
Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, has filed two bills that come before the Senate Health Regulations Committee. One measure, (SB 1744) would require all women seeking an abortion to first receive an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion. The bill passed last year on a largely party-line vote, but vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist who was up to his neck in an independent run for the U.S. Senate.
Another measure (SB 1748) by Storms would place further restrictions on abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Meanwhile, in another meeting room, The Senate Judiciary Committee takes up a proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 1538) to prohibit the use of public tax dollars for abortion services. The original version by Sen. Anixter Flores, R-Miami, made no exemptions in cases of rape, incest or if the health of the mother was at risk. The committee will consider an amendment to add those exemptions to the bill.
If that isn’t enough controversy for one meeting, the Health committee will also take up a bill (SB 432) that would prohibit physicians and other health care providers from asking whether a patient has a gun in the home.
Gun rights advocates say it's OK for physicians to ask if there is Drain-O in an unlocked cupboard next to their toddler’s bedroom, but unconstitutional for that same physician to ask if there are any guns in the home and whether they are locked up. What’s the difference? Drain-O ownership, after all, is not protected by the constitution.
Backers of the plan are pointing to a Central Florida case in which it appears both doctor and patient behaved badly. Doc asked about guns. Patient said none of your business. Doctor said find another doctor.
Other issues of note:
A Senate measure (SB 1386) to do away with a statewide drug database established by lawmakers in 2009 in an attempt to shut down pain management clinics that critics say dispense pain medication like candy. Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, has filed an amendment to do away with the state’s prescription-drug tracking database, which Gov. Rick Scott has said is an invasion of privacy. Garcia and the governor are at odds with fellow Republicans –Attorney General Pam Bondi and Senate President Mike Haridopolos – who think a database tracking drugs, clinics, doctors and patients is a pretty good idea.
But it’s not all controversy this week. Racing fans who want to spend eternity soaking up gas fumes and the roar of engines would be allowed to be buried at the Daytona International Speedway or Homestead Miami Speedway under a measure (SB 1096) allowing the facilities to construct a columbarium on either site for those who have reached their own checkered flag. The bill is up for consideration on Tuesday in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.