NOTE: THIS ARTICLE, LIKE MANY MEDIA ORGANIZATIONS, FALSELY STATES THAT TERRI IS COMATOSE. ALSO, THE ARTICLE STATES THAT THE BILL WOULD GIVE BUSH THE AUTHORITY TO REPLACE THE FEEDING TUBE. BUSH DID NOT NEED THE LEGISLATURE TO GIVE HIM THIS AUTHORITY. HE ALREADY POSSESSED THE AUTHORITY UNDER THE FLORIDA STATE CONSTITUTION.
EVEN SO, THIS IS NONETHELESS A VICTORY. LET'S WATCH THE SENATE, THEN SEE WHAT BUSH DOES NEXT.
THE CLOCK IS STILL TICKING.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2003
2:34 AM EDT
LEGISLATURE ACTS TO SAVE SCHIAVO
By Allison North Jones and Elaine Silvestrini
The Tampa Tribune
TALLAHASSEE — The battle to save Terri Schiavo has shifted to the state Capitol, where legislative leaders agreed Monday after intense, daylong negotiations to grant Gov. Jeb Bush the power to intervene in the emotionally charged case. The Florida House of Representatives passed a bill 68-23 last night that would give Bush the authority to order the comatose Schiavo's feeding tube replaced, reversing a judicial order that other judges have upheld. Twenty-eight lawmakers did not vote.
The state Senate is expected to pass the same measure today and send it to Bush, who likely will sign the bill immediately.
``The proposed bill would allow for a stay in cases of withholding nutrition and hydration from patients in situations similar to that of Ms. Schiavo,'' Bush said in a statement.
Once the bill is signed, Bush will have 15 days to issue a one-time stay.
The move came just hours after an advocacy group for disabled people pleaded with a federal judge in Tampa to keep Schiavo, 39, alive long enough to investigate a claim that she is being abused by her husband. U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday said he will issue a decision in the nationally watched case soon.
Phones and computers across the state Capitol rang and chimed throughout the day as lawmakers were flooded with pleas to intervene in the Schiavo case. Earlier in the day, House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, a Plant City Republican running for the U.S. Senate, opened the possibility of legislative intervention by confirming that he planned to propose legislation to ``save'' Schiavo. Rep. John Stargel, R-Lakeland, sponsored the bill.
``The family is elated,'' said Randall Terry, a spokesman for Terri Schiavo's parents who are trying to keep their daughter alive. ``They recognize there are still hurdles to overcome. They're praying Terri's health holds out until the governor can intervene to save her.''
Urging caution is Senate President Jim King, R-Jacksonville.
King said he is leery of interfering in a case that has been vetted in nearly ``every court in the land.'' But citing ``unique and unusual circumstances,'' he signed off on what he considers a narrowly drafted measure that still delivers what Byrd and Bush want.
``If we are going to err, then let us err on the side of caution,'' King said. ``I just hope to God we've done the right thing.''
The bill gives Bush the power to issue a ``one-time'' stay under certain conditions.
All are designed to fit Schiavo's case. Among them, for example, is a requirement that the feeding tube must have been removed as of Oct. 15 - the day Schiavo's tube was removed. Others stipulate that the patient have no written advance directive or living will, and that a family member is actively challenging the judicial orders.
But the bill raised a variety of legal and constitutional concerns for lawmakers worried the Legislature was overstepping its bounds.
``This bill so oversteps our role, it not only sets a dangerous precedent, it turns democracy on its head,'' said Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach.
In Tampa, an Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities attorney told Judge Merryday that the private agency received a telephone complaint Friday alleging Schiavo was the victim of neglect and abuse. The center is designated by the state to receive federal funds under a number of laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Attorney Gordon B. Scott asked Merryday to order that Schiavo be given nutrition long enough for the agency to investigate the abuse complaint. Such a temporary order, Scott said, would be in force for 10 days, after which Scott would be required to report any findings to the court.
Merryday asked Scott whether the agency would be in court if Terri Schiavo had left written instructions expressing her desire not to be kept alive on life support. State courts have ruled in favor of Michael Schiavo's claim that his wife had verbally expressed those wishes.
Scott said that if there were a legally valid written statement from Terri Schiavo, he would not have filed the request for the restraining order.
At the Pinellas Park hospice where Terri Schiavo spent her fifth full day without food or water Monday, the Schindler family remained upbeat while awaiting word from Tampa and Tallahassee.
The family is praying that the Legislature acts quickly to force the hospice to resume feeding Terri Schiavo, said her sister, Suzanne Carr.
``She seems to be alert,'' said her brother, Bob Schindler Jr. ``But every day that goes by, we're getting into a crucial time for her. She's got an incredible will to live.''
Reporter David Sommer contributed to this report.