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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Rubio on Autism Legislation

In 2011, the Florida Legislative Research Center interviewed Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) about his time as speaker of the state's House.  The Tampa Bay Times has published the interview, which includes a discussion of autism legislation:
I didn’t fully appreciate the fact that some people are willing ... to pass a bill on the last day of session and send it to you with no time left and put you in take it or leave it positions. There was a bill to help kids with autism and related disabilities, and it came up during my last session as speaker. And l knew that if I sent this bill to the Senate with enough time left that they wouldn’t take the bill. We sent it to them with about a day left, and they amended the bill, took out all the stuff we wanted to see made a part of that bill, put their stuff on it, named it after a senator, and sent it back to us as the very last bill of session.

And the choice that I had to make was do we pass this bill or do we let it die? And if we pass it, we weren’t helping nearly as many kids as I wanted to help. But if we let it die, we’ll be helping no kids at all. And it was the very last decision I really had to make, legislative decision I ever had to make as Speaker. Your pride would say, 'You know what? You know, let’s kill the whole thing.' The way the press covered it was, 'Here’s the Senate outfoxing Marco Rubio again. They sent him a take-it-or-leave-it bill. They even slapped him in face by naming it after some kid.' I remember a reporter in the kind of the wrap-up to session … and she was saying that it was a slam dunk in my face. And I’m here thinking, this is a bill. This is not a bill about whether we name a road or a post office after somebody. This is a bill about autism and children.

We passed it even though it wasn’t what we wanted because the mature decision was 'better helping someone than helping no one.' And in hindsight, I learned that. I wish I had known that, and maybe we could have you know, our strategy could have been a little bit better and ultimately gotten it done, but I don't regret the decision that we made. And, and you know, years later, I think at the next couple of years, the legislature actually came back and did a lot of the things we wanted them to do.

But I still think there’s too much of that. I think the legislative process is still played and covered by the media as some sort of a sport. Who won and who lost? And for this reporter to write, 'Oh, it was a slam dunk in the House’s face. Once again, being outfoxed and outmaneuvered.' We weren’t outfoxed or outmaneuvered. We knew exactly what we were doing. But for us, it was about the autism issue and actually being able to do something about it. Not being able to score some legislative points somewhere that the media said was so brilliant. So I wish I had I think I knew that, but I wish I had appreciated that more going in, but I still would have made the same decision.