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    Legislative briefs

    By Times staff and wire reports
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published January 23, 2002

    Today is the second day of the 60-day session.

    Freedom Caucus lists its causes

    The loose-knit group of young conservative lawmakers known as the Freedom Caucus has decided to keep the name. The representatives, led by Fort Lauderdale Republican Connie Mack, announced they have formally joined together as a political committee capable of raising and spending private money to ensure that state government keeps close tabs on its purse.

    Their No. 1 priority? Defeat the tax reform plan of Senate President John McKay. Mack and others, including Tampa Republican Chris Hart IV, say the proposal will hurt businesses in the state.

    The group also said its platform supports two proposed constitutional amendments. One (HB 87) would limit state spending to the rate of growth of the median household income. The other (HB 89) would require a two-thirds majority of the Legislature to increase a tax or repeal a tax exemption.

    -- ALISA ULFERTS

    Tampa hearing set on tax overhaul

    The first of several public hearings on Senate President John McKay's proposal to overhaul the Florida tax system will be Friday in Tampa and Orlando.

    The Tampa hearing by a House committee begins at 5 p.m. in the Hillsborough County Commission chambers at County Center, 601 E Kennedy Blvd. The Orlando hearing is at 10 a.m. at the Orlando Exposition Center's Cherokee Room.

    The hearings were announced last week in a memo from by Jon Shebel, president of Associated Industries of Florida, which opposes McKay's plan. On Monday a spokeswoman for House Speaker Tom Feeney confirmed the details, saying AIF "probably talked to Rep. Johnnie Byrd before we did."

    Byrd, R-Plant City, is chairman of the select committee appointed to review McKay's plan to reform the state sales tax.

    -- LUCY MORGAN

    Brown-Waite 'proud' to back plan

    Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, backed Senate President John McKay's tax plan after McKay gave an Opening Day speech challenging legislators to act based on "principles, not politics or power."

    Brown-Waite said she has met with about a dozen lobbyists, and most admitted privately that tax reform was a good idea. She also said she was influenced by someone "near and dear" who spoke to her about the differences between a politician and a statesman.

    "I am proud to tell you I am supporting Sen. McKay's tax reform," Brown-Waite said, adding that it would help Florida meet the needs of people, from those in schools to those in nursing homes.

    She said later she initially had misgivings, but that McKay has agreed to preserve exemptions for tuition and child care.

    Brown-Waite said calls and e-mails to her office are about evenly divided on the tax question.

    -- Associated Press

    Efficiency in a scripted Senate

    To the first-time observer, the formal business of a legislative session may look highly efficient. That's because it is scripted, on Opening Day, anyway. When Sen. Howard Futch, R-Indialantic, momentarily forgot his lines, Senate President McKay stepped in.

    "It's on Page 6," McKay said.

    -- STEVE BOUSQUET

    Several bills respond to Sept. 11

    The Senate Select Committee on Public Security and Crisis Management approved several bills responding to the Sept. 11 attacks, including one that would make it a first-degree felony to hijack airplanes or other vehicles and use them as weapons.

    Under the bill (SB 438), anyone surviving such an act would face up to life in prison, or death if someone were killed by the actions.

    Another bill (SB 928) would prohibit illegal aliens from bidding on state contracts or working as a contractor, subcontractor or supplier on state building projects.

    Anyone falsely reporting a weapon of mass destruction could be charged with a second-degree felony under one bill (SB 998), and another (SB 1184) would require anyone convicted of making a false threat to pay police, fire or other departments triple the cost of responding to the threat.

    "I want their fannies civilly smacked," said Sen. Walter G. "Skip" Campbell, D-Fort Lauderdale.

    -- Associated Press

    * * *

    For information about legislation, call 1-800-342-1827 or 1-850-488-4371 toll-free during business hours.

    For Internet users, Online Sunshine is the official site for the Legislature: www.leg.state.fl.us

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