By ALISA ULFERTS, STEVE BOUSQUET and Times wires
Today is the ninth day of the 60-day session.
Governor is for adding nurses
Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday endorsed a bill he says should help end the state's nursing shortage.
With bill sponsor Rep. Sandy Murman, R-Tampa, at his side, Bush said the plan would make it easier for out-of-state nurses to become licensed in Florida. The bill also would set up a grant program for middle and high schools to encourage students to consider nursing careers and close a loophole to stop nursing students from "double dipping" in both the state scholarship and loan forgiveness programs.
The bill also would provide $1-million in matching grants for hospitals to recruit nurses and ease the penalty for defaulting on a nursing school loan.
The House Colleges and Universities Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the measure, which goes next to the Education Appropriations Committee. A companion Senate bill (SB 1618) is awaiting committee assignment.
Tax bills romp through committee
With virtually no debate and no public testimony, the Senate Rules Committee passed two bills to overhaul the state's tax system, setting up Senate floor votes as early as Thursday on Senate President John McKay's No. 1 priority.
In the proposed constitutional amendment (CS SJR 938), voters would be asked whether Florida should lower the sales tax rate from 6 percent to 4.5 percent and end exemptions except for those on basic necessities such as groceries and health care.
Senators first voted to exempt travel agent commissions from the bill. Then they included language promising to remove a tax on transportation services if future revenues "allow for additional exemptions."
The latter amendment prompted Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, to quip that the tax bill now has "an exemption waiting list."
The only no votes came from Sen. Daryl Jones, D-Miami, who voted against the bill with the list of tax exemptions, and Sen. Locke Burt, R-Ormond Beach, who voted against both bills. Burt refused to explain.
One critic attacked the process with McKay's own words. "We have not seen any fair, open and transparent debate," said lobbyist J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, who represents the Florida Institute of CPAs.
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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
Capitol Update, a half-hour TV program on the day's legislative highlights distributed by the Sunshine Network, airs weekday evenings on a number of public stations. Some government access channels also offer gavel-to-gavel coverage of some floor sessions and committee meetings. Check TV Times for schedules.
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From the Times state desk
From the state wire