© St. Petersburg Times
Plea for keeping record open fails
Rep. Fred Brummer, R-Apopka, made an impassioned plea on behalf of Florida's public records law Wednesday but could only shake his head in disgust when his colleagues voted in favor of closing yet another public record in the wake of Sept. 11.
The debate was on a House bill (HB 731) to exempt from public records the names and addresses of people who spray aerial pesticides.
Rep. Richard Machek, D-Delray Beach, introduced the bill by saying the exemption is needed in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Ben Wilcox, lobbyist for Common Cause, argued that the information is readily available on the Federal Aviation Administration Web site. But the House Administration Committee passed the bill 3-2.
"Thirty years ago I thought public records and public meetings were going to be a big problem," Brummer said. "But they have added to the quality of government in Florida. There is no reason to put this out of view of the public. We cannot react to everything like Sept. 11 is just around the corner."
The bill goes next to the House Smarter Government Council. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.
'Three Strikes' resuscitation plan set
Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are planning to file and pass five bills to replace a 1999 law requiring that judges impose the maximum sentences on criminals for their third violent felony.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled last week that the "Three Strikes" law violated the requirement that laws deal with only a single subject because of other provisions lawmakers added.
Gov. Jeb Bush told the House Council for Healthy Communities that he thought dividing the 1999 law into five separate measures was the "safe way" to go.
"I hope these are the first bills that pass the Florida Legislature this year," Bush said.
Seat belt bill fails in committee
An effort to allow police to pull over motorists simply because someone isn't wearing a seat belt hit a roadblock in the House.
It's against the law to ride without a seat belt in Florida, but police can only cite motorists if they pull them over for something else and notice they're not wearing one.
Rep. Irving Slosberg, whose daughter was not wearing a seat belt when she was killed in a 1996 car crash, is trying to change the law to allow police to pull people over if they see them not wearing a seat belt. His bill (HB 75) failed 9-5 in the House Transportation Committee, although a procedural move could allow it to come up again.
Slosberg, who has unsuccessfully pushed the bill and other traffic safety measures for two years, said it would go a long way toward improving the 67 percent seat belt usage rate.
"It's that simple," said Slosberg, D-Boca Raton. "The difference between life and death is a seat belt."
Opponents said the bill would distract police from more important duties.
The bill was also opposed by some black lawmakers, who say it creates the opportunity for racial profiling -- pulling over minorities without reasonable cause.
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From the Times state desk
From the state wire