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    Legislature in brief

    Today is the 17th day of the 60-day session.

    By LUCY MORGAN, ALISA ULFERTS and Times wires

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 7, 2002


    A bill moving in the House would ban state financial aid for university students who are citizens of countries the U.S. State Department says support terrorism.

    "We're worried about getting our kids an education and we're certainly not interested in educating students whose countries are out to get us or that are harboring people who are out to get us," said Rep. Dick Kravitz, R-Jacksonville, sponsor of HB 665.

    Countries listed as supporting terrorism include Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

    The House Colleges and Universities Committee has approved the bill. It has two more committees to pass to reach the House floor.

    Some question the bill's fairness.

    "My concern is about innocent people suffering the consequences of Sept. 11 and the collateral damage that's done," said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center in Miami. "We all want to feel that we're being protected and the terrorists are being kept at arm's length, but the answer is in attempting to make sure that people engaged in terrorism don't get student visas."

    Alzheimer's summit to be set

    Rep. Johnnie Byrd, R-Plant City, is calling for a statewide summit on Alzheimer's disease to coordinate the work of myriad organizations seeking a cure.

    "The cure for Alzheimer's will be found in Florida," Byrd said. "We have the researchers with the greatest knowledge."

    Byrd and House Speaker Tom Feeney on Wednesday announced plans for the summit, which will be scheduled in Tallahassee before the legislative session's scheduled end on March 22. They made the announcement on the 91st birthday of former President Ronald Reagan, who has the disease.

    Byrd's father died of Alzheimer's on Election Day 1998. Feeney's grandmother died of it when he was 10 years old.

    Byrd said the state needs to be more focused in attacking the disease and helping caregivers. "Some days we're an inch deep and a mile wide," he said.

    Casinos: a recession fighter?

    Rep. Roger Wishner doesn't want to bet that the state will survive the recession with enough money for schools, social services and care for the elderly.

    So the Sunrise Democrat has proposed a constitutional amendment (HB 1555) that would allow casino gambling in cities that have a hotel with more than 500 rooms in counties that have more than 1-million residents, as long as local voters agree. If the Legislature agreed, the proposal would go on this fall's ballot.

    The tax proceeds from the casinos would be used only for education, human services and services for the elderly.

    Instant bingo measure advances

    A measure allowing instant bingo games to be sold by charitable and veterans' groups is headed to the Senate floor, despite opposition by Gov. Jeb Bush and Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

    The bill (SB 182) was approved by the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee on an 8-1 vote. That was the last of three committees to hear the bill in the Senate. A similar measure (HB 23) is moving in the House.

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    From the Times state desk