Legislature in brief
By STEVE BOUSQUET, ALISA ULFERTS and Associated Press
Today is the 23rd day of the 60-day session.
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Bush lines up vital vote for Handy
When it comes to Senate confirmation of a key appointee, Gov. Jeb Bush is taking nothing for granted. He paid a call Tuesday on Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, whose absence Monday allowed Democrats on a Senate committee to temporarily block confirmation of Phil Handy as chairman of the state Board of Education.
With Diaz de la Portilla absent, the Senate Education Committee appeared deadlocked 6-6 on confirming Handy, a Winter Park financier. A tie vote would have defeated Handy's nomination, so Sen. Don Sullivan, R-Seminole, moved to delay action. In the Republican Senate, a negative vote on a top Bush appointee would be a major embarrassment to the governor.
The same panel meets Monday afternoon, and Bush anticipates a different result.
"He was fine with it. He's going to support Handy," Bush said of Diaz de la Portilla. "So my guess is that he'll be confirmed."
Attorneys plead case for more pay
With the state in an economic slump and the House and Senate fighting over taxes, it is not a good time for anyone to ask for more money. But the annual chorus of interest groups doing that is under way at the Capitol.
State attorneys from across Florida came Tuesday to push for a $3.7-million program to help prosecutors pay off student loans remaining from law school. The state would pay as much as $44,000 for prosecutors who work for the state for at least 12 years.
A bill (HB 307) sponsored by Rep. Jerry Paul, R-Englewood, giving the deal to public defenders as well, was approved by the House Committee on Judicial Oversight Tuesday. Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Tamarac, has introduced a similar bill.
The state attorneys also asked the Legislature to restore $4.2-million cut from their budgets in a special session in December.
Such help is urgently needed, state attorneys said, to reduce turnover.
House backs tying growth to water
A measure requiring local governments to better link growth decisions to available water supplies unanimously passed the House.
The bill (HB 569), sponsored by Rep. David Russell, R-Brooksville, now goes to the Senate.
It requires local governments' comprehensive plans to be coordinated with local water management districts' water supply plans. It also requires wastewater treatment facilities to study ways to reuse water.
Raises for nursing home workers
Nursing home workers would get a raise under a bill unveiled Tuesday by Rep. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon.
Under her proposal, nursing homes would have to use some of the Medicaid funds they get from the state to give nursing home workers a $1-an-hour raise.
That would force nursing homes to shift an estimated $51-million in Medicaid dollars, according to an analysis of the bill.
During a news conference, several nursing home workers testified that some of their colleagues couldn't afford health insurance on their wages and many had been unable to save for their retirement.
Argenziano's proposal comes one year after lawmakers overhauled nursing home litigation laws and adopted higher staffing standards. Argenziano said she wanted to further that overhaul by giving workers "a living wage."
The bill has several committee stops before it heads to the House chamber.
Panel okays school bus ads
School boards could allow advertising on the sides of school buses under a measure approved 11-3 by the House Education Innovation Committee, over the objections of a few members who questioned whether it would endanger children by obscuring the buses' bright yellow color and distracting other drivers.
Rep. Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, the bill's sponsor, said it would give districts a way to make some extra money.
The measure (HB 1411) has two more committee stops before it could go to the floor. There is no similar bill in the Senate.
Abuse bill obligates teachers
A lawmaker backed off his bill that would have required doctors, police officers, teachers, social workers and others to report all suspected cases of abuse, not just abuse committed by parents and caregivers.
Instead, under the bill sponsored by Rep. Carey Baker, R-Mount Dora, teachers could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor for failing to report student-on-student sexual battery. The slimmed-down measure (HB 793) cleared the House Committee on Judicial Oversight Tuesday.
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From the Times state desk
From the state wire