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  • Legislators struggle to cut deal
  • Phone rates bill in Bush's hands
  • Legislature in brief
  • Senate confirms Bush's PSC choice

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story

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    Legislature in brief

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

    By ALISA ULFERTS and Associated Press
    March 22, 2002

    Commission on disabled job training near end

    A bill to abolish the Occupational Access and Opportunity Commission is headed to Gov. Jeb Bush for his signature.

    The bill, a result of a series of audits and investigations criticizing the commission that oversees job training for the disabled, reassigns that role to the Department of Education.

    The commission was created in 1999 to privatize the state's vocational rehabilitation, but quickly caught the eye of state auditors and investigators, who found rampant insider dealings and conflicts of interest.

    Current and former board members have steered business to favored customers, and a recent audit urged legislators to abolish the commission. One of those contracts went to former state Sen. George Kirkpatrick, who helped craft the legislation that created it. He resigned from the commission last month.

    Bill bars promotion of reading failures

    Third-graders who can't read couldn't advance to the fourth grade under a bill the Senate unanimously passed and sent to the House.

    Current law requires school districts to retain fourth-graders who can't read at grade level unless there's a good reason to promote them. But lawmakers are unhappy with reports about how school districts have implemented the 1999 law.

    More than 58,000 students scored at the lowest level of the reading portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test last year, according to the Education Department. But fewer than 5,200 were retained.

    The bill would allow exemptions if students are not fluent in English, have disabilities or can demonstrate an acceptable level of reading through an assessment other than FCAT.

    Under the measure, districts that don't comply with the law could lose their lottery dollars.

    A similar House bill (CS-HB 1259) is awaiting a vote.

    House rejects FCAT help for disabled students

    A proposal that would give disabled children a helping hand, such as more time, when they take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test failed in the House.

    "Please do not discriminate against disabled students," said Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, who offered the FCAT amendment to a wide-ranging education bill (CS SB 1564).

    She said special arrangements tailored to disabled students already are made for college entrance tests and the General Educational Development test that dropouts can take to get the equivalent of a high school diploma.

    But the amendment was tabled without debate, 67-48.

    A final vote on the overall bill was pending. A key feature would limit school board members' salaries to no more than that for beginning teachers.

    Tipsy driver detector approved by Senate

    Drivers with two DUI convictions would have to pass a breath test hooked up to their car's ignition under a bill the Senate passed and sent to the House.

    The interlock device required under the bill (CS HB 1057) would prevent the car from starting if a sampling of the driver's breath indicates a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.02 percent. It is also designed so no one else can breathe into the device to circumvent a true reading.

    The bill also makes it a misdemeanor to refuse a Breathalyzer test. And a third DUI conviction would become an automatic felony, permanently stripping offenders of their right to drive a car or boat in Florida. That doesn't happen now until the fourth conviction.

    Gov. Jeb Bush supports the legislation.

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    From the Times state desk