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    Legislature in brief

    ©Associated Press
    March 23, 2002

    Voters could make it harder to close records

    Floridians will vote in November whether to make it harder for lawmakers to close records to public inspection.

    Currently, lawmakers can pass exemptions to the public records law by a simple majority in the Senate and House.

    If voters go along with a proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 1284) passed by the House 114-4 late Thursday, lawmakers would have to muster a two-thirds vote to close records.

    The measure passed the Senate earlier. Proposed constitutional amendments don't need the governor's signature.

    Poor kids' health insurer could hold back funds

    The public-private corporation that provides health insurance for poor children will be allowed to keep some of its money in reserve each year under a bill passed by the House and sent to Gov. Jeb Bush.

    The measure (SB 968) passed Friday over the objection of Democrats, who said if the Healthy Kids Corp. is allowed to set aside as much as $56-million a year, children will be deprived of coverage.

    Republicans countered that the agency already holds back money it doesn't spend -- and the bill limits it.

    Bill sponsor Rep. Ken Littlefield, R-Dade City, said the reserve fund would keep Healthy Kids from having to get a line of credit and lose money through paying interest.

    Foreigners' licenses would expire sooner

    Florida driver's licenses issued to foreigners would expire more quickly under a bill sent to Gov. Jeb Bush.

    The Senate gave it final passage, 31-6.

    Most Florida licenses are good for six years and can be held for up to 18 years without renewing them in person.

    Under the bill (CS SB 520), a driver's license held by a foreign national would expire in four years or when the person's green card or other federal identity papers expire, whichever occurs first. Foreign nationals also would have to renew licenses in person.

    Counseling mandatory in animal cruelty cases

    Anyone convicted of intentionally torturing or killing an animal would have to attend anger management classes under a bill the Legislature sent to Gov. Jeb Bush.

    The Senate voted unanimously for the measure (CS SB 1002), which is primarily aimed at teens. Police and court records show young animal killers tend to commit similar violent crimes against people later.

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