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Around the state

Constitution too easily changed, 2 lawmakers say

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 13, 2003

TALLAHASSEE -- It should take more than approval by a majority of voters to change the Florida Constitution, say two lawmakers who want to require passage by voters in 34 of the 67 counties.

Proposed constitutional amendments would still need a majority of voters statewide under the measure sponsored by state Sen. Anna Cowin and Rep. Mike Hogan. But they would also have to carry at least half the counties.

Cowin, R-Leesburg, said Wednesday the change would protect the interests of voters in smaller, more rural counties.

"The more urban counties in Central and South Florida tend to dominate overall statewide vote totals," she said.

Hogan, R-Jacksonville, compared the proposed change to the process for amending the U.S. Constitution. Amendments must be approved by three-quarters of the states.

In Florida voters have approved 39 of 44 constitutional amendments they've faced in the last 10 years. Seven, including class size reduction and pregnant pig protection measure on the 2002 ballot, would not have passed if the process Cowin and Hogan propose had been in place.

Search still on for second man in multicounty chase

LAKE WALES -- Deputies continued to search Wednesday for a robbery suspect whose cohort was fatally shot by sheriff's deputies following a multicounty police chase Tuesday afternoon.

The man eluded a large manhunt in the area Tuesday night, then carjacked a van in a supermarket parking lot near the Osceola-Polk county line Wednesday morning, Polk sheriff's Col. Grady Judd said.

Deputies have not yet been able to identify either the person who got away or the man they killed, Judd said. Both were Hispanic.

One of the men was shot 11 times by three Osceola deputies after he pointed what appeared to be a gun -- but turned out to be a BB pistol -- at them at the end of the chase in northeastern Polk County, Judd said.

"We have absolutely no idea who this person is," Judd said in a news conference Wednesday.

The pursuit Tuesday began after the two men robbed a Winn-Dixie grocery store and Walgreens drugstore in Orange County, deputies said. It continued into Osceola and Polk counties, ending when the robbers' vehicle was stopped on County Road 54 when officers put down spikes to flatten the tires. Deputies said that as the driver fled, the passenger jumped out and pointed the gun at them.

Poll: Cuban-Americans shifting hard-line views

MIAMI -- In a shift from hard-line views, a majority of South Florida's Cuban-Americans say they support dialogue with Cuban government officials, a poll found.

More than half of South Florida's Cubans support recent efforts at dialogue between exiles and Cuban government officials, according to the Miami Herald poll released Tuesday.

"Cuban-Americans in South Florida have reached the point of exhaustion at railing against the dictator and now maybe they're willing to do something differently," pollster Rob Schroth said. "These numbers indicate that a significant number of Cuban-Americans have clearly decided that ousting the dictator is not as realistic as dialogue with a democratic purpose."

The Herald poll, conducted by Schroth & Associates of Washington and Miami, surveyed 400 Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade and Broward counties Feb. 7-10. The margin of error was 4.9 percent.

In 1994, a poll also conducted by Schroth & Associates found that 18 percent of Cuban-Americans in South Florida supported dialogue while 73 percent felt the best way to topple Castro was to isolate Cuba.

Collier okays resolution against discrimination

NAPLES -- The Collier County Commission approved a resolution opposing discrimination against all county residents, including gays and lesbians.

The resolution, passed 4-1 Tuesday, calls for county staff to refer discrimination complaints to state or federal authorities.

Commissioners unanimously rejected a more far-reaching resolution on Dec. 17, saying they were uncomfortable with a provision that would have created an 11-member panel to look into allegations of discrimination.

The previous resolution specifically included protection for gays and lesbians. The new resolution does not list specific minority groups but says the county opposes all discrimination.

At least five Florida localities passed or upheld gay rights ordinances last year -- Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties and the cities of St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Orlando. Also with similar protections before 2002 were Alachua, Broward, Escambia and Leon counties, and Gainesville, Key West, Miami Beach, Tampa and Wilton Manors.

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