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Around the state

Democrats want to cap state salaries at $200,000

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 20, 2003

TALLAHASSEE -- Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday proposed capping all state employee salaries at $200,000 and requiring legislative approval for any pay packages exceeding that.

It would mean the salaries of most university presidents and football and basketball coaches would have to be approved by the Legislature. Medical professionals at the three state-funded medical schools would be exempt.

"University president salaries and the salaries of other high-wage government employees are unacceptable under an administration that believes we should live within our means," said Rep. Anne Gannon, D-Delray Beach. "These increases are out of control."

Salaries of eight of the 10 university presidents top $200,000 now. University of Florida president Charles Young and University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft make the most, $350,000 and $325,000, respectively.

The proposal comes as the Legislature prepares to wrestle with a bare-bones $54-billion budget submitted by Gov. Jeb Bush that proposes, among other things, increasing tuition for students at state universities and making about $800-million in cuts to health care and social service programs.

House and Senate Democrats also proposed requiring corporations seeking government contracts to disclose how much they donate to political parties and passage of a constitutional amendment to cap the state debt.

House budget panel okays senior drug discount plan

TALLAHASSEE -- A bipartisan plan that could provide discounts of up to 50 percent on prescription drugs for 250,000 elderly Floridians won easy approval from a House budget panel Wednesday.

The program, originally proposed by Democrats but which has the backing of Republican leaders in the House, would give seniors discounts on a sliding scale based on income.

For example, the price paid by Medicare recipients currently for a 30-day supply of the heartburn drug Prevacid is about $130. Seniors could pay $59 to $74 if the plan is adopted.

The program would essentially expand the state's Medicaid program to force drugmakers to give a discount on drugs to people in the program, although the state would kick in some $27-million as well.

The measure (PCB HA-03-02) was approved unanimously by the subcommittee that deals with the health care part of the House budget. It must go to the full Appropriations Committee, and could be ready for the full House to take up next month.

Its prospects aren't certain in the Senate, although Senate President Jim King agrees with the plan's goal.

Childers trial moved from Pensacola to Crestview

SHALIMAR -- Suspended Escambia County Commissioner W.D. Childers' bribery and money laundering trial will be moved to Crestview from Pensacola, a judge said Wednesday.

Circuit Judge Jere Tolton agreed that Childers, a former Florida Senate president, wouldn't get a fair trial in Pensacola because of extensive news coverage. Crestview, in Tolton's Okaloosa County jurisdiction, is about 40 miles northeast of Pensacola.

The trial is set for March 31.

Joe Elliott was acquitted at Shalimar in December of bribing Childers and another suspended commissioner, Willie Junior, to buy a former soccer complex from him and his wife, Georgann, for $3.9-million in 2001. Childers allegedly paid the bribe to Junior.

Junior last year pleaded no contest to bribery, racketeering and other felonies and agreed to testify against Childers and others. But his ability to testify is now in doubt. He was hospitalized for several days this month after his wife found him unconscious at their Pensacola home. The family and hospital have refused to disclose the nature of the illness.

Farrakhan speech can be piped into high school

PENSACOLA -- Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan will be allowed to speak by way of satellite at Pensacola High School's auditorium Sunday over objections from Escambia County school superintendent Jim Paul, who labeled the minister's message as hateful.

The School Board Tuesday overrode Paul's decision to prohibit the Pensacola Study Group, a Nation of Islam affiliate, from using the auditorium. Board members and their lawyer said Paul's refusal was discriminatory.

Farrakhan's critics call him anti-Semitic, antiwhite and antigay.

"One of the things we cannot do, that will put us in jeopardy, is decide who can or cannot speak when we allow many other organizations, religious organizations, to use the facility," board member Ronnie Clark said.

Paul denied the request "based on the fact that Mr. Farrakhan's message is clearly divisive, hateful and most inflammatory," he said. "I cannot in good conscience allow taxpayer-purchased facilities to be used as a forum for such rhetoric."

Farrakhan's annual Savior's Day address, which this year will have an antiwar theme, is to originate from the University of Illinois at Chicago and be transmitted to 100 sites.

Woman gets 40 years in fatal beating of priest

PENSACOLA -- A woman accused of causing the death of a Roman Catholic priest by beating him with a concrete block was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Delta Sue Allen, 34, was sentenced Tuesday to the maximum term under a plea agreement.

Allen pleaded guilty to murder, robbery and battery for the death of the Rev. Oliver Barrett, who was pastor at St. Anne's Catholic Church in Brownsville for 17 years. The parish has dissolved since the Feb. 5, 2001 beating because it didn't have a priest.

Allen went to the church to seek money, then beat Barrett so savagely that he never fully recovered. He died in his native Ireland 11 months later.

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