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  • No-smoking bills head in different directions
  • Experts question Census data on same-sex couples
  • No-fault reform bill draws opposition from both sides
  • Former state tech chief acquitted of grand theft
  • Witness against Childers can testify, judge rules
  • Lawmakers may prescribe penmanship for doctors
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  • Senate leader is not buying into Bush budget proposal
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  • Legislature 2003: Sen. Les Miller in line for Senate minority leader

  • From the state wire

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  • 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
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  • 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
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  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
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  • 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
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  • 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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    No-smoking bills head in different directions

    Smoking ban faces ashes in the Senate, breath in the House

    By LUCY MORGAN, Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 13, 2003

    TALLAHASSEE -- In November, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to ban smoking in almost every public place.

    Now it's up to the Florida House and Senate to implement the seemingly simple measure, and they are going in opposite directions.

    The House wants to ban smoking everywhere except in private homes, some hotel rooms and standalone bars.

    The Senate, however, would allow smoking in designated rooms at airports, in standalone bars, in tobacco shops, tobacco factories and wherever it is part of "scientific, political, religious, ideological or other expressive speech or activity."

    Some lawmakers complained that the Senate's exemptions are "big enough to drive a cigarette truck through."

    The Senate also would require restaurants to post no-smoking signs on every wall and table and include the ban in advertising. The restaurant smoking ban would extend to outdoor patios and decks.

    The Senate's bill (SB 742) made its first appearance at the Senate Regulated Industries Committee Wednesday and brought howls of outrage from restaurant owners and clean-air advocates alike.

    "It violates the spirit and intent of the constitutional amendment approved by voters," said Curt Kiser, a former senator lobbying for the American Cancer Society.

    "It would be devastating to the restaurant industry," said Carol Dover, president of the Florida Restaurant Association. "You could name it, 'An Act to Stick it to the Restaurant Industry.' It's unfair."

    Dover urged the committee to allow smoking in outdoor restaurant areas, noting that the amendment was designed to protect workers in enclosed spaces.

    The advertising and sign requirements, meanwhile, could cost Florida restaurants as much as $75-million a year, she said.

    Dover and several restaurant owners also objected to a provision that would allow smoking in bars that derive as much as 30 percent of their income from food. The constitutional amendment referred to standalone bars where food is incidental. Part of the debate involves defining incidental.

    Current law requires a bar to get a restaurant license if it serves more than popcorn and prepackaged snacks.

    The House version sidesteps that debate and simply bans smoking in bars as well as restaurants.

    Only Richard Giese, former commander of the Florida Disabled American Veterans, was happy because organizations such as his could allow smoking at events where only members are in attendance.

    Nearly every member of the committee opposed some element of the bill, but agreed to vote for it to keep the issue moving. Its sponsor, Republican Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla of Miami, said the House and Senate must iron out their differences before the bill can pass.

    In the House, Speaker Johnnie Byrd and Rep. Manuel Prieguez, chairman of the Business Regulation Committee, denounced the Senate bill. The House version, they said, will more clearly echo the amendment voters approved.

    "If the Senate votes out their bill, it would fly in the face of everyone who voted for the amendment," said Prieguez, R-Miami. "They are creating exemptions like they were going out of style. They put things in there I can't believe and took a direct shot at the restaurant association. They created exemptions that have never been discussed."

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    Lucy Morgan

    From the Times state desk