Sen. Les Miller in line for Senate minority leader
By Times staff writer, Associated Press
Sen. Les Miller has been elected Senate minority leader beginning in 2004.
"You put your confidence in me and I appreciate you for that," Miller, D-Tampa, told the other 13 members of the Democratic Caucus. "We may be small, but we are a force to be reckoned with."
Although outnumbered 26-14, Senate Democrats already have flexed their muscle this session by blocking Gov. Jeb Bush's call for a special election to repeal a constitutional amendment voters approved in November to reduce class sizes.
Miller, the House minority leader from 1998 to 2000, will become the first African-American to hold the post in both legislative chambers.
Elected to the Senate in 2000, Miller defeated Sen. Debbie Wasserman Shultz, D-Weston, for the top Democratic post. Sen. Rod Smith, D-Alachua, brokered a deal, under which Wasserman Shultz will head the caucus in 2006.
"That's why I called him Henry Kissinger," Miller said of Smith.
Miller, 51, manages Minority Business Enterprises/Community Development at Tampa General Hospital. He graduated from the University of South Florida in 1978.
-- ALISA ULFERTS
Panel rejects mandatory malpractice premium cuts
House Republicans on Wednesday turned back proposals to make insurance companies freeze and then roll back malpractice premiums to help doctors stay in business.
Democrats tried to tack the measures onto a broad proposal meant to rein in the cost of insurance, which doctors say is becoming too expensive for some of them to practice.
The bill (PCB HC 03-03) approved 15-6 by the House Health Care Committee included as its main element a $250,000 cap on pain-and-suffering and other noneconomic damages that doctors and their insurers must pay out in malpractice lawsuit judgments.
Rep. Susan Bucher, D-Lantana, argued that such a cap would not bring about quick relief from high insurance rates without a provision forcing the companies to lower premiums. "I think we need to roll back rates now," she said.
But the heavily Republican committee voted down rate rollback amendments on voice votes.
Bill to let old condos vote no on sprinklers advances
A bill to allow owners of units in aging, high-rise condominiums to exempt themselves from state requirements for retrofitting with fire sprinklers was approved by the House Judiciary Committee despite opposition from the State Fire Marshals Association.
The bill (HB 165) by Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Lauderdale, would allow condominiums to opt out of the sprinkler requirement if two-thirds of the owners approved. It must clear three more committees to reach the House floor.
"We don't think the government knows better than people in their condominiums," Mack said.
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