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Senate panel okays bill allowing slots at tracks

Today is the 22nd day of the 60-day session.

By ssociated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 25, 2003

A bill that would allow slot machines at all Florida parimutuel facilities was approved Monday by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

Although a similar bill was killed by the House last week, Senate President Jim King wants to keep the issue alive in a tight budget year. Some lawmakers view the approximately $1.5-billion that could be raised from expanded gambling as an alternative to deep budget cuts or higher taxes.

The bill would allow video lottery terminals, similar to slot machines, at all horse tracks, dog tracks and jai alai frontons.

But House Speaker Johnnie Byrd and Gov. Jeb Bush oppose expanded gambling.

"It ain't gonna happen," Byrd said as the Senate committee voted. "I don't see any situation where it would be acceptable."

House class size plan would employ vouchers

TALLAHASSEE -- School boards could use vouchers to lower class sizes under a bill a House panel approved Monday along party lines.

The legislation (HB 703) also would create a voucher program for kindergarten and double the size of a $50-million tax credit program that gives businesses a credit for donations to scholarships for poor children.

The 4-2 vote in the Education Innovation Subcommittee is the first vote in the House on a plan to reduce class sizes as required by an amendment voters added to the state Constitution in November. The dissenting votes were cast by the two Democrats.

Republicans praised the plan as a flexible proposal that would give school districts options in lowering class sizes. Democrats said voters did not intend to send tax dollars to private schools when they passed the class size measure.

The bill is headed next to the full Education K-20 Committee.

Last week, the full Senate unanimously approved its class size plan, which does not include an expansion of vouchers. That bill (CS-SB 1436) sets tight deadlines for school districts to start reducing class sizes in the fall.

Sign tallies state's loss of taxes on remote sales

An electronic counter over the doorway to Florida Retail Federation offices a short distance from the Capitol started keeping track of the $40 per second it estimates the state loses every second in uncollected taxes.

By the end of the two-month session in early May, the counter will hit $400-million.

The state can't collect sales tax due on remote sales -- those made over the Internet, by phone, TV or catalog.

The retail group supports a proposed uniform tax system it hopes would lead to changes in federal law to allow collection of state sales taxes on those remote sales. The issue is pending before finance and taxation committees in both houses.

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