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Sunshine dims for Alzheimer's center

Today is the 37th day of the 60-day session.

By Times Staff Writer
Published April 9, 2003

With Speaker Johnnie Byrd's top aide looking on, a House committee moved to expand the secrecy of an Alzheimer's research center Byrd has championed.

Meetings of the Alzheimer's center board would be public only when there are discussions of spending public money, the committee decided. All other subjects, from audits to contracts to hiring, would be secret, along with minutes of such meetings.

The House budget, adopted Tuesday, would give the board $45-million to spend. Byrd is a member of the board of the Florida Alzheimer's Center and Research Institute.

"Closing access to such board meetings enables the board to be more open and frank," the bill says.

The House Committee on State Administration approved the bill (HB 387), sponsored by Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, as Byrd's chief of staff, P.K. Jameson, watched from the side. Passage came over the opposition of Curt Kiser, a former legislator who lobbies for the Florida Press Association and Florida Society of Newspaper Editors.

"I'm not aware of us doing this for anyone else," Kiser said. He said the secrecy exemption was "overly broad" and the bill fails to give a definition of "public necessity," as the Constitution requires.


Early voting would expand

Voters who have a hard time making it to the polls election day would have 10 extra days to cast their ballots under a bill moving in the Senate.

The proposal (SB 1732) would require elections supervisors to open at least one early voting site during the 10 days before election day.

"I think it's just the right thing to do. It makes voting easy," said Sen. Anna Cowin, R-Leesburg, the sponsor.

The bill has gone through committee reviews and is up for full Senate consideration.

While many counties provided early voting in some form in 2002, the bill would require early voting availability in every county.


A line to toe for tow operators

The Senate Transportation Committee approved a bill to regulate the towing industry.

The bill (SB 2128) "professionalizes the wrecker industry in Florida to ensure protection of motorists and consumers from unscrupulous tow operators," said sponsor Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa.

Tow operators would have to register yearly (a $425 fee) and be certified by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.


[Last modified April 18, 2003, 13:17:47]

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