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    Legislature

    Deliberations on judges will remain closed

    Today is the 38th day of the 60-day session.

    By Times wires and staff reports
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 10, 2003


    Local boards in Florida that recommend finalists for judgeships can continue to meet in secret. A House panel Wednesday killed a bill that would have opened up judicial nominating commissions' deliberations.

    The sponsor, Rep. Fred Brummer, R-Apopka, has been a champion of open government "sunshine" and a critic of the local bar associations' influence over judicial selection. Brummer's bill would have put a constitutional amendment to voters in 2004, opening JNC deliberations. The panels' interviews of judicial candidates are already open.

    The House Judiciary Committee, nearly half of whose members are lawyers, defeated the Brummer proposal on a 14-3 vote, which effectively kills the idea for this year.

    Florida Bar lobbyist Steve Metz said opening deliberations would have a "chilling effect" that would discourage many qualified lawyers from applying for the bench.

    House says its school aid is 'real dollars'

    The House released new budget figures Wednesday showing state aid to public schools would rise by $313-million next year, or 2.75 percent. The Senate budget boosts the category by $600-million, but half of the Senate's increase is based on unspecified taxes and fees.

    Rep. Bruce Kyle, R-Fort Myers, the House Appropriations Committee chairman, said the House budget "uses real budget numbers funded by real dollars."

    "The people of Florida deserve to know what is truly funded in the Senate budget and what is funded only with make-believe dollars," he said.

    -- STEVE BOUSQUET

    Sales tax holidays would include books

    A bill to create sales tax holidays of a month on books next month and nine days on clothes and school supplies from July 26 to Aug. 3 moved ahead in the House Finance and Taxation Committee.

    The panel voted 16-5 for the bill (CS-HB 137) sponsored by Rep. Bev Kilmer, R-Quincy.

    A Senate companion (SB 474) is going nowhere.

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