Senate moves to cool down debate on smoking limits
By Times staff writers, Times wires
The Senate, which wants a compromise on the smoking amendment passed by voters, offered an olive branch Tuesday to the House.
The Senate Subcommittee on General Government approved a substitute for SB 742. This included a revised definition of what a stand-alone bar is and would also allow smoking in outdoor seating areas at restaurants.
In the revised bill, a bar that collects no more than 25 percent of gross revenue from food would be allowed to have smoking, instead of 30 percent.
The House bill does not include an exception for stand-alone bars but would allow smoking at restaurants with outdoor seating.
Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, the Senate sponsor, said he hopes the change on this sticking point shows the Senate is serious about reaching middle ground. "It's an olive branch to the Florida House," Diaz de la Portilla said. "To let them know it's a process of give and take."
-- MICHAEL SANDLER
Education appointees field some questions, get approval
The Senate Education Committee on Tuesday voted to confirm Gov. Jeb Bush's selections to the Board of Education and Board of Governors, but first put a couple of nominees through a battery of questions.
Most of Bush's appointees were confirmed together, but committee members targeted a few high-profile nominees, notably former Bush chief of staff Sally Bradshaw, current Board of Education chairman Phil Handy and Miguel De Grandy, a former House member who advised the House last year on redistricting.
Democrats asked about the level of education funding in House and Senate budget plans, and what they thought of using vouchers to help reduce public school class sizes. All appointees to the Board of Education and the Board of Governors, which oversees higher education, still must be confirmed by the full Senate.
-- ALISA ULFERTS
Anesthesia assistants take step toward acceptance
A measure pushed by doctors that would let them hire assistants to administer anesthesia was approved 12-7 in the House Health Care Committee over the strident objections of nurse anesthetists.
Nurse anesthetists, who are registered nurses and receive special additional training, say assistants don't have enough training.
But anesthesiologists -- who are doctors -- and anesthesiology assistants -- who are allowed to practice on some level in 12 other states -- say the measure (HB 1381) doesn't threaten safety because of a provision requiring doctors to be nearby when assistants are used. They also argue that the training assistants get is adequate, coming from two nationally respected medical schools.
The bill has one more stop before the full House could consider it.
Sales tax holiday near House floor but hung up in Senate
A bill to create a nine-day sales tax holiday on clothes and school supplies this summer and a monthlong one on books next month moved through another House committee.
A companion bill in the Senate is stalled in its first committee.
The House bill (CS-HB 137) cleared the Appropriations Committee and is ready for the floor.
Sponsored by Rep. Bev Kilmer, R-Quincy, it would give shoppers a break on the state's 6-cent sales tax on clothes priced $50 or less and on school supplies that cost $10 or less from July 26 through Aug. 3. It would also give a break on the purchase of books in May.
-- ASSOCIATED PRESS
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From the Times state desk
From the state wire