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    Senate nearing okay of more tribal autonomy

    Today is the 45th day of the 60-day session.

    By Times staff writers, Times wires
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 17, 2003

    A bill to give the Miccosukee Indians control over all civil and criminal matters on their Florida reservations won preliminary approval in the Senate Wednesday.

    With Senate President Jim King endorsing the bill (SB 424) as "extremely important to me," it encountered no objections from members.

    There was one joking attempt to amend it.

    Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Tamarac, tried to require the University of Florida to start calling itself the "Miccosukee Gators" to improve their image and sound more like the Florida State University Seminoles.

    "This would allow the Gators to have their own mascot," Campbell said.

    "Ugly as they are," quipped King, a Seminole fan.

    Campbell withdrew the amendment after Sen. Rod Smith, D-Alachua, suggested it had been drafted on a beer-stained napkin at Clyde's, a favorite bar for lobbyists and lawmakers near the Capitol.

    A similar bill awaiting final action in the House was amended this week to retain state civil and criminal jurisdiction for non-Indians on reservations.

    Florida law enforcement officers and prosecutors oppose the bill, but appear to be engaged in a losing battle against a horde of lobbyists hired by the tribe.


    Learning-disabled who fail FCAT could graduate

    High school seniors whose learning disabilities prevent them from passing the FCAT could still graduate under a bill the Senate sent to Gov. Jeb Bush.

    The FCAT graduation requirement could be waived for students with disabilities, such as hearing, visual and learning impairments, if they completed the courses for a standard diploma.

    "This will help this year's seniors," said the sponsor, Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville.

    Students take the graduation test as 10th-graders. If they fail the math or reading portion, they get five more chances to pass before graduation. About 12,000 high school seniors statewide who still hadn't passed the test took it again in March. They're awaiting the results, with graduation day fast approaching.

    Only students with documented disabilities are affected by the bill (HB 1739). Some lawmakers wanted a provision to allow children of recent immigrants to take the FCAT in their own language.

    Center would focus on biomedical research

    The Senate approved the biomedical research center its leader, Senate President Jim King, wants to make his legacy. But first they named the center after King's parents.

    Senators unanimously voted to create the Jim and Esther King Center for Universal Research to Eradicate Disease, or CURED, which King wants to serve as a clearinghouse for stem cell research in Florida. The center also would coordinate the donation of placentas and umbilical cord blood, both rich in stem cells.

    King's parents died of cancer, and their suffering fueled King's wish to find a cure.

    King wants to use some of the $150-million in an existing biomedical research trust fund for incentives to get women to donate tissue. He is sidestepping the religious and ethical controversy surrounding stem cell research by focusing on stem cells found in afterbirth tissues.

    The center would initially house two staffers in a modest office, though King hopes the center eventually would have its own building.

    The bill (SB 2142) now goes to the House, where a similar bill (HB 845) is still in committee.


    Cyberstalking ban awaits signature of governor

    Florida's stalking law would be broadened to specifically outlaw harassment by computer under a cyberstalking measure sent to Gov. Jeb Bush.

    The Senate unanimously passed the bill (HB 479). The House passed it last month.

    The legislation says it's a crime to threaten or harass someone over the Internet, by an instant messaging system or by e-mail.


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