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    Legislature

    Panel: Let voters reconsider train

    Today is the 50th day of the 60-day session.

    ©Associated Press
    April 22, 2003


    The Senate Transportation Committee voted Monday to give voters a chance to reconsider their 2000 decision for a high-speed rail system to serve heavily populated parts of Florida.

    The proposal (SJR 1400) by Senate Democratic Leader Ron Klein of Boca Raton was approved 5-4. But it needs three-fifths support in each chamber of the Legislature to get on next year's ballot.

    "The bullet train effort does nothing to address local transportation needs and will not alleviate the gridlock problems plaguing many parts of Florida," Klein said. "This is a $20-billion boondoggle."

    Gov. Jeb Bush has also said he'd like to see the bullet train proposal go back to voters with a detailed explanation on the costs and possible tax increases needed to pay for it.

    Meanwhile, the committee voted 7-2 to approve a bill (SB 2140) authorizing the state to spend $75-million a year for 30 years to build the first phase of the project.

    Tax holiday mood stirring in Senate

    Parents would get a modest five-day sales tax holiday when buying basic school supplies and school uniforms under a bill the Senate Commerce, Economic Opportunities and Consumer Services Committee approved, 11-1.

    Sen. Les Miller, D-Tampa, cast the dissenting vote on the bill (CS SB 474) sponsored by Sen. Anna Cowin, R-Leesburg. It is scheduled to go through three other committees before reaching the floor.

    A House bill (CS-HB 137) ready for floor action would provide a bigger holiday, lasting nine days this summer for all clothing and school supplies and lasting the entire month of May for books.

    Lawmakers first created a sales tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers in 1998 and followed up with similar holidays the next three years. But they didn't pass one last year because of the state's fiscal woes.

    Kids couldn't ride in truck beds

    Beginning July 1, no minor 16 or under would be able to ride on public roads in the back of an open pickup truck or on a flatbed -- with some exemptions -- under a measure (SB 1422) approved 6-2 in the Senate Transportation Committee.

    The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Tamarac, creates specific exemptions for medical emergencies, farm work and parades.

    An identical bill (HB 103) is moving through House committees.

    Another try at grandparents' rights

    The rights of grandparents to get court-ordered time with their grandchildren would be restored under a bill a Senate panel approved.

    In recent years, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that several provisions of the state's grandparents' rights law violated the privacy rights of parents to raise children free from government interference.

    Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, the Tamarac Democrat who has pushed to restore the rights of grandparents, said he thought this bill (SB 128) was constitutional.

    Judges evaluating the visitation petitions of grandparents would base their rulings on whether they believed the child would suffer significant mental or emotional harm if kept from the grandparent.

    The legislation has two other committee stops. A similar House bill (CS-HB 1107) is awaiting action by the full floor.

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