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  • Butterworth named law school dean at St. Thomas University

  • Legislature
  • Budget discord may endanger major bills
  • Glades bill heads for Senate showdown
  • Malpractice reform takes back seat to budget
  • Senate votes for making condo sprinklers optional

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story
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    Senate votes for making condo sprinklers optional

    Today is the 53rd day of the 60-day session.

    By Times staff writer, Times wires
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 25, 2003

    Floridians living in older high-rise condominiums could avoid installing fire sprinklers under a bill the Senate passed Thursday.

    By a 36-2 vote, it agreed to relax a 1998 state law requiring sprinklers in all high-rise buildings by 2014. The bill (SB 592) allows residents to opt out with a two-thirds vote of owners.

    A similar bill is expected to be heard soon by the House.

    Firefighters oppose the measure, which they say will put the lives of residents and firefighters at risk. Supporters say residents should be able to choose for themselves whether to install costly sprinklers.

    The 1998 law applies to buildings at least 75 feet high. If sprinklers are not installed by 2014, owners could face fines and condemnation. Since the early 1990s, all new high-rise buildings have been required to have sprinklers.

    Senate approves asking for increased term limits

    The Senate voted to ask voters if they still think eight is enough.

    Extending term limits from eight years to 12 is the Senate's way of telling House members they could use a little more experience.

    The Senate voted 34-4 to place a constitutional amendment on the 2004 general election ballot. The 12-year limit also would apply to school board members, who now serve as long as voters wish.

    The measure (SJR 612) is likely to go nowhere in the House.

    Panel blocks amendment viewed as excluding gays

    A House committee defeated a last-minute attempt to include language in a proposed civil rights law that would have excluded homosexuals from future protection.

    House Bill 215 seeks to broaden the Florida attorney general's power to protect people from discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status.

    When the bill was taken up by the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, wanted to include language preventing any state or local authority from adding further classifications.

    "It should be fair," Baxley said. "It should not create special classification across the state."

    Baxley's colleagues disagreed with his intentions.

    "Members, let's be frank. ... This amendment is aimed at sexual orientation," said Rep. Bob Henriquez, D-Tampa. "... It doesn't belong in this forum, and it doesn't belong in this bill."

    The bipartisan committee shouted down the amendment with a loud "no." The bill later passed with Baxley and Rep. Bruce Kyle, R-Fort Myers, objecting. The next stop is the full House.

    A similar bill received preliminary approval from the full Senate.

    - MICHAEL SANDLER

    Vision testing for older drivers is closer to reality

    The Senate unanimously passed a bill (SB 52) to require that drivers age 80 and older pass a vision test to keep their licenses. A full House vote on a companion (HB 633) is expected before lawmakers adjourn.

    Applicants could be tested at driver's license offices, or if renewing by mail, submit a physician's form saying their vision is adequate.

    After years of opposing similar measures, AARP Florida, representing 2.6-million members, lent its support to the legislation because lawmakers agreed to consider related issues, such as finding ways to improve transportation for those who can no longer drive and creating a task force to help keep elderly drivers on the road as long as possible.

    Some disabled students can now avoid the FCAT

    Some disabled students will be able to earn a standard high school diploma without passing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test under a bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. Jeb Bush.

    Bush signed the bill (HB 1739) the day after it cleared the Senate on a unanimous vote. The House voted unanimously for it last month.

    Some disabled students can now qualify for a diploma without taking the FCAT if they satisfy all other requirements and a committee decides that a disability prevents the FCAT from fairly assessing them.

    Dam would look more secure if part of reserve

    The Senate unanimously passed a bill to create a state reserve that could save the Rodman Reservoir.

    The recreational area, to be known as the George Kirkpatrick State Reserve in honor of the late senator from Gainesville, would include all of the state land from the Eureka Dam in Marion County to Buckman Lock in Putnam County.

    Gov. Jeb Bush wants to remove the dam, drain the reservoir and restore the Ocklawaha River, but creating a reserve in that area would make it more difficult. He has not said whether he would veto the bill.

    A similar bill (HB 697) is pending in the House.

    - ASSOCIATED PRESS

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