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Of 'turkeys' and 'teasers'

Today is the final day of the 60-day session.

By Times staff writer, Associated Press
Published May 2, 2003

While working through the night Wednesday, the House attached several health care issues to one bill to satisfy different groups. But the so-called "train" of attachments appeared dead on arrival in the Senate.

The reason: Tucked inside it was $35-million for House Speaker Johnnie Byrd's Alzheimer's research center at the University of South Florida. Senators oppose the project and consider it a "turkey," pushed by an individual lawmaker using his clout. They say big-ticket items like that should be resolved as part of the budget.

"We want to save the appropriations issues for the special session on the budget," said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

The bill (SB 1252) exempts five hospitals that want to perform open-heart surgeries from a certificate-of-need review. The provision was championed by two lobbyists, Brian Ballard and former Byrd aide Michael Corcoran, who represent the hospitals. It is a top priority of Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie.

The train also provided $15-million for the James and Esther King Center for Universal Research to Eradicate Disease, a biomedical research fund named in memory of the parents of Senate President Jim King. Also included was a chiropractic school at Florida State University, King's alma mater and a priority of Senate Majority Leader Dennis Jones, R-Seminole.

"It was a teaser," Lee said.


Senate passes no-fault reforms

The Senate passed a bill Thursday that is designed to reduce no-fault auto insurance costs by cracking down on rampant fraud and reducing the number of lawsuits.

The bill (SB 1202) was approved 40-0 and sent to the House, which has its own version of the measure (HB 1819).

Senate President Jim King said aides to Gov. Jeb Bush were working with House leaders to ensure the passage of a bill.

Florida adopted no-fault auto insurance in 1971 as a way of paying for accident injuries without resorting to lawsuits, but litigation has increased in recent years and has been a factor in driving up costs of the insurance.

Under no-fault, drivers purchase personal injury protection insurance to cover their injuries in accidents regardless of fault.

A statewide grand jury found that fraud was prevalent, with people staging fake accidents, charging for medical treatment and tests that were unnecessary or not performed and overcharging for medical procedures.

The bill would increase penalties for fraud and automatically abolish no-fault in two years unless the Legislature votes to keep it.

Provisions sought by the insurance industry that would have imposed fee limits on doctors and required a mediation process to resolve disputes over coverage as an alternative to lawsuits were removed from the bill.

Parents could see library records

Parents will be able to learn the titles of overdue books checked out of libraries by their kids if Gov. Jeb Bush signs a bill (SB 192) passed Thursday by the House, 115-1.

Confidentiality laws currently prevent libraries from disclosing to parents what materials their children have borrowed, even though the parent may be responsible for the fines if the books are overdue.

The bill allows parents of children younger than 16 to learn the titles of overdue materials checked out by their children.


[Last modified May 2, 2003, 02:31:39]

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