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House panel approves scuttling runoff in 2004

By Compiled from Times wires
Published June 17, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - A House Committee Monday approved an elections bill that would eliminate the runoff primary in 2004 but restore it in 2006 unless lawmakers act to eliminate it permanently.

Elections supervisors across Florida have urged lawmakers to eliminate runoff elections because they allow little time to get absentee ballots to overseas voters. The 2004 primary election would be on Aug. 31, nine weeks ahead of the Nov. 2 general election.

Lawmakers have been divided over whether to re-establish the runoff, which was eliminated in the 2002 election under a law that restored it in 2004 if the Legislature did not act.

Gov. Jeb Bush and legislative leaders agreed to a compromise eliminating the runoff in 2004.

Some lawmakers wanted to move the first primary to July but others objected to having an election in midsummer when many voters are gone.

The bill (HB 29B) also puts in place the federal Help America Vote Act, making the state eligible for as much as $80-million in federal grants.

Inmate dies of injuries from escape attempt

FORT MYERS - One of two inmates critically injured during an escape attempt that resulted in the death of a guard at the Charlotte Correctional Institution died of his wounds Friday, authorities said.

Charles Fuston, 36, died at Lee Memorial Hospital, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.

Fuston was serving a 30-year sentence for burglary and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in Hardee County, the Florida Department of Corrections said.

Correctional officer Darla K. Lathrem, 38, was killed in the Wednesday night prison break attempt. Lathrem, armed only with pepper spray and a radio, apparently was attacked by more than one of the five inmates she was supervising on a prison yard construction work detail.

Fuston and another inmate were injured, apparently by other inmates, during the attempted breakout. The other inmate, whose name has not been released, remains hospitalized.

Three inmates, including murderer Dwight Eaglin, 27, were shipped to another prison after the breakout attempt.

No charges have yet been filed in the deaths, FDLE spokesman Larry Long said.

Coast Guard rescues nine Haitians from sinking ship

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - The Coast Guard rescued a disabled freighter's eight-member crew and a passenger Monday before the ship sank about 5 miles offshore.

The Honduran-flagged, 160-foot freighter Silhouette was carrying rice, beans, cooking oil and other goods to Haiti when engine troubles began Saturday. The ship remained adrift about a day before anchoring near Hollywood Beach, the Coast Guard said.

Petty Officer Danielle DeMarino said the crew notified officials early Monday that the freighter was filling with water. The Coast Guard dispatched a rescue boat from Fort Lauderdale to pick up the crew and passenger. The nine Haitians were being interviewed Monday at the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If they ask to remain in the United States, it would be up to the agency whether to return them to Haiti.

A salvage vessel towed the freight about 5 miles offshore, where it sank, DeMarino said.

"Because it was sinking already, our goal was to get it into deeper waters so it would not hinder navigation," she said.

[Last modified June 17, 2003, 01:48:03]

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