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Legislature

Winners & Losers

Each year, the St. Petersburg Times summarizes the fate of major bills at the end of the regular legislative session. The regular session ended in early May, but the summary was delayed while lawmakers held two special sessions. The governor can veto bills, sign them into law or let them become law without his signature.

By Times Staff Writer
Published June 28, 2003

WHAT PASSED BUDGET, TAXES

BUDGET: A $53.5-billion spending plan, up 6.3 percent from last year. Includes $14.9-billion for public schools, with nearly $1.1-billion earmarked for class size reduction; $2.6-billion for state universities, including an 8.5 percent tuition increase; $1.4-billion for community colleges, including a 7.5 percent tuition increase; $941-million for child welfare, including 376 new positions for abuse investigators; $3.1-billion for Florida KidCare; $138-million in prescription assistance for seniors; $507-million for the Medically Needy program; and $6.26-billion for road projects and other transportation. The governor vetoed $7.2-million for a voter-mandated high-speed rail system. Signed, effective July 1.

AGRICULTURE

REGULATION: Prevents local governments, except Broward County, from regulating agriculture more strictly than the state or federal governments. July 1.

CHILDREN, FAMILIES

ADOPTION: Repeals a law requiring women who put babies up for adoption to publish newspaper ads listing possible fathers. Creates a registry for men who believe they might be the father of a child, enabling them to assert parental rights if the child is put up for adoption. Signed, in effect.

DIET PILLS: Bans the sale of over-the-counter weight loss products to anyone younger than 18. Signed, in effect July 1, 2004.

LIBRARY BOOKS: Exempts libraries from confidentiality laws so they can tell parents what overdue materials their children younger than 16 borrowed. Signed, in effect July 1.

CONSUMERS

TELEPHONE RATES: Allows increases in basic local telephone rates of as much as $7.25 a month, which might be offset by cuts in long-distance charges. Signed, in effect.

COURTS

CIVIL RIGHTS: Gives the attorney general more authority to sue businesses that discriminate. Signed, effective July 1.

COURT COSTS: Implements a constitutional amendment requiring the state to pay court costs. July 1.

PARENT-CHILD PRIVILEGE: Prohibits parents and children from being forced to testify against each other. Vetoed.

CRIME, PUNISHMENT

ALCOHOL SALES: Increases penalties for bar owners or operators who knowingly serve alcohol to minors. Signed, effective July 1.

ANIMAL FIGHTS: Makes it illegal to breed, transport or own an animal used for fighting or to work at animal fights and permits police to conduct related searches at night. Signed, in effect.

CYBERSTALKING: Adds threatening or harassing someone over the Internet to the antistalking law. Signed, effective Oct. 1.

DUI TESTING: Requires that motorists suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol submit to urine testing. Signed, in effect.

FERTILIZER: Makes it a third-degree felony to steal anhydrous ammonia, a common farm fertilizer that can also be used to make methamphetamines. Signed, effective July 1.

RESTRAINING ORDERS: Makes it easier for victims of sexual violence to get restraining orders against their attackers. Signed, effective July 1.

WORK RELEASE: Bars prison inmates from driving state vehicles to transport inmates on work release. Oct. 1.

PUBLIC CORRUPTION: Increases the maximum penalty for bribery from five to 15 years and makes it a felony for public officials to falsify documents, tamper with bids, obstruct criminal investigations or criminally misuse their offices. Signed, effective Oct. 1.

DEVELOPMENT

COMMON AREAS: Prevents common areas in new subdivisions from falling into tax delinquency, requires neighbors to be notified when an abutting property faces public auction due to delinquent taxes. July 1.

EDUCATION

CLASS SIZE: Implements the constitutional mandate to gradually reduce average class sizes in kindergarten through 12th grade. Signed, effective July 1.

FCAT: Authorizes the state education commissioner to decide whether performance on standard national tests like the SAT and the ACT can be substituted for passing the 10th-grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test as a requirement for high school graduation. Allows some disabled students to earn a standard high school diploma without taking the FCAT. Allows students who fail the FCAT to attend community college and gives non-English-speaking students extra help to pass the exam. Signed, effective July 1.

PREKINDERGARTEN: Requires a study for implementing universal prekindergarten that voters mandated in a constitutional amendment. Signed, in effect.

PRESIDENTIAL SALARIES: Limits the state's obligation to pay university presidents' salaries to $225,000 a year. Signed, effective July 1.

VOUCHERS: Increases a tax credit program for businesses that donate money for poor children to attend private schools. July 1.

ELECTIONS

PRIMARY ELECTIONS: Suspends runoff primary elections through 2004, establishes Aug. 31 as the date of the 2004 primary. Signed, effective Jan. 1, 2004.

VOTING MACHINES: Implements the national Help America Vote Act that provides federal money to update voting machines. Jan. 1, 2004.

ENVIRONMENT

EVERGLADES: Delays deadlines for cleaning up phosphorus pollution in the Everglades. A second measure changed the wording to quell congressional fears that Florida was breaking faith on a federal-state $8.4-billion cleanup plan. Signed, in effect.

DRY-CLEANING SOLVENTS: Relieves owners of property contaminated by dry-cleaning solvent from liability for diminished value of adjacent land. Effective when signed.

RODMAN DAM: Creates a state preserve intended to block removal of the Rodman Dam and restoration of the Oklawaha River. Effective when signed.

FISH & WILDLIFE

FEES: Two bills raise some hunting and freshwater fishing fees for out-of-state residents. Signed, in effect.

SEA TURTLE EGGS: Makes it a third-degree felony to possess 12 or more marine turtle eggs or to traffic in them. Signed, in effect.

GAMBLING

POKER ROOMS: Allows larger poker pots in card rooms at greyhound tracks and jai-alai frontons. July 1.

HEALTH & SAFETY

HEROISM: Permits the governor to award medals to firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement and corrections officers for gallantry beyond the call of duty. July 1.

SMOKING: Implements a constitutional amendment to ban smoking in most indoor public places, including restaurants, with some exceptions, including for stand-alone bars that get no more than 10 percent of their business from food sales. Signed, effective July 1.

HEALTH CARE

BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH: Establishes a center, named for Senate President Jim King's parents, who died of cancer, to coordinate biomedical research programs. Signed, effective July 1.

COUNTERFEIT DRUGS: Increases the maximum penalties for selling diluted or misidentified drugs and gives state regulators more authority over drug wholesalers and retailers. Signed, effective July 1.

HEALTH INSURANCE: Regulates out-of-state health insurers to stop predatory rate increases for patients who become seriously ill. Signed, effective July 1.

ORGAN DONATION: Prohibits relatives from overriding the wishes of organ donors documented on an organ donor card. July 1.

PRESCRIPTIONS: Requires doctors to write legible prescriptions. July 1.

MILITARY

CANCELED CONTRACTS: Prohibits landlords from penalizing military personnel who break leases with at least 30 days' notice when reassigned. Signed, in effect.

MOTOR VEHICLES

DRIVER'S LICENSE FEES: Raises various fees for driver's license reinstatement and renewals. Oct. 1.

HYBRID CARS: Permits drivers of hybrid electric-gas cars to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes even when they have no passengers. Oct. 1.

NO-FAULT INSURANCE: Revamps no-fault auto insurance to reduce lawsuits and fraud. July 1.

VISION TESTS: Requires vision tests for drivers 80 and older when renewing licenses. Effective when signed.

PUBLIC RECORDS

SEX CRIMES: Exempts photographs or videotapes of sex crime victims who are minors from public records law. Signed, in effect Oct 1.

WEAPONS

KNIVES: Clarifies that a law banning knives with flying blades does not outlaw switchblades and other pocketknives with folding blades. Signed, in effect.

WORKERS

MINIMUM WAGE: Prohibits cities and counties from setting a minimum wage higher than set by the federal government except for their own employees and those of local government contractors. Signed, in effect.

WORKERS' COMPENSATION: Imposes more stringent requirements for injured workers to collect disability benefits and reduces benefits for some types of injuries, in an attempt to reduce insurance rates paid by employers. Jan. 1, 2004.

WHAT FAILED

Measures that did not pass would have:

ABORTION CLINICS: Imposed cleanliness and staffing standards for abortion clinics.

ALZHEIMER'S RESEARCH: Allocated $45-million for an Alzheimer's research center at the University of South Florida in Tampa, renamed it after House Speaker Johnnie Byrd's father and exempted many of its records and activities from open-government laws.

AMENDMENT PRICE TAGS: Implemented a constitutional amendment voters approved last year to require that future proposed amendments include ballot language saying how much they would cost.

AMENDMENT SUPERMAJORITIES: Asked voters to require more than a simple majority to pass future constitutional amendments.

ANESTHETISTS: Allowed anesthesiologist assistants to administer anesthesia.

BINGO: Allowed nursing homes and similar facilities for senior citizens to run bingo games offering prizes for residents; let organizations authorized to conduct bingo sell "instant bingo" cards.

BLUEPRINTS: Closed blueprints for office towers, theme parks and other privately owned structures to public review for security reasons.

BRIGHT FUTURES: Capped Bright Futures college scholarship amounts for a year even if tuition increases.

CHILD ABUSE: Added church employees, except clergy, to the list of people, including doctors and teachers, required to report suspected child abuse and neglect.

CHIROPRACTIC SCHOOL: Established a chiropractic school at Florida State University.

CITIZEN INITIATIVES: Asked voters to approve a constitutional amendment prohibiting future amendments through citizen initiatives unless they change or repeal existing constitutional provisions, involve fundamental rights or change the basic structure of government.

CLONING: Banned human cloning for any reason, or outlawed human cloning for reproductive reasons but allowed it for some medical research.

CRUISES TO NOWHERE: Banned gambling cruises.

DEATH PENALTY: Raised the minimum age for the death penalty from 17 to 18; gave juries the sole power to impose the death sentence in first-degree murder cases.

ERA: Approved the proposed federal Equal Rights Amendment.

FELONS' RIGHTS: Restored the civil rights of felons who have completed their sentences.

FOREIGN STUDENTS: Denied state financial aid to students from countries that support terrorism.

GRANDPARENT PRIVILEGES: Restored rights, stricken by a court ruling, of grandparents to get court-ordered time with grandchildren.

HIGH-SPEED TRAIN: Asked voters to abolish the constitutional mandate they approved for high-speed rail.

LEADERSHIP FUNDS: Revived leadership funds, outlawed in 1989, to let legislative leaders funnel cash to favored candidates.

LIBRARIES: Required libraries to filter obscenity from computers used by minors.

MICCOSUKEES: Exempted the Miccosukee Indian Reservation from state law enforcement.

NURSING HOMES: Required nursing homes accepting public funding to increase staff salaries by $1 per hour.

PREGNANT MURDER VICTIMS: Allowed prosecutors to charge suspects with a second homicide of the same level, including first-degree murder, for women in the latter stages of pregnancy.

PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS: Required drugmakers participating in the Medicaid program to give low-income senior citizens discounts.

SALES TAX HOLIDAY: Authorized a sales tax holiday on certain clothing and school supplies.

SCHOOL PRAYER: Authorized school boards to allow prayers at graduation or other optional student assemblies.

SPORTS OFFICIALS: Made assaulting a sports official punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

TERM LIMITS: Asked voters to extend term limits from eight years to 12 for legislators and set a 12-year limit for school board members.

TEACHER UNIONS: Prohibited payroll deductions for teacher union dues used for political purposes.

TRAFFIC FINES: Increased traffic fines.

UNSAFE RIDERS: Barred minors from riding in the back of an open pickup or flatbed truck.

UTILITY CUSTOMER RECORDS: Exempted from public records laws personal customer information held by public utilities.

VIDEO LOTTERY: Allowed video lottery terminals at horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons.

WATER: Allowed local governments to veto groundwater pumping projects within their boundaries; required the state to issue reports every six months on water pumped in and out of underground storage wells.

[Last modified June 28, 2003, 07:27:53]


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