St. Petersburg Times
Florida Legislature Session
Legislature 2003Nov. 23, 2003
Lawmakers fly free on taxpayers' tab
It costs thousands of dollars for legislators to use state planes to fly home - even though the law restricts the planes from commuting purposes.

August 13, 2003
Byrd wants abortion issue put on ballot
TALLAHASSEE - House Speaker Johnnie Byrd said Tuesday he'll push for a constitutional amendment proposal on next year's ballot that would restore a law requiring girls 17 or younger to tell their parents before getting an abortion.

August 12, 2003
Session will test deal made on malpractice
House and Senate negotiators agree on a $500,000 cap, but the rank and file may not buy it.

August 9, 2003
Battle over, lawmakers set to tidy up
After months of strife, only the formality of a final session remains for legislators to finalize a medical malpractice deal.

August 1, 2003
Medical malpractice session III called off
TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday postponed a special legislative session scheduled to start next week, hoping to give lawmakers more time to negotiate a compromise in the medical malpractice debate.

July 22, 2003
Business remains as session fizzles
Senators expect to be targets of harsh tactics as malpractice reform drags on.

July 20, 2003
Lawmakers like oath's effect
Lobbyists' sworn testimony during malpractice hearings differs from prior claims.

July 18, 2003
Bush orders special election
TALLAHASSEE - A special election was called by Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday to fill the House seat left vacant when John Carassas, R-Belleair, resigned to head Attorney General Charlie Crist's Tampa office.

July 17, 2003
Bush muscles senators for deal
As the governor extends the special session, he tries to squeeze Republicans who disagree with his medical malpractice cap.

July 16, 2003
Hitch in malpractice deal? Bush
Two days of testimony seemed to rekindle resolve for a reform deal. But as the House and Senate began to bend, the governor refused to flinch.

July 15, 2003
Panel sharpens malpractice queries
Senators swear in lobbyists, lawyers and executives as they continue plowing through the malpractice morass.

Bush promises Botswana help to fight AIDS
But in Washington, the House approves only two-thirds of the money for a global program.

July 9, 2003
Bush's rebuke incenses senators
The governor's e-mail to 22,000 GOP members criticizes Senate Republicans over medical malpractice. Angered, they have all but shut down today's start of a special session.

July 3, 2003
GOP infighting grows on eve of session
The animosity between the governor and Senate Republicans increases just before a special session on medical malpractice.

June 28, 2003
Sessions end with business undone
For three testy sessions, legislators wrestled with critical and complex issues. They didn't get to them all.

Gov. Bush calls lawmakers back for 4th session
The governor says if lawmakers can't resolve the malpractice issue this time, he'll call them back until they do.

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. This chart notes which laws Gov. Jeb Bush has signed and when they take effect. Some bills that passed are still awaiting his action, in which case only the effective date is noted. The governor has called lawmakers into special session again July 9 to address medical malpractice insurance rates. To find out the status of a particular bill, call 1-800-342-1827 toll-free during business hours or visit and click on Governor's Office, then on Laws, Executive Orders and Legislative Actions.

June 19, 2003
Senate supports FCAT alternatives
They pass a bill that would allow seniors who fail the FCAT to use alternatives such as SAT scores to get a diploma.

Antismoking research funds may restore
TALLAHASSEE - Lawmakers on Wednesday moved to save antismoking research threatened by legislative budget fights.

Malpractice debate headed for overtime
Entering the final day of a special session, big differences remain in House and Senate proposals to control doctors' insurance costs.

New law enhances state's power to uphold civil rights
TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill Wednesday that will empower the attorney general to file civil rights lawsuits against businesses that engage in a pattern of discrimination.

No runoff primary in 2004 either
TALLAHASSEE - Florida's runoff primary - a catapult for some of the state's best-known Democratic politicians - will be eliminated again in 2004 under a measure passed by the Republican-led Legislature.

June 18, 2003
Senate panel says yes to revamped malpractice cap
Senators said no to damage limits until Tuesday, when a committee voted yes on a $500,000 cap.

June 17, 2003
Lawmakers sniff higher malpractice cap compromise
Higher award caps and other ideas dim chances that the session will meet Bush's Thursday deadline.

Panel rejects special session fundraising ban
TALLAHASSEE - Republicans on Monday rejected a proposal to ban political fundraising during special sessions, but some said they might consider it in the future.

June 16, 2003
Fighting Chance
New state and federal regulations threaten the last vestiges of cockfighting, a practice animal rights advocates would be glad to see end. But it remains a popular and proud tradition for enthusiasts and breeders who hope for a ...

June 9, 2003
Budget pushes state debt past ceiling
TALLAHASSEE - The $600-million in bonds in next year's budget for reducing class size will push the state's debt further above the target limit set by law, but Gov. Jeb Bush said there's no immediate cause for alarm.

June 7, 2003
Lawmakers don't merit raise now, says one
Lawmakers should not be taking a pay raise July 1 after postponing pay raises for all other state employees until Dec. 31, says Rep. Ron Greenstein, D-Coconut Creek.

June 2, 2003
Insurer vows to cut rates if bill passes
TALLAHASSEE - Florida's largest malpractice insurance company is pledging that it will lower rates by 20 percent on average if a bill proposed by Gov. Jeb Bush to cap awards in malpractice lawsuits passes intact.

June 1, 2003
Bush's party didn't always follow lead
The governor's popularity didn't help him get his way with all GOP lawmakers.

May 31, 2003
State to stash $1-billion windfall
Gov. Bush wants to save the money to avoid tax increases next year. Some legislators argue that it's needed now.
Class size starts with small down payment
Legislators allocate $1-billion for the first year of the program, hoping the costs will be less of a burden in the future.
Legislators' perks may push limit of law
Critics say tickets and trips funneled through political parties sidestep disclosure requirements.

May 28, 2003
Everglades bill close to approval
The new law is meant to fend off concerns about state changes to plans for the cleanup.

State caps its pay for college chiefs
Florida lawmakers unhappy about the escalating salaries of university presidents passed a bill Tuesday that caps the amount of state money the presidents can receive at $225,000 annually.

May 25, 2003
Vote on vouchers a virtual letdown
Advocates dreamed of bulking up alternatives to public school, but legislators delivered just one new choice: online learning.

Byrd letter: District won't feel the pinch
To refute what he calls "propaganda" penned by Hillsborough County School Board officials, House Speaker Johnnie Byrd this week sent a letter home with students who go to the Plant City elementary school his children once attended.

State keeps adding specialty auto tags
TALLAHASSEE - Choose a plate, any plate.

May 24, 2003
Byrd brings a little bit back for Plant City
After failing to secure funding for an Alzheimer's center, the House speaker gets a Plant City building into the budget.

State universities dodge deepest cuts to funding
Tuition will rise, and there will be $40-million less than last year. Still, it could have been worse, presidents say.

May 23, 2003
King says Senate may be flexible on limiting malpractice damages
TALLAHASSEE - Easing a Senate stance against limiting medical malpractice lawsuit damages, Senate President Jim King said Thursday that some type of damages cap is likely to be part of a legislative solution to the rising cost of insurance for doctors.

May 22, 2003
Insurance fee slips through
TALLAHASSEE - On a Tuesday afternoon midway through the Florida Legislature's regular session, the House Insurance Committee played to a sparse crowd except for the usual band of industry lobbyists.

State budget obstacle vanishes
After talking with the governor, the House speaker drops his demand for funding Alzheimer's research at USF.

Everglades action leaves all red-eyed
The legislative blur leaves even the knowledgeable dazed.

'Columbia' added to auto tags
Gov. Jeb Bush signs the license plate bill, as well as one banning diet pill sales to minors.

Senate approves auto insurance reforms
The legislation, which would abolish no-fault insurance in 2007, cracks down on fraud.

Democrats say Byrd misspent tax money
The speaker is accused of using taxpayer funds to send a political message.

May 21, 2003
Speaker's pet project imperils budget talks
Johnnie Byrd's plan for a USF Alzheimer's center is an unfair pork barrel project in a year fraught with sacrifice, senators say.

'Looks like a stinker'
Bush threatens to veto a $20 fee on car insurance policies that slipped unheralded through the Legislature and would go directly to agents' pockets.

May 20, 2003
Bush wants tweaks to Everglades' bill
The governor will sign what he calls "strong legislation," but wants some opponents' criticisms addressed.

Byrd flier defends schools' funding
The House speaker spends public funds on a mailing justifying his tax policies.

Speaker's hand very much in budget talks
Byrd's intense involvement in joint negotiations is slowing things down, some say.

Workers' comp study raises key questions
Insurance experts have concerns about the financial projections used by lawmakers to propose changes to the law.

May 19, 2003
Budget rift looms as special session nears end
The House and Senate are about $80-million apart for basic school spending as the final full week of the special session begins.

May 15, 2003
Senate panel okays revived civil rights bill
TALLAHASSEE - A civil rights bill that failed to pass in the final moments of the regular legislative session cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday and headed to the floor for a possible vote.
Workers' comp bill gets its 2nd wind
In an about-face, the governor asks legislators to tackle the issue during their special session.

May 14, 2003
House gives up teacher bonuses
Instead, school spending will rise. Meanwhile, Johnnie Byrd's agenda add-ons have some worried.

May 13, 2003
'They'll know we're watching'
A Pinellas delegation brings a message to the Capitol, urging no cuts in public school funding.

Restart wobbly for lawmakers
Bickering and failed attempts to add measures in the House mark day one of the special session.

Chaos leaves lawmakers unsure what they did . . .
Florida legislators say that in the pell-mell rush of the session, they sometimes don't know what they are voting on, or even if they voted.

May 12, 2003
In tax tangle, Byrd keeps his footing
Neither Senate pressure nor editorial jabs have budged the House speaker during a budget showdown.

Lawmakers working on bottom line
House and Senate leaders agree to a spending limit and to let the committees work out the details.
May 11, 2003
Insurers frame workers' comp change
Lawyers appear to have lost the battle, in which lobbyists and money shaped legislation overhauling the system.

May 9, 2003
Legislators may add insurance to agenda
Leaders hope to consider workers' compensation and auto insurance fraud in the special session.

Universities predict suffering if budgets are cut
But Gov. Bush calls the outcry from university presidents premature because the state budgetis still unformed.

Legislature dutifully passed bills for GIs
Legislators hope the show of support will help state bases survive closings in the next two years.

May 7, 2003
Legislators return to take up budget struggle on Monday
Gov. Jeb Bush orders the 16-day special session so lawmakers can pass a $52.2-billion budget.

May 6, 2003
Byrd denies Bible quote was jab
He quoted a verse from Judges in the House for its "insightful" view, he says - not because it referred to "no king."

May 5, 2003
Public records dodge bullets
A number of proposed exemptions that would close records never reach a final vote during the session.

May 4, 2003
Deal means even more drastic cuts
A "go-along Senate" is bad news to many of those hoping to avoid the deepest cuts proposed by Florida's House.

Environmentalists grumble over bills
Environmental groups ask Gov. Jeb Bush to veto pro-business measures passed at the end of the legislative session.

Byrd e-mail praises House's failed efforts
TALLAHASSEE - House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, in an e-mail sent out late Friday night, did his own "end of session review" and claimed credit for passage of medical malpractice reform, workers' compensation reform, a plan for reducing class sizes and a "family friendly budget."

May 3, 2003
Lawmakers pack it in until May 12
Gov. Bush rebukes Byrd and King for failing to pass a budget.

Legislators go home: no budget, no class size cuts
What's in store for Bush? Measures dealing with phone rates, fish permits, hospital programs and ethics codes.

DCF Secretary Regier confirmed
Friday was the final day of the 60-day session.

Lawmakers preserve eviction protection
A bill sent to Gov. Jeb Bush secures the fund that shields mobile home owners from thousands of dollars in moving costs if park owners sell their land.

May 2, 2003
Bush to Legislature: Work together, get your job done
The governor says he will watch the behavior of both chambers' leaders before scheduling a special session on the budget.

Age 80 and behind the wheel
As lawmakers pass a bill requiring older drivers to take vision exams, many targeted by it applaud.

State likely to end local agriculture rules
Bay area legislators failed in their efforts to get Hillsborough County exempted.

This time around, phone companies win
Lawmakers approve the deregulation bill. Verizon customers may see up to $5 increases over four years.

Agreement on class size running out of time
The Senate adopts the plan, but the House probably won't vote on the measure.

Doctors ready to stop practice without reform
North Florida physicians say they won't work after today without a bill to lower malpractice insurance rates.

Of 'turkeys' and 'teasers'
Today is the final day of the 60-day session.

Senate adopts less restrictive smoking ban
The House version bans smoking in all workplaces, but senators provide exceptions.

Tweaked workers' comp bill may be too late, for now
Rules require a waiting period on what senators changed and approved, but the session will be over before it is up.

May 1, 2003
Phone rates on verge of soaring
A bill that would allow companies to raise basic rates as much as $7.25 in the next four years appears headed for the governor's approval.

Speaker's project helps stall budget
Senators question the House leader's plan to spend millions of tax dollars on an Alzheimer's institute at USF in memory of his father.

Governor to lawmakers: Back to work
With no budget agreement, the governor wants legislators back and in special session in less than a week. Senate leaders squirm.

Legislature delays Everglades cleanup 7 years
Republicans put the court-negotiated, $8-billion restoration on hold. A judge has called a hearing for Friday.

Medically Needy program extension passes
An emergency stopgap measure keeps it running another two months.

Organ donors' decisions final
Today is the 59th day of the 60-day session.

Schools left with questions about tuition, salaries
Universities and public schools can only wait and see what the fate will be for several bills.

Senate stalls car insurance fraud bill
Senate President Jim King held out hope that a compromise could be reached today on the measure.

April 30, 2003
Florida budget? Not from this session
Legislators decide an agreement is out of reach, and that blocks many major issues related to the spending plan.

House debate: Do organ donors' rights supersede families'?
Today is the 58th day of the 60-day session.

Everglades bill draws powerful enemies
U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young and five colleagues say delaying the Everglades cleanup from 2006 to 2013 would be a mistake.

Harsh side of budget cuts
Preschool, soup kitchens, programs for abused and neglected kids. Social services are disappearing or shrinking.

Senate backs bill that could boost local phone rates
Phone companies wrote the measure. The average monthly bill could rise by up to $7.25 in the next four years.

Bush tries to focus claims bills on victims
The bills, necessary for claims exceeding $200,000, too often enrich lawyers and lobbyists, the governor said.

Latest ballot dispute? Storage
Palm Beach County's notorious "butterfly" ballots and other records take up 5,000 cubic feet.

April 29, 2003
Medically Needy plan gets reprieve
The deal still must be approved by the state Senate, which is expected to consider it today.

Bright Futures, tuition break GOP's ranks
TALLAHASSEE - Some Republicans bucked the House leadership Monday on two big higher education issues: changes to Bright Futures scholarships and a potential 12.5 percent tuition increase.

Even opponents oppose changes to Glades bill
Environmental and sugar industry interests decry revisions in the Senate's bid to delay restoration.

Budget negotiations hit two more bumps
Legislators make some progress but can't agree on a tax holiday or funding for an Alzheimer's center at USF.

Budget writer bids for 2006 House speaker
His work on the education budget whacked a hornet's nest, but he sees it as a platform.

Condos could get to vote on sprinklers
A bill heading toward approval would let owners of older high-rise units sidestep a law requiring sprinklers.

Crist's 'comfort' level rises on phone rate bill
Today is the 57th day of the 60-day session.

April 26, 2003
Mary Jo Melone: Critical legislation drowning in dogma
There comes a time when you have to say enough.

Some fear they'll die if state benefit lapses
As lawmakers scramble to stall cuts, 27,000 sick Floridians look to charities for help and consider how death will come.

April 26, 2003
Lucy Morgan: Happy to fiddle as budget consumes
I've tried to think of something else that looks as ugly as the Florida Legislature this week.

House's solution: hand out vouchers
To cut class size, the House votes to increase the number of vouchers given out. The Senate says no way.

Banned in '80s, campaign tool might return
They're called leadership funds, and some worry they'll give special interests a beeline to legislators. Advocates say they'll bring more accountability.

Budget negotiations to continue privately
State legislative leaders tentatively agree to its overall cost, but details still have to be worked out and the session lengthened.

Workers' comp amendment levels legal fees
If insurers spend more on defense than workers are allowed, the amendment would eliminate the cap for plaintiffs.

April 25, 2003
Budget discord may endanger major bills
Spending offers swing back and forth between the House and Senate, but accord eludes the day.

Glades bill heads for Senate showdown
Both sides in the fight to delay the Everglades cleanup claim the other guys are dead wrong. A Senate vote is scheduled today.

Malpractice reform takes back seat to budget
Senators pass three bills, but budget work might slow accord with the House.

Senate votes for making condo sprinklers optional
Today is the 53rd day of the 60-day session.

Stung by ad blitz, lawmakers fire back
A college student group used radio ads, phone calls and Web site to criticize House budget cuts.

April 24, 2003
House switches stance on fast train

Members will again debate giving voters a second chance on the constitutional amendment approved in 2000.

Class size bill: more vouchers, faster diplomas?
The House version may include voucher expansions and an accelerated high school program.

Senate would delay Medically Needy cutback
Today is the 52nd day of the 60-day session.

Budget talks: all bluster, no deal
House and Senate leaders trade offers and accusations, but remain millions apart as the session spins into its final days.

If eight is enough, is 12 better?
TALLAHASSEE -- Tired of seeing politicians make a career of public service, Florida voters decided a decade ago that eight is enough.

Judge intervenes on Everglades
U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler, concerned that legislators may delay the cleanup deadline, calls a hearing.

April 23, 2003
Legislators give GOP donor exemption

Lawmakers give a developer the green light to bypass state review for adding new beds.

Senate: Give Glades cleanup 10 more years
That's 10 years fewer than the House wants. Washington watches nervously as the two restoration bills evolve.

House rejects Bush's bid for revote on bullet train
Lawmakers rebuff the governor on a 61-57 vote.

Gambling ship operators offer tax deal
Today is the 51st day of the 60-day session.

Panel approves hikes in fees, fines
Starting in October, the state would hit up traffic violators and out-of-state hunters for extra money.

April 22, 2003
Panel: Let voters reconsider train

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

Bid to rein in insurance costs unravels
A Senate panel supports the state's chief financial officer, but a House panel sides with the insurance industry.

April 20, 2003
Amid impasses, clock ticks on session's fate

House and Senate leaders are holding out on naming their specific price for adjournment.

April 19, 2003
Audit: Bidding on drugs could save millions

TALLAHASSEE -- Requiring drugmakers to give rebates as a condition of having their products used in the state's Medicaid program has saved Florida more than $80-million. But more could be saved if pharmacy networks had to bid for the Medicaid business, an audit concluded.

Column: Cut Bright Futures? It's risky business
To suburban swing voters who often decide elections, it may not matter much whether the Legislature limits medical malpractice damage awards or raids affordable housing money.

Break for electric carts parked in tax package
The driver: a legislator who happens to live where the "low-speed vehicles" are rampant.

April 18, 2003
Lawmakers try to draw shade on public records

Legislators are pitching bills that would hide information on law enforcement, public utilities and other agencies and officials.

April 17, 2003
With time short, Legislature has miles to go

The budget, class sizes and medical malpractice top the list of unfinished business.

Senate nearing okay of more tribal autonomy
Today is the 45th day of the 60-day session.

Firms pushing phone rate hikes enriched parties' coffers
TALLAHASSEE -- Telecommunications firms and their lobbyists contributed more than $5-million to Florida campaigns and political parties before seeking what could be the largest increase in home telephone service rates in state history.

April 16, 2003
With few friends, workers' comp bill moves ahead

Senators on both sides of the issue find things to dislike -- but it clears the Banking and Insurance Committee, anyway.

Senate moves to cool down debate on smoking limits
Today is the 44th day of the 60-day session.

Senate panel approves malpractice measures
The bill would cut insurance rates and shield emergency room doctors from lawsuits.

April 15, 2003
'Turkeys' may gobble $400-million

Leaders of the Florida House and Senate feud over whether there is enough money for lawmakers' pet projects, and whether the items are needed at all.

Panel favors phone rate hike
A House committee approves a plan to let companies raise basic phone charges if they first lower long-distance fees.

Panel okays ban on human cloning
TALLAHASSEE -- All human cloning, whether for research or reproduction, would be banned in Florida under a measure approved Monday by a state Senate committee.

Digital ID cost may be pushed onto fees
A House committee leaves unchanged license fees for most drivers, but hikes other costs.

Bar to foreign student aid killed
A panel rejects denying aid to all students from nations labeled as terrorist-friendly.

School bus stops could be moving
Today is the 43rd day of the 60-day session.

Workers' comp remade in insurers' image
An all-Republican House committee tossed a compromise proposal and has offered a bill that mirrors industry wishes.

April 12, 2003
Senate panel begins to review school vouchers

TALLAHASSEE -- About 9,000 disabled students in Florida get taxpayer-funded vouchers so they can go to private schools. Now, concerns that some private schools are taking the state's money and not educating students properly have prompted the state Senate to investigate.

House gambit forcing Senate to weigh teacher pay plan
Linking that and the class size issues will strip money from higher education, Senate President Jim King warns.

April 11, 2003
Campaign hurls e-mails at tuition hike

Participants in the prepaid college tuition plan have been encouraged to protest a proposed tuition increase.

Water drilling hurts environment, Byrd says
The House speaker wants to let municipalities veto construction of groundwater wells.

House relents in budget tug of war
The Senate gets budget documents after a standoff with the House.

Regulatory exemption for hospital near passage
Today is the 39th day of the 60-day session.

April 10, 2003
Basic telephone rates may increase sharply

A report says a House bill would drive up basic service costs by as much as 20 percent per year.

Capitol threatens area's water peace
A House bill would kill no-veto provisions on water boards, an agreement vital to Tampa Bay Water, officials say.

Deliberations on judges will remain closed
Today is the 38th day of the 60-day session.

Malpractice reforms head to the Senate
TALLAHASSEE -- Protection from lawsuit damages for emergency room workers, a rollback of insurance rates and an effort to cut medical errors are part of a broad measure aiming to lower doctors' insurance costs that is headed to the Senate floor.

A most special session
TALLAHASSEE -- As the final hectic weeks of the legislative session unfold, state Rep. Loranne Ausley is juggling committee meetings at the Capitol with visits to the hospital to see her newborn.

April 9, 2003
House plan revives summer school

Lawmakers are worried about students failing the FCAT. School districts say they're already strapped.

State land sales seen as tax salve for counties
Selling off state acreage could help a handful of counties, but four counties that would qualify already are in booming South Florida.

$1.4-billion divides lawmakers
The two chambers' budget proposals are $1.4-billion apart, and the leaders are not budging on taxes or spending.

Senate plan: Spend $1-billion
Senators haven't said yet how they would generate the revenue.

Critics hang high-rate rap on new phone bill
Those opposing it say it will raise calling rates, even as a Senate committee passed it.

Sunshine dims for Alzheimer's center
Today is the 37th day of the 60-day session.

April 8, 2003
Foreign student funding targeted

A move to end funding for students from certain nations just barely passes a House committee.

Insurance proposal sets up fierce fight
A plan to let the state regulate group health insurance policies sold by out-of-state companies is a hot issue.

Departments' merger favored
Today is the 36th day of the 60-day session.

Senate panel wants sprinkler law relaxed
Condo owners should have a say-so in the costly installation of the fire safety equipment, a Senate committee decides.

April 6, 2003
Caps just part of rift between two chambers

April 5, 2003
House raids housing fund to avoid seeking new taxes

Representatives present their balanced $52-billion budget proposal, with the GOP railing the Senate for calling for $1.4-billion in unspecified new taxes.

Governor supports revised approach to phone rates
Today is the 33rd day of the 60-day session.

Opinion: Budgets are clouding Florida's future
Dark clouds loom today over the Sunshine State, and the forecast looks gloomy as far as the eye can see.

April 4, 2003
Senate pads its budget plan

It is unclear where the extra $1.4-billion would be found. A fight with the House looms.

Crosby nomination applauded
Today is the 32nd day of the 60-day session.

Lawmakers debate nursing home bingo
Critics of the measures say Alzheimer's patients shouldn't be gambling with their own money.

Senate panel backs auto insurance bill
The measure seeks to limit the rising cost of coverage.

April 3, 2003
Everglades cleanup could be delayed

Legislation seeks to stretch the deadline by 20 years for reducing phosphorus flowing into the Everglades.

Teachers not buying state's performance bonus program
Some may find the program divisive. Others think teachers simply should be paid more.

Lawmakers debate best way to steer state budget
At the center of debate is Florida's tax system, which some say could lead the state into deep trouble if lawmakers don't look down the road as they plan now.

Legislators, Seminoles gather for FSU Day
"We're proud of the relationship we've established with FSU," a tribal leader says at the Old Capitol.

GOP lawmakers talk strategy in closed meeting
The secret meeting gives Republicans in the House a chance to prepare for budget battle with the Senate.

Owners of solvent-tainted land would escape liability
Today is the 31st day of the 60-day session.

Miccosukees can police their own, they convince House committee
TALLAHASSEE -- The Miccosukee Indians persuaded a House committee Wednesday to give them more control over their civil and criminal matters, despite pleas from sheriffs and prosecutors that such action could jeopardize the health and safety of Floridians.

April 2, 2003
Byrd's tax scruples hold back support for Internet income

TALLAHASSEE -- House Speaker Johnnie Byrd's fierce opposition to any and all tax increases is blocking the biggest goal of the Florida business community -- applying the sales tax to the Internet.

Revamped phone bill makes a comeback
Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed a telecommunications bill last year. Lobbyists say a new proposal is different.

Barflies huff, puff over House smoke plan
TALLAHASSEE -- The House voted Tuesday to ban smoking in every Florida workplace, even the stand-alone bars that many voters thought would be exempt.

Revamped phone bill makes a comeback
Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed a telecommunications bill last year. Lobbyists say a new proposal is different.

State Senate debates ERA for first time in 20 years
Supporters want Florida to be the one of the three states needed to ratify the amendment.

Mayors implore Bush
Today is the 30th day of the 60-day session.

April 1, 2003
Builders criticize plan to drain housing fund

Industry leaders defend an affordable housing trust fund. The House wants to shift $125-million to balance the budget.

Voucher clause survives panel's class-size vote
The House bill faces two more committees before reaching the floor.

Senate committee moves to boost developers' rights
A bill spurred by a court ruling against a developer would take away governments' protection from lawsuits.

Lawmakers moving to reunite state's two auditing agencies
The Senate bill's sponsor says the proposal could improve the offices' effectiveness.

March 31, 2003
Bright Futures cuts tuition for too many, lawmakers say

If academic standards are raised, thousands of students and parents counting on the scholarships won't get the money they expected.

March 29, 2003
House budget awash in tough choices

The proposal calls for tax cuts and teacher bonuses, while cutting university spending and raising tuition 12.5 percent.

School Board lobbies lawmakers on funding needs
Three members patrol the hallways of the Capitol, seeking a sympathetic ear in their fight for budget dollars.

Justice: Plan will cripple courts
A House proposal to carry out a 1998 amendment to shift costs would cut funds and undo the drug court system, he says.

March 28, 2003
Higher tolls proposed to help patch state budget gap

Motorists would see tolls rise on the Skyway and several local expressways under a proposal approved by a Senate committee.

State agencies would lose lobbyists
TALLAHASSEE -- Rep. Gaston Cantens wants to eliminate the jobs of most state employees who lobby for their agencies.

House would snuff most smoking ban exemptions
Its bill would not allow smoking in stand-alone bars, something voters said was okay.

Penalty in pregnancy deaths could increase
Today is the 25th day of the 60-day session.

March 27, 2003
New incentive could bring stronger seat belt law

Today is the 24th day of the 60-day session.

Legislature set to relax rules for two hospitals
Critics say the proposal benefits a GOP donor. One of the hospitals didn't request the move.

March 26, 2003
Vision testing for older drivers clears panel

Today is the 22nd day of the 60-day session.

March 25, 2003
Senate panel okays bill allowing slots at tracks

Today is the 22nd day of the 60-day session.

Textbook-buying system might be revamped
A House committee wants to cut $50-million from next year's $227-million instructional materials budget.

March 22, 2003
House has peculiar notion of 'principled'

Hardly a day goes by in Johnnie Byrd's Florida House of Representatives that you don't hear about "principled leadership," typically defined as "cutting the size and scope of government" and "living within our means."

Data company sues state House
The vendor says it was never paid. The House says the data system never worked correctly.

House approves medical malpractice bill
The $250,000 limit on pain and suffering damages will likely stall in the Senate.

Third time a charm for Greyhound bill?
Today is the 19th day of the 60-day session.

March 21, 2003
Utilities could hide personal data

Today is the 18th day of the 60-day session.

House bill would allow legislators to ignore voters
While voting yes on the bill, some lawmakers called it an arrogant measure that treats citizens like children.

USF lobbies legislators to drop proposed cuts
USF president Judy Genshaft joins the systemwide push for growth in enrollment and staffing.

Bill capping malpractice awards defeated
A Senate committee rejects legislation that would limit the jury awards at $250,000.

March 20, 2003
No-fault auto insurance reform bill criticized

Today is the 17th day of the 60-day session.

March 19, 2003
Slots bill has no luck in House -- for now

TALLAHASSEE -- A bill to legalize slot machines at 31 parimutuel facilities in Florida was killed Tuesday in a House subcommittee, but supporters refused to declare it dead.

Revival of sales tax holiday moves in House
Today is the 16th day of the 60-day session.

Push under way to hike teacher starting pay
Some school money would be reallocated in a House plan.

House seeks to ban smoking in stand-alone bars
A committee advances a bill that would limit smoking to outdoor seating areas. A Senate bill offers more exemptions.

Senate newbies get usual grilling
Two new senators face peculiar questions from peers to mark sponsorship of their first bills.

March 18, 2003
Byrd puts prayer bill on hold in House

Speaker Johnnie Byrd says the threat of war and the importance of Israel as an ally make this bad time to debate school prayer.

March 17, 2003
New clout of trial lawyers unnerves legislators

Since a humiliating defeat, trial lawyers have worked to gain influence by supporting politicians of both parties.

March 16, 2003
Lobbyist sells hot product: Access

Michael Corcoran from Zephyrhills forged a friendship with a politician on his way up: the House speaker.

Bill aims to curb abuse of referees
Two state lawmakers have proposed creating stiffer penalties for those who physically attack sports officials.

March 15, 2003
Bill would cap pay of university presidents

The $225,000 ceiling would not affect current salaries. Eight of 11 presidents already earn more than the proposed lid.

March 14, 2003
Senate: Money is not there

Its budget chief says that Florida is in such dire fiscal straits it has only $53-million to cover $2-billion in services.

Farm workers' legislation seeks safety measurers

Farm workers on Thursday urged passage of bills to protect them from health risks due to pesticides, and from slavery rings that exploit migrant workers by not paying minimum wages. Their legislative advocates include African-American Democrats and Cuban-American Republicans who cited the "shame" of a legacy of mistreatment of Florida farm workers.

Visit by Bucs QB turns lawmakers into giddy fans
TALLAHASSEE -- Brad Johnson starred in a different arena Thursday: the state Capitol.

Law officers oppose Miccosukee bill
A measure that would end state jurisdiction on reservation land is a bad idea, says a group of sheriffs and prosecutors.

March 13, 2003
Sen. Les Miller in line for Senate minority leader

Today is the 10th day of the 60-day session.

March 12, 2003
Ostrich feed first target in smaller tax exemption war

TALLAHASSEE -- A Senate committee Tuesday unanimously approved a bill to eliminate a tax exemption for ostrich feed.

Federal housing secretary considers Senate campaign
U.S. housing Secretary Mel Martinez is considering stepping into the Republican race to succeed Bob Graham in the U.S. Senate.

March 11, 2003
Bill alters law on autopsy photos

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

March 10, 2003
Future of the runoff in lawmakers' hands

After suspending the second primaries in 2002, the Legislature now must decide whether they are worth the effort.

March 8, 2003
AARP supports eye tests for drivers 80 and older

The retiree group has opposed similar efforts but hopes to include measures to protect elderly drivers.

Florida's government shrinks
A report shows low taxes and small government. It also shows Floridians aren't overtaxed.

A county ripe with voters
The GOP has picked several top leaders from Orange County, and both parties see it as fertile political ground.

Military duty may cut short legislative bid
TALLAHASSEE -- March 11 is shaping up to be a big day for a Melbourne real estate agent running for the Legislature.

Senators cold to cap on nursing home suits
The chamber's president said he has not heard support for limiting damage awards.

Prescription plan faces pains in Senate
The House tentatively approves it, but the Senate worries about the cost.

March 7, 2003
Senate panel moves class size bill forward

Now senators will try to figure out how to fund the measure to implement smaller class sizes.
Fast-train backer rails at governor
Today is the fourth day of the 60-day session.

March 6, 2003
Fast start for prayer bill

Today is the third day of the 60-day session. [3/6]
Counterterrorism briefing is closed
A Senate committee, meeting in secret, will hear from FDLE Commissioner Tim Moore.

March 5, 2003
Bush calls for new vote on class sizes

The governor wants to give voters a choice of either repealing two constitutional amendments, or approving a new tax. [3/5]

March 4, 2003
Legislature begins uphill battle

Lawmakers face divisive budget woes, throngs of protesters and costly mandatory projects. [3/4]

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