tampabay.com

A packed slate

Agenda items already are piling up, awaiting lawmakers' return on Tuesday

By Times Staff Writer
Published March 6, 2005


EDUCATION: Gov. Jeb Bush wants to dramatically expand the school voucher program to include students who fail the reading FCAT three years in a row. He also wants voters to scale back the class-size amendment and add minimum teacher pay to the state Constitution.

GROWTH MANAGEMENT: Senate President Tom Lee's top priority is fixing the growth management system so the state keeps pace with development. He wants to focus the debate on paying for roads, schools and other public services. But it's unclear where the money would come from, and the Legislature and the governor are reluctant to raise taxes. Lee has said it might take two years to fix the problem.

PRIVATIZATION: Republican lawmakers want tighter controls over the governor's push to turn state services over to private companies after problems surfaced with a privatized personnel system.

MEDICAID: The governor wants to convert the federal-state health care program from a conventional government fee-for-service system into a privatized program in which insurance companies would be paid to manage patients' care. He has proposed spending $14.7-billion on Medicaid, well below the $17-billion needed next year to maintain current levels of service for 2.3-million beneficiaries.

HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE: Four hurricanes and a growing fear of sinkholes has prompted calls to make it harder for insurers to cancel policies. Other changes are proposed for Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run insurer of last resort.

SLOT MACHINES: If South Florida voters allow slot machines at parimutuel facilities in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, lawmakers must decide how to regulate the machines and tax the proceeds.

LOBBYISTS: Senate President Tom Lee wants lobbyists to report how much they are paid to influence legislation and to identify the lawmakers they wine and dine.

ELECTIONS: Lawmakers want to expand access to early voting, decide whether to bring back the second primary and consider Secretary of State Glenda Hood's proposal to increase her power over local elections supervisors.

AMENDMENT CHANGES: Republicans want to make it harder for citizens to amend the state Constitution.

TAXES: The governor wants to cut the intangibles tax, continue the popular back-to-school sales tax holiday, provide new tax breaks on equipment for expanding businesses and repeal a never-enacted tax on companies that own their own communication systems.