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Differences over use of windfall stall budget

Today is Day 44 of the 60-day session of the Florida Legislature.

By Times staff writers, Associated Press
Published April 20, 2005

Florida's $2.2-billion windfall has stalled work on the state budget as legislative leaders trade proposals for using the extra money.

The House and Senate spent two days exchanging proposals. The House wants more tax cuts than the Senate and favors spending cash on programs for which the Senate would borrow money. The Senate wants to spend a lot more than the House for highways, schools and water systems.

The House's enthusiasm for tax cuts, particularly for eliminating taxes on stocks and bonds, is matched only by the Senate's passion to pour money into managing growth.

House Speaker Allan Bense, R-Panama City, left open the chance that the differences can be resolved by trading each side's priority: tax cuts in the House, money for growth management in the Senate.

To complete their work on time and adjourn on schedule May 6, lawmakers must resolve all budget differences by May 3.


Panel approves special vote on class size retreat

A House committee approved proposed legislation Tuesday that would call a February special election to decide whether to overturn strict class size limits approved by referendum in 2002.

Voters would decide Feb. 7 whether to backtrack from the previous constitutional amendment, in favor of raising the minimum teacher salary while imposing looser limits on the average class size in each school district.

Democrats said the special vote would waste millions on an issue voters had already decided. Some accused the bill's supporters of scheduling the separate vote to ensure a low turnout.

"Every time you don't like the result of what happened, it's just not fair to stick the taxpayers with a $20-million bill to go change the result," said Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton.

Sponsor Rep. John Stargel, R-Lakeland, said the bill (HB 1841) would allow voters to prevent teacher quality from suffering as classrooms are added.

"Right now we have school districts telling us, "We're having to lower our standards to bring in more teachers. We're having to build classrooms and put unqualified teachers in there,' " he said.


Capitol hangout escapes serious fire damage

A minor fire spread panic through the Capitol Tuesday.

No, the Capitol wasn't on fire. But Clyde's & Costello's was.

Located a block from the Capitol, it is a favorite watering hole for legislators and lobbyists.

The fire apparently started inside the roof, owner Dave Ericks said. "It appears to be minor," Ericks said. "It would have been worse if it happened at 2 a.m. when no one is here. It could have been very bad."

Clyde's was back in business after a few hours. "We are being served and it's wide open," reported lobbyist Jim Krog. "Everything is cool. You could put a good man down, but not Clyde's."


For information about legislation, call 1-800-342-1827 toll-free or (850) 488-4371 during business hours.

The Legislature's official Web site:

Capitol Update, a half-hour TV program on the day's legislative highlights, airs weeknights on public stations.

[Last modified April 20, 2005, 02:56:36]

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