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Child abuse fight gets new tool

By TIMES WIRES
Published March 15, 2007


TALLAHASSEE

Florida is the first state to connect its state child abuse investigation system to a national crime database. State officials on Wednesday announced the change, which quietly took place two weeks ago. The Department of Children and Families can now tap into the National Crime Information Center. The change was part of a new law that Congress passed last year, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, named for a Florida boy whose 1981 disappearance and murder remains unresolved.

Tougher seat belt law likely a tough sell

Supporters of a stronger seat belt law in Florida have renewed their annual fight, but once again face resistance from lawmakers who say existing law is sufficient. The existing "secondary enforcement" law requires that police can stop drivers over 18 only if they see evidence of a separate traffic violation.

Among those calling for a tougher law Wednesday was Laura Marchetti of Valrico, whose teenage daughter, Katie, was killed in an accident on Interstate 75 a year ago. She was riding unbuckled in the front seat of her car, which was being driven by a friend - who was buckled in and survived.

Sex ed curriculum would be publicized

Public schools would have to inform parents and the local community about the type of sex education they give their students, under legislation that cleared a Senate education committee Wednesday.

The bill, proposed by Democratic Sen. Steve Geller of Hallandale Beach, would require school districts and schools to use Web sites, mailed letters or other communication to describe to parents their curriculum for teaching human sexuality and "pregnancy and disease awareness and prevention." Schools also would have to offer parents ways to review the curriculum and provide feedback on possible changes or improvements.

The bill still has to get approval from three more committees before it goes to the Senate floor, and an identical bill in the House has yet to go to committee.

A penny for Crist's thoughts

Gov. Charlie Crist said he voted no. But despite the anti-tax fervor sweeping the state these days, he wasn't surprised that voters renewed the Penny for Pinellas for another decade.

"Obviously, people want it," Crist said. "When people see a clear identification, and maybe they lay out certain projects, then maybe it's easier for them to get them approved."