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  • Non-citizen won't face voting charge
  • Bill not what its backer presumes
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  • Let revolution begin with you, Bush urges
  • Around the state
  • Tax break for aiding pupils is blocked
  • Possible flaws not enough for state to contest census
  • 5 brand-name drugs may lose protections
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  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
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  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
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  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story
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    Tax break for aiding pupils is blocked

    A state lawmaker wants a bill affecting gifts for private school students to spell out which gifts are covered.

    By DIANE RADO

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2001


    TALLAHASSEE -- Uh oh.

    Everything was running smoothly on opening day of the Legislature Tuesday -- until one of Republican Senate President John McKay's top priorities ran into a roadblock.

    State Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, broke ranks with his colleagues and voted against a bill pushed by McKay to give tax credits to corporations that give money for poor children to go to private school.

    Without Diaz de la Portilla, Republicans on the Senate Education Committee lost the vote on the bill and had to quickly regroup. They voted to reconsider the legislation when they meet next week.

    Diaz de la Portilla said he supports the bill in concept, but details need to be ironed out. For example, the bill doesn't specify that donations would pay specifically for tuition. Diaz de la Portilla worried that the money would be spent on other expenses, such as transportation or books.

    Diaz de la Portilla was sponsor of legislation two years ago that gave public dollars, or vouchers, to children in failing schools to attend private school. This year, he is sponsoring legislation to give vouchers to kids in overcrowded schools.

    "Our priority is to educate children, not to give corporations tax breaks," Diaz de la Portilla said.

    The bill Tuesday would allow a tax credit of up to $200,000 a year to corporations that contribute to non-profit scholarship organizations that award $3,500 scholarships to children to go to private school. The children must qualify for federal free and reduced lunch programs, and have attended a public school during the previous school year or be entering kindergarten or first grade.

    Critics say this is another form of vouchers that would drain up to $50-million a year from Florida and may violate the state Constitution.

    But Larry Spalding, representing the American Civil Liberties Union, said Tuesday that courts have ruled in favor of similar legislation in Arizona.

    "This is not a voucher. This is not an indictment of the public education system," Senate Education Chairman Ken Pruitt said. "It is bringing corporate America to the table to provide alternatives to kids."

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