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Legislature 2001

By LUCY MORGAN, Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 9, 2001

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

King recalls his newspapering days

Senate Majority Leader Jim King frequently recalls his days at St. Petersburg Junior College and his brief journalism career at the St. Petersburg Times.

Wednesday evening, he noted his days as a reporter at the Times during an MSNBC television interview on a bill he has introduced that would block public access to autopsy pictures, which are now public record. Also appearing was Bob Steele, director of the ethics program at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. (The Poynter Institute owns the Times Publishing Co., which publishes the Times.)

King said he was "a former scholar of the Poynter Institute and a former reporter with the St. Petersburg Times, so I know full well what Bob is saying."

The Jacksonville senator has participated in a Poynter Institute seminar on the relationship of the media and state legislatures.

King says he worked as a news trainee, a sort of "cub reporter" helping out at the Times Treasure Island bureau in the summer of 1958 while attending SPJC. He grew up in St. Petersburg and was awarded a Poynter Scholarship while a senior at Boca Ciega High School. He says he continued working at the paper during vacations until he graduated from SPJC in 1959.

King is sponsoring the bill at the request of race car driver Dale Earnhardt's widow, Teresa. She has gone to court to try to block an attempt by the Orlando Sentinel to gain access to his autopsy photographs.

The bill would make all autopsy photos and videos generally exempt from the public records law. Anyone besides law enforcement officials would have to sue the local medical examiner and ask a judge to issue a subpoena requiring the release of the photos. -- LUCY MORGAN

House approves intangibles tax cut

House Republicans kept a promise Thursday, voting to free 500,000 people from a tax on investments over Democrats' lament that it will hurt less fortunate Floridians who depend on state programs.

The House voted 80-38 to increase the exemption on stock and bond holdings subject to the intangibles tax and cut the rate for those who will still have to pay it.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to face far more difficulty. The intangibles tax is levied on stocks, bonds and mutual funds held outside of retirement accounts. Currently, the first $20,000 of holdings are exempt from the tax for single filers ($40,000 for joint filers). The tax is $1 per $1,000 in holdings. If the amount owed is less than $60, the tax doesn't have to be paid.

The bill increases the exemption to the first $250,000 in holdings for single filers ($500,000 for joint) and cuts the rate to 75 cents per $1,000. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Voucher backers win two rounds

The House approved a bill that would give companies a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for helping poor children attend private schools.

Meanwhile, a House committee approved a bill that would expand the state's voucher program to give students in overcrowded schools tax money to attend private schools.

Democrats oppose both bills, saying they will take money away from public schools.

The House approved the corporate tax break measure 71-46 on a mostly party-line vote.

Another bill moved forward that would make students attending schools with enrollment above 120 percent of capacity eligible for vouchers worth $3,000 a year to pay for private school tuition. The House Fiscal Policy and Resources Committee approved it, 8-6. Rep. John Carassas, R-Largo, was the only Republican to oppose it.

The bill now heads to the Council for Lifelong Learning, then to the full House.

Strong Senate opposition is expected. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Campaign disclosure bill passes

Groups with hard-to-decipher motives that pour money into campaigns, often without candidates' consent, would have to disclose where they get their money under a bill the House passed.

Speaker Tom Feeney shepherded the bill to unanimous approval. It goes to the Senate.

Third-party "voter education" groups got involved in several legislative races last year. Groups formed by lawyers, doctors and business interests were the busiest. Such groups aren't required to file reports on contributions and expenses with state elections officials.

The bill would require political committees that get contributions of more than $500 in a year to register with the state and file contribution and expense reports. Those spending over $10,000 a year would have to file electronic reports, which would be available on the Web the day they are due. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

For information about legislation, call this number toll-free during business hours: 1-800-342-1827. For Internet users, Online Sunshine is the official site for the Legislature:

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