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Legislative briefs

Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 15, 2000

Land bill alarms Butterworth

Florida's attorney general is sounding the alarm about a complex land rights bill that is moving through the Legislature, saying it will put thousands of acres of public land into private hands.

"This is probably the greatest land giveaway since the federal government gave away 40 acres and a mule," Attorney General Bob Butterworth said during a meeting of the Florida Cabinet and Gov. Jeb Bush.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Tamarac Democratic Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, is turning out to be a battleground between conservationists and advocates of Florida's property rights movement: mainly large landowners with interests in timber, cattle and farming.

It deals with the ownership of so-called "sovereign submerged lands," which are considered to be publicly owned. The bill's sponsors say private property owners should have the rights to submerged lands. -- JULIE HAUSERMAN

Welfare-to-work change advances

A Senate committee passed a sweeping plan to let private companies take over much of the state's welfare-to-work program.

The plan, which must be approved by the House and Gov. Jeb Bush, would place the bulk of responsibility for job training under a new public-private corporation called Workforce Florida Inc. The bill would greatly reduce the power of the state Department of Labor and Employment Security.

Opponents of the bill, including representatives from labor unions, said they worried about how the state would hold private companies accountable for their work and whether the plan would jeopardize federal funds devoted to moving people off of welfare.

Allen Brown, a lobbyist for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said his group supported the bill because it would help Florida businesses find more skilled workers. -- BILL YARDLEY

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