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    Legislature 2001

    By LUCY MORGAN, Associated Press

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2001


    Today is the 11th day of the 60-day session.

    Black lawmakers ask for inclusion

    Black lawmakers had a message for Gov. Jeb Bush over juice and eggs at the Governor's Mansion Thursday: Don't leave them out of decisions affecting the black community and don't forget the importance of affirmative action.

    "Just 30 years ago, we couldn't be sitting here in this mansion other than serving the guests," said Rep. Curtis Richardson, D-Tallahassee.

    Bush's relationship with black lawmakers -- only eight of 22 attended his breakfast -- has suffered since the governor announced his One Florida plan, which abolished affirmative action in university admissions and state contracting.

    One Florida prompted protest marches and demonstrations last year, including an overnight sit-in by two black lawmakers in Bush's office suite. Some black lawmakers complained they were not consulted before Bush announced his plans.

    Bush and Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan had a friendly conversation with those who did attend. Of those, seven were freshmen lawmakers. The other was black caucus leader Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami.

    Bush told the lawmakers he was committed to diversity. "Our commitment is more steadfast than in the past," Bush said. "I'm very sincere about it."

    Bush has responded to criticism of One Florida by pointing at an increase in black college enrollment and the number of contracts awarded to minority-owned companies since he implemented the plan.

    "None of us are unappreciative of what he's done and the results he's achieved, but what happens when he's not around?" Richardson said after the meeting. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Harris delays her elections plan

    Weeks after Gov. Jeb Bush and legislators started work on a plan to fix Florida's badly broken elections process, Secretary of State Katherine Harris called a press conference Thursday to make her own recommendations. Harris is the elected official whose duties include supervising the state Division of Elections.

    But when reporters arrived at the Capitol, a receptionist advised them that the press conference had been canceled.

    No one would explain why. A new notice was distributed indicating the press conference will be Tuesday -- almost halfway through the legislative session.

    Late Thursday, Assistant Secretary of State Ben McKay said the office couldn't finish work on its proposals in time for the press conference. -- LUCY MORGAN

    Hillsborough legislator hospitalized

    Rep. Sara Romeo, D-Lutz, was taken to the hospital Thursday complaining of a severe headache and nausea.

    "She was feeling poorly," said Ernie Sumner, House sergeant at arms. "She came down to the clinic with her legislative assistant and the clinic checked her out and decided just as a precaution to take her out for observation."

    Sumner said the freshman lawmaker was taken by ambulance to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. Hospital officials said any comment on Romeo's condition would come from her office.

    Romeo, 51, is the executive director of Artists Unlimited. -- 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: http://www.leg.state.fl.us

    Capitol Update, a half-hour program on the day's legislative highlights distributed by the Sunshine Network, airs weekday evenings on a number of public TV stations. Check TV Times for schedules.

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    Florida Legislature Session 2001

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    From the Times state desk