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Legislature 2001

By LUCY MORGAN, ALISA ULFERTS, Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 21, 2001


Today is the 16th day of the 60-day session.

Today is the 16th day of the 60-day session.

House committee okays tax repeal

A bill that would repeal a controversial tax on alcoholic beverages won approval in a House committee Tuesday despite a senator's objections.

Senate President John McKay has said such tax cuts are dead on arrival in the Senate because of a tight budget year. But that didn't keep members of the House Fiscal Responsibility Council from approving the $40-million tax cut.

Rep. Allen Bense, R-Panama City, said he thinks the tax reduction, long promised to the state's restaurant owners, will survive because it costs so much to administer.

Bense said private industry spends about $55-million a year to collect the tax while the state spends about $5-million more.

It takes 53 state employees to collect the $40-million tax, compared with the 39 employees who collect the $450-million-a-year excise tax on alcohol, Bense said.

The original tax was imposed in 1990 as part of a 3 a.m. bargain to plug a hole in the state budget. Legislators began repealing parts of the tax three years ago and promised to completely eliminate it this year.

Payday loan rules reflect accord

Sen. D. Lee Constantine said getting the payday loan industry to talk to Florida Legal Services, whose clients sometimes get tangled in the high-interest loans, was easy: The Altamonte Springs Republican just called them.

Several months later, both sides have reached a peace accord in the form of payday loan regulations that keep the industry in business and provide help for customers who bite off more than they can chew.

The compromise reached by the industry and consumer advocates would limit customers to one $500 loan at a time. Customers would have to wait 24 hours between loans, and the industry would create a database of customers so lenders could verify that no other loans are outstanding. If a customer fails to repay a loan on time, the customer is given a 60-day grace period, provided he or she obtains consumer credit counseling.

The Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance passed the bill Tuesday.

Generic-drug bills advance

Several brand-name drugs would lose the market protections they now enjoy under bills that moved through House and Senate committees.

The Senate passed the same measure last year, but the proposal went nowhere in the House. This year, however, the outlook is better in the lower chamber, where top leaders are backing the legislation.

Pharmacists now can give customers the cheapest version of a drug unless the patient or doctor asks for a brand name. But 11 generic drugs are exempted from that law, and pharmacists are barred from substituting them for the brand names.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has determined that several of the 11 generic drugs now barred from substitutions in Florida are "therapeutically equivalent" to the brand names. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services voted 3-2 for the Senate bill. The House Fiscal Policy and Resources Committee unanimously approved the House bill.

-- 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

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Florida Legislature Session 2001

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