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Legislature 2001

By DIANE RADO, Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2001

Today is the 25th day of the 60-day session.

Today is the 25th day of the 60-day session.

No tampering with rent deposits

The state Senate gave final approval Thursday to legislation making minor changes in the state's landlord-tenant law, and renters got a break: A provision was removed that would have increased the time landlords have to return a tenant's security deposit.

The original version of the bill would have allowed 30 days, rather than 15, for deposits to be returned. The Senate backed away from the change after Democrats argued that tenants need their deposits back as soon as possible to be able to move into new homes or apartments. -- DIANE RADO

Three cast looks at McKay's chair

Senate President John McKay has barely begun his term, and at least three senators are vying to take his place in November 2002: Senate Majority Leader Jim King, R-Jacksonville; Sen. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden, a former House speaker; and Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, who is the Senate's Rules Committee chairman.

The three are trying to gather support from colleagues to succeed McKay.

McKay said Thursday he's not taking sides: "I think that would be wholly inappropriate."

If Webster succeeds, he would be the second lawmaker in modern history to serve as both Senate president and House speaker. -- DIANE RADO

Senate approves homeless agency

A bill to help Florida's homeless passed unanimously out of the Senate.

The measure, one of Senate President John McKay's priorities, includes many recommendations from a task force on homelessness created at McKay's request.

The bill sets up a state office on homelessness and creates grants of up to $750,000 for agencies helping the homeless and to encourage those agencies to build low-cost housing.

According to homeless advocates, there are more than 57,000 homeless people in Florida, but only about 7,000 beds in the 177 homeless shelters throughout the state. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Less legal pain for painkiller users

The Senate moved to undo a change in drug laws that many legitimate painkiller users and their doctors said would have kept them from getting their medications.

Police say hydrocodone has become one of their biggest problems in the fight against drug abuse. It's the key ingredient in Vicodin, a common painkiller.

Last year, the Legislature reclassified certain hydrocodone mixtures to make easier the prosecution of people trafficking the drug.

But before the law took effect, the medical community warned state officials that it would burden legitimate painkiller users. Doctors said some patients would have to make extra office visits instead of getting refills over the phone, even though many were old or sick and homebound.

Attorney General Bob Butterworth adopted an emergency rule keeping the change from taking effect. The new bill, which passed 39-0, would put the old classification back in the law.

The bill now goes to the House. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Child porn past couldn't be hidden

Anyone convicted of being involved in child pornography wouldn't be able to get his criminal record sealed or expunged under a bill passed 38-0 by the Senate.

The law already prohibits the sealing of the criminal records of those convicted of certain sex crimes, drug trafficking and violent offenses such as murder and kidnapping.

The measure making sure the public also has access to the criminal records of child pornographers, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Carlton, R-Osprey, now goes to the House. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

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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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