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Legislature 2001

By LUCY MORGAN, Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 17, 2001

Today is the 43rd day of the 60-day session.

Today is the 43rd day of the 60-day session.

Ex-House speakers seek voice in contempt case

Seven former speakers of the House on Monday asked the Florida Supreme Court to allow them to intervene in a contempt-of-court case filed against House Speaker Tom Feeney and Senate President John McKay.

Former Speakers Mallory Horne, Ralph Haben, H. Lee Moffitt, James Harold Thompson, T.K. Wetherell, all Democrats, and Dan Webster and John Thrasher, two Republicans, filed legal documents opposing attempts to find Feeney and McKay in contempt.

The Legislature has asked the state's highest court to block a move by Circuit Judge L. Ralph "Bubba" Smith to find legislators in contempt for having a meeting he had forbidden. The dispute arose during a state employee union dispute. -- LUCY MORGAN

Bill could lead to plans for restoring lighthouses

Florida's lighthouses are in a critical state: some decaying, others abandoned along the state's shoreline.

Now a lawmaker who has the state's oldest lighthouse in his district -- the St. Augustine Lighthouse, built in 1824 -- wants a first-ever survey of the beacons to find out just what needs to be done to get the navigational aids spruced up.

"So much of Florida's history is maritime," said Rep. Doug Wiles, D-St. Augustine. "The lighthouses are really beacons from the past."

Only six of Florida's 30 lighthouses are open to the public, and most of them need renovation or repair, according to Tom Taylor, president of the Florida Lighthouse Association.

Wiles' bill proposes a $100,000 study to examine how much restoration the lighthouses along Florida's 1,000-plus miles of coastline need to open them to the public. It was unanimously approved by the Council on Competitive Commerce on Monday and could come to the floor for debate as early as next week.

A companion Senate bill appears to be stalled.

Funding for restoration is available through state and federal historic preservation and restoration grants -- most of the lighthouses are more than 100 years old -- or through private, non-profit organizations affiliated with the lighthouses. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

House says no to lower minimum execution age

With a chorus of "nays" Monday, the House defeated a proposal to drop the minimum age for executions to 16.

The current Florida standard is based on a ruling by the state Supreme Court, which said execution of killers before they turn 17 is a violation of the Florida Constitution's protection against cruel or unusual punishment.

The Florida age minimum is higher than the federal standard -- the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that killers under the age of 16 can't be executed, based on the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The legislation the House rejected -- an amendment to a broader bill -- was offered by Rep. Gaston Cantens, R-Miami, who said the idea was to match the federal standard. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

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