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Legislature 2001

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 21, 2001

Today is the 47th day of the 60-day session.

Today is the 47th day of the 60-day session.

Senate passes bill on beer sizes

The Senate voted 37-2 Friday to lift size restrictions on beer bottles and cans. The bill went to the House, where a similar bill awaits floor action.

Existing Florida law limits beer and other malt beverage containers to 8, 12, 16 or 32 ounces. It does not apply to containers over 32 ounces.

The law has kept many foreign brands and micro brews out of Florida because they are sold in containers of other sizes, often metric.

Wholesaler distributors have defeated repeal bills in the past with arguments that eliminating the size restrictions would boost beer prices because more warehouse space and bigger trucks would be needed to handle the wider variety.

Nursing homes compromise emerges

Struggling with how much protection to give nursing homes against punitive damages for abuse of residents, a House panel came up with a new compromise Friday.

The proposal: allow unlimited damages, but make an injured resident prove the nursing home guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt," the standard of proof required to send a person to prison.

The Council for Ready Infrastructure approved that amendment before unanimously approving the nursing home bill. The bill must go through two more panels before reaching the floor.

A companion Senate bill may reach the floor next week.

Both bills also increase minimum staffing standards for nursing homes.

New tack on health insurance pool

The House Insurance Committee approved a bill to reopen a state-backed health insurance pool for people too sick to get private coverage, after deleting a 25 cents-a-month assessment on private policies that would have helped subsidize the plan.

Insurance lobbyists have opposed the assessment, saying it amounts to a tax on their customers. The assessment was retained, however, in a companion bill the Senate passed this week.

Sponsor Rep. Carole Green, R-Fort Myers, changed the House bill to get the subsidy instead from a fee on tobacco companies that lawmakers hope to have in place this year. But the money isn't guaranteed. It's part of a bill that hasn't passed yet.

If it doesn't, "obviously, we've got a problem again," Green said.

The money would be part of a $25-million assessment on tobacco companies that didn't participate in Florida's 1997 settlement meant to recoup costs of treating sick smokers.

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For information about legislation, call this number toll-free during business hours: 1-800-342-1827. For Internet users, the Legislature's official site is:

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