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Legislative notebook

By Times staff, wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 25, 2000


Briefs from Monday's legislative session . . .

Burglars' DNA likely to go on file

Burglars would have their DNA kept on file by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to be checked against DNA collected at future crime scenes, under a bill passed by the House and sent to Gov. Jeb Bush Monday.

The bill also allows law enforcement to collect DNA from criminals who are under some sort of community supervision but not necessarily still in prison.

It passed the House unanimously, as it did earlier in the Senate, despite concerns by civil libertarians that the measure takes a step closer to a day when the state has DNA information on everyone.

DNA is a material found in blood, saliva and other body fluids that can identify people with virtual 100 percent certainty. Law enforcement officials would like to have as many samples of it on file as possible to increase the chances of solving rapes and murders.

Police say murderers often start out as burglars, so it's a good idea to have their DNA on file.

Bush is expected to sign the bill. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mandatory probation idea fades

A controversial measure to virtually abolish the Florida Parole Commission and mandate probation for all offenders as they are released from prison appears dead for the year.

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to study the issue this year before taking any action. The measure had been speeding through the House on a fast track, in part because Gov. Jeb Bush supported it.

But Bush has since backed off. John Hamilton, the public safety specialist on the governor's budget team, said the governor is now supporting the Senate's slower approach. -- JO BECKER

Marlins score no money in bill

Its official name is the "Community Improvement Authority Act."

Unofficially, it could be called the relief act for lobbyists for the Florida Marlins.

The Marlins struck out several weeks ago when Gov. Jeb Bush announced he would oppose a plan to raise money for a new baseball stadium for the South Florida team with a new tax on cruise ship passengers.

So on Monday, Marlins lobbyists took another swing. A bill unanimously approved by the House Community Affairs Committee would create a community improvement authority in Miami-Dade County appointed by the governor and county and city officials.

The new authority could build support for new sports facilities and coordinate their planning and construction. If local governments approved, the authority could wind up financing, owning or operating a new stadium.

Best of all for lawmakers, the new legislation includes no money. -- TIM NICKENS

An honor worthy of a long span

Rep. George Crady of Yulee, who has served in the Florida House longer than any of his colleagues, received the ultimate honor Monday.

The House voted to name a bridge after him.

The old Nassau Sound Bridge in Nassau and Duval counties will be renamed the "George Crady Bridge" if the Senate agrees -- and no doubt it will.

Crady has served in the House since September 1977 and will be forced out by term limits this year.

Rep. Shirley Brown, D-Sarasota, wondered whether bridges could only be named after people who have died. "Do I have to call my florist?" she asked.

The answers were no and no. -- TIM NICKENS

Tax bills exempt diapers, car seats

The House Finance and Taxation Committee approved a bill to create a sales tax exemption for diapers and incontinence garments, and a measure making child car seats tax-exempt.

Supporters called the measures family-friendly tax cuts.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, was the only member to oppose both tax cuts. The money saved should instead go to spending on subsidized child care, she said.-- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Bill would expand death penalty

A killer who violated a court order to stay away from his victim could find that used against him in court to justify a death sentence under a bill the House sent to the Senate on a 103-1 vote.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, cast the dissenting vote against the bill, sponsored by Rep. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie. Frankel argued that the measure would do nothing to stop domestic abuse.

An identical Senate bill by Sen. Patsy Kurth, D-Malabar, hasn't come up in committee. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

For information about legislation, call (800) 342-1827 during business hours. Online Sunshine, a computer users' guide to the Florida Legislature, is available at http://www.leg.state.fl.us.

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