© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2001
Today is the 54th day of the 60-day session.
Hanging, dimpled and pregnant chad will be part of Florida's history books under election reform plans lawmakers have approved to prevent another voting debacle like the 2000 presidential recount.
The Florida Senate voted 34-1 Friday to eliminate punch cards, joining the House, which approved similar legislation earlier this week requiring counties to dump the antiquated machines.
While both chambers agree on that, they remain far apart on how to pay for the changes and a variety of other election-related measures. They must resolve those differences before sending a final package to Gov. Jeb Bush.
The Senate bill includes money for counties to upgrade their systems and for voter education, allows voters whose registration is in question to cast a provisional ballot, changes the recount requirements and does away with the second, or run-off, primary.
It contains no mention of campaign finance reforms included in the House bill -- provisions criticized heavily by Democrats who say they would load the dice against the Democratic candidate in a potential challenge to incumbent Republican Jeb Bush in the next gubernatorial race.
A repeat of the popular sales tax holiday, during which back-to-school shoppers get a break from the 6 percent state sales tax, is ready for a vote in the House.
The length of the tax holiday is caught up in budget negotiations between the House and Senate.
A bill given preliminary approval by the House on Friday would bring the tax holiday back for a nine-day period in August.
But that is likely to get much shorter during negotiations over the differences between the budgets passed by each chamber.
Republican House leaders have acknowledged that the holiday will likely be two or three days, because the state has less income coming into its coffers this year than in previous years.
State lawmakers will start working next year in January rather than March under a measure the state Senate unanimously passed Friday.
The House has also passed the legislation, so the bill goes to Gov. Jeb Bush.
The annual legislative session normally starts in March and lasts two months. But next year lawmakers will have to redraw Florida's political lines, for both the legislative districts and for 25 congressional districts, which is two more than Florida now has.
Redistricting takes place every decade the year after census results are released.
A Democratic proposal to let physicians overturn decisions by health maintenance organizations failed Friday in the state House.
The House defeated another Democratic proposal to let patients go to court to challenge HMO decisions to refuse to pay for certain treatments.
Both proposals came as amendments to a bill to require that HMO doctors that review cases be licensed in Florida.