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Legislature 2000

By Times staff, wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 2, 2000


Today is the 57th day of the 60-day session.

Beer bottle restrictions live on

Don't look for more sizes of beer bottles in Florida stores any time soon.

The Senate killed an attempt by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, Monday to eliminate the decades-old restrictions limiting sales of beer to 8-, 12-, 16- or 32-ounce containers. The effort failed by a 16-19 vote.

During debate, Sen. John Grant, R-Tampa, held up a large bottle of beer and said he feared it would become the standard, leading to an increase in drunken driving. But Lee held up a 32-ounce bottle that was larger -- and already legal.

Advocates of eliminating the restrictions say the rules are protectionist and restrict free enterprise.

There's hope for next year: Most of the top Senate Republican leaders voted to remove the restrictions. -- TIM NICKENS

House passes land ownership bill

A bill that aims to define the boundary between public and private land along the shorelines of Florida's lakes and rivers survived a bruising debate to pass on a 70-45 House vote.

The bill -- opposed by environmentalists and supported by the state's cattle, timber, and development industries -- now heads to the Senate.

Attorney General Bob Butterworth calls the measure a "land grab" that would convert 100,000 publicly owned acres into private land.

"This is a 20th century version of the robber barons," charged Rep. Stacy Ritter, a Coral Springs Democrat.

"We are not robber barons," countered Rep. Adam Putnam, a Bartow Republican who co-sponsored the measure. "This is a fundamental issue of whether or not the state is going to stand by the deeds that it granted 150 years ago."

The bill has garnered more than 60 co-sponsors. --JULIE HAUSERMAN

New-university idea still kicking

Sen. Don Sullivan, R-Seminole, made one last bid to bring a new public university to St. Petersburg.

The Senate gave preliminary approval to a measure that would sever the University of South Florida branch campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota from the Tampa-based university. USF and St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer oppose the measure, which would convert the campuses to independent schools with their own boards of directors.

Sullivan tucked the measure into an amendment to a bill that would create a state program for improving math and science instruction in public schools. The bill must earn final Senate approval this week before it is sent to the House for a vote.

A House committee killed Sullivan's proposal last week, but Speaker John Thrasher still has time to waive the rules and bring it to a vote in that chamber. Both chambers must approve before it can go to Gov. Jeb Bush for his consideration.

"We're still the underdog," Sullivan said, adding that "there is a possibility the speaker could breathe new life into it."

Thrasher has not publicly taken a position.

With the help of "civic people in St. Petersburg," Sullivan said he was responsible for a new billboard on Duval Street, about half a mile from the Capitol. The billboard reads "Let my people go to college. We need a four-year public university. Pinellas County -- 1-million people."

Sullivan declined to name the donors. -- SHELBY OPPEL

House says keep the Rodman Dam

The House passed a measure to convert a bass-fishing reservoir in northeast Florida into a state park.

The bill would make parts of Marion and Putnam counties the Rodman Reservoir Recreation Area. The 9,000 acres include the Rodman Dam and Reservoir, built as part of the long-canceled Cross-Florida Barge Canal.

"This is a great recreation area," said Rep. Kelley Smith, D-Palatka. "This simply enhances it and makes it a better place to recreate."

Critics of the measure instead want to dismantle the Rodman Dam in order to restore the Ocklawaha River, a tributary of the St. Johns River. They call plans for the state park an attempt to stop efforts to tear down the dam. --AP

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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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